LET’S leave aside the intricacies of backstop, and backstop to backstop and have a look at the state of play here.
In the midst of the chaos of the civil war in the Conservative party and the British cabinet two conclusions are clear. First, the role the DUP has played as usual idiots to assist this British government clinging to power – because that’s their sole function – has released dangerous elements in unionism from paying even lip service to the Good Friday Agreement. Secondly, the way that Arlene Foster has zealously carried a sandwich board for Brextremists both in England and here means it’s unlikely she will ever be first minister again.
That’s not only because her language and behaviour have rendered her repellent to nationalists but also because, choosing to side with the dinosaurs in her party, she has boxed herself into a corner where she is unable to deliver any deal with Sinn Féin. As a consequence of all that a return to a Stormont executive is improbable in the foreseeable future.
The other factor preventing a return to a devolved government is that the prime minister’s electoral dependence on the DUP has completely spancelled our clueless proconsul. Since she won’t contemplate an outside arbitrator, that means no other party can take her seriously as a chair because political necessity requires her to be partisan. Besides, look at the calendar. Brexit next March, local government elections in May and then the marching season. In between there’ll probably be an Irish election. Even if talks at Stormont produced a deal there would have to be an election to ratify it. When?
However, there isn’t going to be a deal because the people in ascendant in the DUP, the MPs, don’t want one. They all opposed the Good Friday Agreement and continue to do so, as do many, perhaps the majority, in the DUP. For these people Brexit is an opportunity to
Arlene Foster has left a trail splattered with bile giving no indication that she either wants or needs to reciprocate overtures from Sinn Féin
continue dismantling the GFA. One bonus of the hard border they want is to make redundant the North-South Ministerial Council which the DUP successfully worked hard to ignore and diminish over the past decade and Sinn Féin let them. Next, we hear the refrain from senior right wing Conservatives, including former conspicuous failures as proconsuls here, that the GFA can and should be changed. This theme has been taken up by their sandwich-board woman Foster. Brexit means the GFA has to change we hear. How, is not clear, but the DUP and their Conservative organ grinders are busily creating the climate for removing their undesirable bits, like the absence of a visible border. The DUP has already successfully prevented any meaningful meeting of the British-Irish Inter-governmental Conference, even though devolved government has collapsed.
If there were to be talks about restoring Stormont the starting point would be the deal Arlene Foster was unable to deliver in February. Since then she has hardened her position on the sticking points like the Irish language and equality provisions. If reports of the acrimonious DUP executive meeting last week are anything to go by, one of the main criticisms levelled at Foster was her attendance at the Donegal-Fermanagh match in Clones. That gives you an idea of the chances of making a deal with the DUP.
Instead of trying to move towards conciliating her political opposition in Sinn Féin Foster has scarcely uttered a constructive syllable in the last year. On the contrary, she has left splattered with bile giving no indication that she either wants or needs to reciprocate overtures from Sinn Féin.
As she found last February how, even if she wanted to, will she suddenly reverse direction and close a deal with people she denigrates? How would she convince her own party it’s a good idea, having spent so long dissing the whole project? It’s obvious now there is deep dissatisfaction with Foster in her own party. Its councillors are much exercised by the mess Foster made of RHI and the stench rising from the inquiry which they will have to explain when canvassing next May. Luckily for Foster there’s no heir apparent who wants to take over from her but she has written her own political P45.
With many thanks to: Brian Feeney and The Irish News for the original posting.