Newton Emerson: Coronavirus has been good for Northern politics

Voter behaviour is forcing two big parties to get their act together against the virus

First Minister Arlene Foster and Deputy First Minister Michelle O’Neill during the daily media broadcast at Stormont. Photograph: Kelvin Boyes/Press Eye/PA Wire

First Minister Arlene Foster and Deputy First Minister Michelle O’Neill during the daily media broadcast at Stormont. Photograph: Kelvin Boyes/Press Eye/PA Wire

It would be a tasteless thing to celebrate but it must be acknowledged: coronavirus has been good for politics in Northern Ireland.

Arlene Foster and Michelle O’Neill, First Minister and Deputy First Minister, gave a live television address on Tuesday night, directly following UK prime minister Boris Johnson’s announcement of new restrictions. It was an unprecedented “address the nation” moment from two leaders who do not even agree what the nation is, reflecting a pointed choice by both to rebuild a united front. They were keen to do so long before the shock of an impending second wave.

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