Power-hunger DUP leader could damn us all

Posted By: October 03, 2018


Distributed to Congress by Irish National Caucus

“No matter how much I supported the Good Friday Agreement signed in 1998, I always had the nagging worry that after Tony Blair, God bless him, some British prime minister would come along and —in grand British imperial tradition— treacherously betray the Agreement.

Of course, none of us could foresee the danger of Brexit—compounded by the Tories’ dependence on the DUP and by the escalating  extreme sectarianism of DUP leader Arlene Foster. (See below reports from today’s Irish News of Belfast).

For context, it is important for Members of Congress to remember that Arlene Foster defected from the Ulster Unionist Party in 2004 because she thought that hard-right David Trimble had ‘gone soft on Catholics’ by his support of the  Good Friday Agreement. She would go on to refer to the two Nationalist/Republican (‘Catholic’) parties in the NI Assembly, Sinn Fein, and SDLP,  as  ‘rogues and renegades’ who could not be trusted with Assembly business. She would later  refer to Sinn Fein as  ‘crocodiles,’mocking their demand for the Irish Language Act: ‘If you feed a crocodile they’re going to keep coming back and looking for more.’

Leading expert on Northern Ireland Andy Pollak (from a non-Catholic background) who has studied the DUP for over thirty years wrote last year in the Irish Times of Dublin:’It is disappointing that the deep and overlapping anti-Irish and anti-Catholic bigotry of so many DUP-supporting Unionists appears to still play a significant role in Northern life and politics.'( ‘Anti-Catholic bigotry of many in DUP still significant.’ Wednesday, 22, 2017). And, of course, their being anti-Irish would also make the DUP racist, and not just sectarian.

 And last year, Gerry Adams stated:’The DUP was a party founded on religious intolerance, sectarianism, a belief in the domination of Unionism, and a dogged opposition to ending discrimination and inequality. During the decades of conflict, it openly colluded with Unionist paramilitaries. More than once the DUP leadership led thousands of masked and marching men through the streets of Belfast and of towns across the North. For a time, there was the Third Force. This morphed into Ulster Resistance, with its red berets and smuggled weapons from the apartheid South African regime.’ (Gerry Adams. Blog. The institutions are at a defining point. Thursday, January 5, 2017).

 Equally, very anti-Sinn Fein journalist Suzanne Breen writes:’And yet it is Ms. Foster, who never marched up mountains in the middle of the night or wore the Ulster Resistance’s red beret, who has appeared to nationalists as more bigoted than Mr. Paisley or Mr. Robinson ever did during their tenure at Stormont.'(‘Grassroots revolt as the Sinn Féin leadership at last playing catch-up.’ Irish Independent.Dublin. Tuesday, January 10, 2017).

 Members of Congress must speak out on the dirty tricks of the DUP and British Government to betray the Good Friday Agreement, which the United States did so much to bring to fruition. The DUP should be building up the Beloved Community in Northern Ireland, not tearing down the Good Friday Agreement.” —Fr. Sean McManus.    

Power-hunger DUP leader could damn us all
John Manley. Irish News. Belfast. Wednesday, October 3, 2018 

A WEEK ago yesterday Arlene Foster made a highly-anticipated return to the RHI inquiry. It was billed as one of the most important moments of her political career, a make or break point that would define her future trajectory as leader. In the end, the former first minister’s oral evidence proved to be something of an anti-climax, not so much a damp squib as a slow-burner, the significance of which will only become fully apparent when digested and contextualized alongside other witnesses’ evidence.

A week on from potentially staring down the barrel of a gun, the DUP leader appeared at the Tory party conference in Birmingham yesterday with her full armory blazing.

She took aim at the Good Friday Agreement and again torpedoed the notion of a ‘border in the Iris Sea,’ demonstrating how trolling can provide a useful obfuscation when a substance is in short supply. There was little context to her claim in an interview with the Daily Telegraph that the 1998 accord may need to evolve post-Brexit but it nevertheless elicited a storm of condemnation, the loudest of which arguably came from Sinn Féin, fellow signatories to the St Andrews Agreement, which modified aspects of its predecessor.

Mrs. Foster clearly sees Brexit as her Waterloo, a last chance opportunity to revive a career that hangs in the balance.

With the fallout from RHI and Stormont’s suspension, the former first minister’s strength may be greatly diminished, but she recognizes that the DUP continues to wield unprecedented power at Westminster, which is enabling the party to steer the course of the UK’s withdrawal from the EU. But while she may have a hand on the steering on the wheel, the route map is unclear.

