Jeffrey Donaldson has increased political and economic instability

Posted By: November 02, 2022


Distributed to Congress by Irish National Caucus


“Top expert on Northern Ireland, and leading Belfast columnist, Brian Feeney, continues to provide essential insights, which are of great values to the U.S. Congress. In this column, he highlights Jeffrey Donaldson’s failed, unhelpful leadership.”

—Fr. Sean McManus.


Brian Feeney. Irish News. Belfast. Wednesday, November 2, 2022

You might think that in a divided society with one community ever prone to irrational paranoia and self -harm the leader of that community’s largest political party would do everything to calm his supporters, to play down anything that might arouse baseless suspicion.

You might, if that leader wasn’t Jeffrey Donaldson.

Take the most recent example: joint authority. The Good Friday Agreement doesn’t allow for joint authority. The only constitutional change it legislates for is a referendum on Irish reunification. No one in the Irish government mentioned joint authority so the NIO, which at least moved to calm things down, pointed out that, “joint authority is not being considered”.

Why did the UK government think it was necessary to reply to a non-existent Irish suggestion? Simple: Donaldson and his motley crew had decided to give the completely unfounded suggestion legs.

Down the staircase in Stormont they came and stood with obligatory grim faces as Donaldson announced that, “if”, note the “if”, the Irish government was thinking of joint authority they were deluded. Now, the question is why did he do that performance at all, but if he did feel the need to comment would the responsible behavior not be to come down the staircase and announce that there is no truth in the suggestion that the Irish government is asking for joint authority, that it’s incompatible with the GFA and there there’s nothing to worry about? Instead, his passive aggressive approach in his plaintive voice to evoke victimhood only served to up the tension unnecessarily in his own community. It’s doubtful if the more febrile of his self-appointed ‘advisers’ in the LCC and elsewhere heard the weasel “if” or his conditional clause. On the contrary, his performative approach led credibility to various unionist/loyalist extremists who are threatening ‘dire consequences’.

Such has been Donaldson’s ill-considered performances since he came to the fore in 2021 parading round the north, speaking at rallies, some we’re now told by the PSNI, organized by loyalist paramilitaries, playing footsie with extreme unionist parties, hyping up non-existent dangers in the protocol. Figures he produced about the cost of the protocol have all been rubbished by fact checkers. His most recent contribution on Sky with Sophie Ridge, that the protocol was, “harming our economy, our businesses and driving up the cost of living for households” is the exact opposite of what’s happening. The majority of businesses, like the majority of people and political parties in the north, support a streamlined protocol. His false assertion on BBC to bolster his case that people had to wait three weeks for life-saving cardiac surgery because equipment was held up by the protocol was repudiated in terms by the Belfast Trust. “There is no substance to Sir Jeffrey’s claim.”

Why does he always want to hype it up? Why be the political equivalent of chicken-licken always claiming the sky is falling in? Is this behavior not irresponsible for a political leader? Can you take him seriously when his outlandish claims are so easily shot down? Does he not know that people realize that his claims are outlandish because he has to dream stuff up in the absence of any real evidence to support his stupid position on the protocol?

What Donaldson has done over the past eighteen months has increased political and economic instability here and prolonged the Brexit uncertainty which prevents businesses and investors from taking advantage of the ingenious system the protocol represents enabling trade into the EU and GB.

The protocol can’t be unwound. Donaldson must know that. He has never presented a syllable of a proposal for an alternative because there isn’t one and he knows it. The inescapable fact is that the protocol is the only way to produce economic stability and prosperity in the north while Britain sinks into another round of austerity caused by the chimera that Donaldson and his xenophobic friends in the ERG pursued: Brexit.