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A big day in the north… next Friday week May 5, 2021

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Uncategorized.
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For that is the day that the DUP will elect a new leader. Looks like the name of the new leader will be known by lunchtime that day. Hardly a crowded field with Edwin Poots and Jeffrey Donaldson running.


Before people get too misty eyed about Arlene Foster this is an excoriating overview from Susan McKay. On a human level one has to be sympathetic to her situation, and as noted elsewhere on this site recently she appears to be a personable individual – but really, on a political level there was much to criticise. The following is telling…

 Her resignation speech the next day was extraordinary. Foster had tried, she said, to lead her party and Northern Ireland “away from division”. People who identified as British, Irish, Northern Irish or a mixture of all three, as well as those whose identities were “new and emerging” needed to “learn to be generous to each other” and to share “this wonderful country”. That was where the future of unionism lay.

This came from the politician who previously said she had to protect the public finances and the unionist community from the “rogues and renegades” of the SDLP and Sinn Féin – her partners in the power-sharing executive – and who compared Sinn Fein’s demand for an Irish language act to that of a crocodile (if you fed them, she said, they would just keep coming back for more). The politician who took no action when one of her MPs said if such legislation were passed, he would treat it as toilet paper.

There’s a lot of talk sometimes put about focusing on a centre ground in NI politics, though sadly precious little evidence that the supposedly more moderate wing of the DUP was terribly keen on finding it. But then, as McKay notes, Foster and Donaldson played uniquely destructive roles inside the UUP in respect of David Trimble’s leadership and the GFA/BA. There may be a certain irony in the fact that a few years later they were in a party that itself went into a power sharing executive, but there’s little humour in it. And as McKay also notes, for all the talk of doing away with division (and preserving the Union), but remarkably little appetite shown for the sort of concrete steps that would have that outcome and shore the Union up for another generation or two – for example, working the GFA/BA fully, implementing a language act, lowering the temperature by avoiding inflammatory rhetoric on the Northern Ireland Protocol and so on and so forth. 

Which raises a key question. Just why is that the case? Why is the DUP, and other elements of unionism so locked into a self-destructive dynamic when there are self-evidently better approaches available. Sure, I can understand – just about, albeit the cynicism is breathtaking – that in the period from 2016 to 2019 they sought to sideline the GFA/BA by cosying up to successive administrations in London. But one would have thought that once it was evident that the Johnson government was going to go over their heads on the Protocol they would have seen that a rapid retreat and a more ameliorative language (as well as deeds) with others in NI would have been the sensible, rational, option. Whereas going out on a further limb and placing themselves at odds with the UK government, the EU, the ROI and indeed the new administration in the US, as well as the business and commercial sectors in Northern Ireland, seems borne of some remarkable strategic analysis. And given there’s no evidence of the incoming leader changing that path, what gives?

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1. EWI - May 5, 2021

Her resignation speech the next day was extraordinary.

An eye to ‘legacy’ (and lucrative board appointments and speaking engagements. The attempt to portray herself on the BBC as a glass-ceiling shattering feminist was part of this).

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2. CL - May 5, 2021

Can the status quo hold? Depends on how the Protocol is implemented.

” Rarely have the ties that bind the United Kingdom seemed so at risk of coming undone. Elections to the Scottish parliament on Thursday seem likely to return a majority in favour of independence, putting a possible second referendum on the issue on to the political agenda. In Northern Ireland, even as it has celebrated the centenary of its foundation in recent days, the ousting of Arlene Foster as first minister and leader of the Democratic Unionist party has upset unionist politics and the political scene more broadly — with potential implications for the UK union….
Either way, squeezed by the breakaway Traditional Unionist Voice, the DUP is likely to become more obstructionist on the protocol and more conservative on social issues. Poots has said he is already seeking advice on a judicial review of the protocol….
A more fractional and broken unionism could allow Sinn Féin to emerge as the largest party in the next Stormont election, with destabilising consequences.
The Johnson government has a key role to play in helping to ease the tensions in Northern Ireland. That means negotiating constructively and in good faith with the EU an agreement on how to implement the protocol. The best outcome may be a light-touch border regime where the UK sticks informally to EU food safety rules to minimise disruption.”
https://www.ft.com/content/92ccf835-6ead-43c9-8fd1-2bcded163885

” Northern Ireland secretary Brandon Lewis is to visit Dublin on Wednesday for talks with Minister for Foreign Affairs Simon Coveney amid continuing uncertainty at Stormont and turmoil in the DUP….
The Government is keen to help with de-escalating tensions in the North, but will not agree to undermine EU requirements to protect the single market ”
https://www.irishtimes.com/news/politics/northern-ireland-secretary-to-meet-coveney-for-talks-in-dublin-1.4553809

” Former Taoiseach Bertie Ahern says Arlene Foster was “eaten alive” for trying to sell the Brexit deal to her party.
He says the Northern Ireland Protocol is “poisonous” in unionist areas, but the DUP now also faces the possibility of Sinn Féin becoming Northern Ireland’s largest party.”
https://www.newstalk.com/news/arlene-foster-was-eaten-alive-for-trying-to-sell-ni-protocol-to-dup-bertie-ahern-1187446

The Protocol puts an economic/regulatory border between Britain and NI. Unionists see this weakening of the connection with the ‘mainland’ as a threat to their identity.
‘Unionism is in panic’ – Susan McKay.