The DUP’s insistence that there can be no divergence between Northern Ireland and Britain severely limits Theresa May’s potential for compromise, and means she is unable to countenance the EU’s backstop without sacrificing the confidence and supply deal that keeps her government alive.

To add weight to the DUP’s bargaining position, Mrs. Foster is also keeping Boris Johnson onside, stressing that the agreement brokered last year is with the Tory party rather than Mrs. May and will prevail regardless of whoever occupies No 10.

In a fortnight’s time, it is hoped Britain will present some workable proposals to the EU that will form the basis of a withdrawal agreement, but with Theresa May being pulled in opposite directions, it’s difficult to see how that’s possible.

The DUP leader’s Union flag-waving bravado may briefly arrest her declining credibility among the party faithful but it’s a strategy that appears to be directionless and destructive, and one that serves only to exacerbate the North’s internal divisions, as well as damaging north-south and east-west relations.

The success of the Good Friday Agreement came from its recognition of the need to compromise and the necessity to share power. As Brexit approaches, it appears the overriding desire to cling onto power at all costs is in danger of damning us all to decades of instability.

       Leo Varadkar says Dublin stands by Good Friday Agreement

John Manley. Irish News. Belfast. Wednesday, October 3, 2018
Leo Varadkar said his government stands by the Good Friday Agreement and would ‘defend its primacy.’

THE Taoiseach has moved to quell any speculation that Brexit could trigger a renegotiation of the Good Friday Agreement.

Leo Varadkar was prompted to defend the 1998 peace accord after DUP leader Arlene Foster claimed the agreement could “evolve” as a consequence of Brexit.

Mrs. Foster made the remarks in a newspaper interview ahead of a DUP fringe event at the Conservative Party conference in Birmingham.

The former first minister, who left the UUP in 2004 over the party’s support for the Good Friday Agreement, told the Daily Telegraph it was wrong to suggest the accord could not be altered to accommodate a final Brexit deal.

The DUP campaigned against the peace deal when it was resoundingly endorsed in referenda on both sides of the border.

Elements of the accord which first secured power-sharing have been altered by subsequent agreements, such as the 2006 St Andrews Agreement and the 2014’s Stormont House Agreement.

“It is deeply frustrating to hear people who voted Remain and in Europe talk about Northern Ireland as though we can’t touch the Belfast Agreement – things evolve even in the EU context,” Mrs. Foster said.

The DUP leader did not elaborate on how she felt the agreement could be modified and she later said her comments had been exaggerated.

Her words drew strong criticism on both sides of the border.

Speaking in the Dáil, the Taoiseach said the Dublin government stood by the Good Friday Agreement and would “defend its primacy.”

“We see our role as the Irish government as the co-defenders of that Agreement,” he said.

“It is not a piece of British legislation; it is an international agreement between the British and Irish governments, as well as a multi-party agreement among the various parties.

The Fine Gael leader conceded that while it may be “factually correct” to say the accord, like any international treaty, could be changed; it required the agreement of British and Irish governments and the consent of the people of Ireland.

“It is certainly, as far as this government is concerned… not up for negotiation in these talks over Brexit,” he said.

Sinn Féin president Mary Lou McDonald said the DUP leader’s remarks were “dangerous and reprehensible” comments about the GFA.

“They reveal a reckless disregard for the peace process, for prosperity, and for progress,” she said in the Dáil.

Ms. McDonald said the agreement was “not a chip to be bargained with as part of any Tory/DUP Brexit deal.”

Former SDLP leader Mark Durkan, who is widely credited with authoring parts of the agreement, tweeted that the DUP “may be emboldened on disposability” of key Good Friday Agreement precepts in the changes made at St Andrew’s.

“SDLP told then by two governments & Sinn Féin that joint FMdFM (first minister deputy first minister) election wasn’t sacrosanct even though we knew it was crucial in getting an agreement,” he said.

Mr. Durkan said “many current problems” stemmed from what he called “that GFA departure.”

Ulster Unionist Party leader Robin Swann claimed Mrs. Foster’s comments potentially undermined the principle of consent.

He described the remarks as “strategically shortsighted.”

“The DUP may have been happy to corrupt the 1998 agreement for their own ends at St Andrew’s, but I cannot believe the DUP leader has been so careless as to throw it open in such a haphazard way which is of no benefit to unionism,” he said.