As someone who grew up on the island of Ireland the DUP are well known to me as indeed are Sinn Féin. I find it saddening that the more centrist parties: the SDLP, Alliance and the UUP captured no seats in GE 2017. All we are left with is two parties with significant links to paramilitary groups but with very different politics. Apart from the obvious (that SF are Nationalist and the DUP unionist), SF are in politics a socialist modern party but the DUP are ultra conservative with a 17th century mindset considerably to the right of the Tea Party in the US. They are Protestant fundamentalists if not supremacists. It is not however difficult, looking through their various manifestos and policy statements, to get an idea of their likely bargaining position and there is a list which has been compiled here.
I have broken the list down into areas which are less sectarian and may be possibly agreed to by the Tories and others which are unlikely to fly as they may be perceived as too extreme.
These seem possible:
- A significantly increased number of official visits by members of Britain’s royal family to Northern Ireland.
- A commitment by the UK government to fully budget a “Northern Ireland Investment Fund“, to oversee infrastructure projects and increased capital spending on health and education.
- The replacement of European Union funding for the Six Counties, in full, by the Treasury in London, particularly in the important area of agriculture.
- Setting a unique, regional corporation tax set between 10% and 12.5%, equal to or significantly lower than that of the United Kingdom or Ireland in order to attract foreign direct investment.
- A significant cut or total abolition of airport passenger duty tax for the region’s airports.
- Increased transport and communication links between Britain and its overseas’ outpost, with a proposed (and entirely fantastical) maritime bridge or undersea tunnel between County Antrim and south-west Scotland.
- A transfer of some post-Brexit UK government departments and agencies to the Six Counties, using a mixture of locally recruited employees and relocated civil service staff from Britain.
- A guarantee of no “Irish Sea EU-UK customs border” between Ireland, including the Six Counties, and Britain, a relatively straightforward solution favoured by some officials in Dublin and Brussels.
- No designation of the Six Counties as a “Special Status Region” between the United Kingdom, Ireland and the European Union.
- Full disengagement from the European Union, including if necessary from the Single Market and the Customs Union, along with the rest of the United Kingdom. This is the so-called “hard Brexit” option, a crash-and-burn severance of UK-EU relations, ushering in a new era of British isolationism.
- A withdrawal of Britain from the European Court of Human Rights and associated conventions and treaties, a crucial component of the negotiated peace deals of the late 1990s and early 2000s.
- A further suspension of overdue constituency boundary changes for Westminster elections in the North which would generally favour the Nationalist community if implemented. (The current boundaries are heavily gerrymandered towards the Unionists so that any change is likely to work against them).
These are less likely but are part of the DUP wish list:
- An increase in the size and number of British military bases and installations in the North, with training and logistical units, and administrative departments permanently relocated from Britain.
- The reinforcement of partition, in line with the DUP’s off-the-record briefings, and at odds with its public pronouncements about favouring a “soft” Brexit border around the Six Counties.
- Restrictions on Sinn Féin, including the party’s access to the House of Commons and Westminster in general, with a loss of public-finances, as available to all other parties with elected MPs.
- Tighter restrictions on immigration to the United Kingdom and on the rights of non-nationals to access employment, social welfare, education, health, and so on. In other words, a “Britons first” policy.
- The end of the television licence fee in the UK with the gradual “reform” of the BBC, including partial-privatisation of the public service broadcaster, in line with the DUP’s opposition to the “liberal media”.
- A diminution of the cross-party, intergovernmental Good Friday or Belfast Agreement of 1998. That is, the peace deal which effectively ended three decades of insurgency and counterinsurgency conflict in the UK-ruled Six Counties. In particular, a rolling back of “Dublin interference” in Belfast affairs, a key concession to the northern nationalist community and the government of Ireland under the Irish-British peace process.
- The “Britishcisation” of the United Kingdom’s legacy colony through concessions to the Orange Order and others, with the removal of restrictions on disputed parades and marches, a greater use of UK flags and symbols in official buildings, signs and documentation, and the introduction of distinctly British public holidays.
- Conversely, and as would be expected from a fanatically hibernophobic party, a drastic suppression of any outward signs of Irishness in public spaces, including the continued ban on the use of the Irish language in the UK-controlled regional courts, no equality for Irish-speakers through legislation and no recognition or funding of all-Ireland structures.
- A block on any possible reunification referendum in the north-east of the country for the next five years, regardless of local political, electoral or demographic circumstances. (A unity plebiscite in the event of a fifty/fifty nationalist and unionist split in the contested territory is another foundation block of the Good Friday Agreement).
- A “hands-off” approach by London towards the region’s supposedly unique cultural and social traditions. In other words, the British state facilitating the anachronistic fusion of Unionist politics and Protestant fundamentalism, an ideology which manifests itself in a militant opposition to Roman Catholicism, homosexuality, marriage equality, feminism, abortion and anything perceived as liberal or progressive within the confines of the Six Counties.
- A de facto general amnesty for members of Britain’s Armed Forces and allied services, military, paramilitary and intelligence, for war crimes or acts of terrorism committed in Ireland during the historical conflict or “Irish-British Troubles” from 1966 to 2005.
- The renewal of post-conflict arrests, detentions, prosecutions and imprisonments of former Irish republican insurgents despite the carefully negotiated commitments given to the Republican Movement two decades ago by Britain in order to end the “Long War”.
- The establishment of a so-called “IRA Victims’ Fund” to channel tax-payers’ money to persons injured or otherwise effected by the military campaign of the Irish Republican Army. A majority of these compensation payments would inevitably go to Unionist communities in the north of Ireland, particularly to former members of the British forces, including allied pro-UK terror gangs, or their families.
- The allocation of funds for predominantly unionist neighbourhoods and constituencies, funnelled through state and DUP-associated organisations, including terrorist-influenced bodies loosely affiliated to the party. Some of this would be used to fund loyalist community groups, bands, the Orange Order and so-called “Ulster-Scots” advocacy groupings.
- Greater impediments to visits by the President of Ireland.
I hope this gives some insight into their mentality. They were the only party in Northern Ireland to be pro Brexit and were, and possibly still are the recipients of very some very dark money. They are worried, their instinct is to “circle wagons” in a crisis and they seem unable to reach out to the Nationalist community. They are not stupid but fully understand the demographics are against them as in Figure 1; as Catholics are far more likely to be Nationalist than Unionist and easily outnumber Protestants in the younger age groups. My fear is that whereas these policies may be very attractive to their core support base they will alienate the Nationalist community. The may see this hung parliament as a golden opportunity to shore up their increasingly fragile position. It seems however the Torys think they have no place to go so very few of the DUP demands may be implemented.