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WorldbyStorm - May 5, 2021

Interesting in a way how those who sought to use Brexit to undermine the gfa ba have seen how it actually has thrown into sharp relief the real balance of power relationships in these islands and beyond

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WorldbyStorm - May 5, 2021

Really this is about economics and unionists have no real leverage there indeed seem blithely indifferent to it or to commercial and business interests – it’s a lesson for nationalists of all stripes as to how they ignore economics and structures at their peril

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sonofstan - May 5, 2021

“Really this is about economics”

How do you mean?

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WorldbyStorm - May 5, 2021

I guess I’d frame it as follows, London is seeing the issue of Northern Ireland through the prism of their economic self-interest, ie what is the best for Britain as a whole as distinct from what is best for NI unionism/unionists and their political self-interest. Economic self-interest will in such an instance overrule political self-interest, or even the rather tenuous identification of some within Toryism with unionism.

Compared to the economic relationships between the EU and the UK as a whole unionists are of minor importance and have no similar leverage to bring to bear (it’s not as if NI:British trade is of any great consequence comparatively with UK:EU trade). Even their ability to block a dispensation, as with Sunningdale, appears less clearly possible than was true before and wouldn’t in any event divert from the central relationship being UK:EU.

Johnson being Johnson will wave the union flag but when it comes down to it, even had he a greater sympathy with unionism than he has so far shown, and what he has shown has been pretty cosmetic really, he’d still have to weigh up the economic self-interest of the UK as a whole.

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WorldbyStorm - May 5, 2021

BTW, I’m not suggesting for a moment if the case I make above is correct, and it may well be too much of a simplification, that that holds true in all instances. Brexit itself is a counterexample, but then again the British state prioritised the UK:EU relationship as well at the time, and front line politicians like Johnson who argued otherwise tended to be opportunistic and half-hearted about the process.

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sonofstan - May 5, 2021

Got you. Yes, I agree, though I wouldn’t put if past a future Tory leader -Gove – to make ‘Ulster’ his Falklands.

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WorldbyStorm - May 5, 2021

yes, I could see that happening in extremis. It’s a handy one to use. I really hope it never comes to that, but there’s a rump there who have never accepted the GFA/BA.

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sonofstan - May 5, 2021

There’s still a layer of English voters whose view of Ireland was formed during the era when the provos were mindless terrorists: the Mail/ Express picking on Corbyn for his historical associations with SF had an effect with older voters I think.

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WorldbyStorm - May 5, 2021

Definitely agree – and perhaps even a bit further afield than those voters though not as widely as some of Corbyns critics suggested by any means.

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CL - May 5, 2021

Will the next DUP leader attempt to pragmatically implement the Protocol or will it be ‘Ulster says no’?

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3. benmadigan - May 5, 2021

CL – if Poots is elected we might well see another round of “Ulster says NO” , which will undoubtedly be defeated at some cost to peace in our time.

OTOH if it’s Donaldson, (reputedly more “moderate”, though it’s all very relative), I can envisage the hardliners splitting to the TUV.

This would leave the way open for a SF First Minister, particularly if SF agree to accept Donaldson (or indeed Poots) only if the ILA is implemented

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4. CL - May 5, 2021

” Michel Barnier has revealed his frustration at the role that both the DUP and hardline Brexiteers played in hampering the quest to avoid a hard border on the island of Ireland as he negotiated two Brexit treaties over a gruelling four-year period.
In his book ‘The Grand Illusion; the secret journal of Brexit 2016-2020’, to be published in French on Thursday, the EU’s chief Brexit negotiator describes exasperating meetings with the DUP, some of whose members, he claimed, wanted to use Brexit to prevent a united Ireland.
During one meeting the DUP delegation accused Mr Barnier of being the “puppet” of the Irish government, which, they said, wanted to put a border into the Irish Sea.”
https://www.rte.ie/news/brexit/2021/0505/1213988-barnier-book-brexit/

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5. gypsybhoy69 - May 6, 2021

Liked by 1 person

WorldbyStorm - May 6, 2021

Love that song.

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