Time for DUP to wise up and get back to work

Posted By: September 08, 2023



Distributed to Congress by Irish National Caucus


“This column in today’s Irish News is a lot of common sense.

The DUP insists on proving to the world that Northern Ireland is—and always has been— a failed, artificial construct.” —Fr. Sean Mc Manus

Time for DUP to wise up and get back to work

Tom Collins. Irish News. Belfast. Friday, September 8, 2023

Every now and then a phrase comes into my head that I can’t get rid of – the verbal equivalent of an earworm. This week it is the French classic ‘plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose’.

Roughly translated it means the more things change, the more they stay the same. It should be carved in giant letters on every public building as a warning against the type of political behavior that causes this form of paralysis.

Change, we know, is a constant. And there has been a hell of a lot of change since peace ‘came dropping slow’ in the 1990s (to misquote Yeats); yet here we are, almost a quarter of the way through a new century, and hope and history have yet to rhyme. Everything seems to have stayed the same.

A new beginning for politics? Dead in the water.

A new beginning for policing? Opportunities missed by a tarnished PSNI.

Respect for cultural traditions and Irish games? Torched by arsonists.

Sectarianism hasn’t gone away you know. You can see it in a political discourse that believes ‘a win for them is a loss for us’; you can see it in the double standards over how people are allowed to remember their dead; you can see it in the willful dismissal of people’s rights, culture and beliefs.

But bigotry is only one manifestation of the sickness within our society. Take any indicator and you will find Northern Ireland wanting.

The health service is on its knees, and people are dying needlessly because it is underfunded; the education system disadvantages the poor, denying whole communities the opportunity to build better lives for themselves; child poverty is at scandalous levels for a so-called first-world country; business and industry is in the doldrums; the police service is unfit for purpose.

It does not have to be like that.

Yet there doesn’t appear to be the political will to do anything about it. The British and Irish governments have given up on Northern Ireland, and the parties here are paralyzed because of the DUP’s refusal to participate in government.

Bar accepting a damehood, Michelle O’Neill has done all she can to demonstrate she can be trusted to be First Minister – but to no avail. If she walked on water, Jeffrey Donaldson would condemn her for not swimming.

Maybe more unionists than we think agree with DUP grandee Wallace Thompson’s view that “some form of new Ireland” is inevitable. But if there are those within the unionist family who agree with him, they need to start speaking up, and loudly.

The DUP needs to be shaken out of its fantasy that a Protestant state for a Protestant people is still an option.

Short of the miraculous appearance of a visionary unionist leader (Sir Jeffrey need not apply), a dose of realism from unionists who care about making life here better might just be the catalyst that brings the DUP to its senses and takes the party back into the Assembly and Executive.

Unionism needs to adapt to today’s realities.

The demographics of this part of Ireland have fundamentally changed, and its political complexion has altered. The balance has shifted irrevocably – not towards nationalism, but towards recognition there can never again be two tiers of citizen here.

On Brexit, the DUP must know it miscalculated. There will be no border in Ireland. The Windsor Framework makes the best of their bad job. They have to accept it.

Sensible people know that Northern Ireland is on life support. Unionism had to prove it was not a failed state – its actions have demonstrated the opposite. If unionist politicians do not put their shoulders to the wheel – and soon – the life support system should be turned off.

If they are not willing to address the deep-seated social and economic challenges facing this part of Ireland, what’s the point of pretending there is hope for Stormont.

If the DUP is happy with the prospect of rule by Micheál Martin and Chris Heaton-Harris, it should keep on its current course.

Donaldson and crew would do well to listen to the words of Henry Ford. “If you always do what you always did, you’ll always get what you always got.”

The truth is there was never a golden age for Northern Ireland.

This is what we’ve always got: violence and the threat of violence, rampant inequality, crippling poverty, educational underachievement, and public services unfit for purpose.

Is that what the DUP now wants for its people? If not it is time to wise up and get back to work.