Likely DUP Demands in supporting the May Government

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:

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.


Where to now with Brexit?

I was in Dublin at the weekend; nothing unusual about that, it is my hometown and I go back regularly. On this occasion it was the 40th reunion of my UCD class of ’77. I know that I move in circles where everyone is both successful and well educated so their opinions may not represent a true cross-section of the Irish population however a few things were evident:

Continue reading “Where to now with Brexit?”

Labour has got to hurry

There is no time to waste when you’re a real alternative government – and that is what Labour has now become.

But they need to sort out their EU strategy. They already seem to have said that they want to have the same benefits outside the customs union as inside it (which seems a tad unlikley) but they too, seem to have bought the meme that free movement of people is a problem. Immigration may have been on Nigel Farage’s infamous poster but it wasn’t on the ballot paper. So the idea that the Brexiteers were all voting against immigration is purely speculative.

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If we close our eyes will we know we have left the EU?

I visited Northern Ireland numerous times in the 1960’s most notably perhaps was a School Civics trip from my Dublin school (St Paul’s Raheney) to Stormont in early May 1968. We were sponsored by Gerry Fitt (the then leader of the SDLP) who showed us around and I remember meeting Ian Paisley who was really charming and gracious, in total contrast to the firebrand image he portrayed on Television. I can’t say I remember any of the debate, but we had some time in Belfast city centre. The overall impression was extremely positive. The roads were vastly better than in the Republic which was immediately apparent when we crossed the border. Indeed at the time the roads in the Republic were largely maintained at a county level. My maternal grandfather from Tipperary used to tease my grandmother, from Limerick, and ask her to close her eyes and guess when the county border was crossed – at the time the roads in Tipperary were much better; they lived in Galbally on the county border.  I saw my first ever colour television set, and even better, I was able to stock upon Opal Fruits (Starburst), which were unavailable in the Republic due to the strict protectionism of the local confectionery industry. (I tried them last week when I was again in Belfast but they were not the same!) I also thought the Belfast trolley buses were very exciting, it was the second largest system in the UK after London at the time. (The entire trolley bus system was closed just a week or so after my visit; there was a craze in both Britain and Ireland at the time for ripping out old transport systems in the name of modernity, which in retrospect seems vandalous.) Belfast City Hall was also very impressive and Belfast in general seemed a lot more prosperous than Dublin.

Continue reading “If we close our eyes will we know we have left the EU?”