Friendless DUP has made us all a hostage to its fortunes

Posted By: January 01, 2024



Distributed to Congress by Irish National Caucus


“This article by Geoff Martin is straight Presbyterian talk (in the good sense) from an Armagh man: ‘Sinn Féin became the largest party but the DUP refused to serve under a Catholic first minister. One wonders why?’ So many others were scared to mention the elephant in the room, even though everybody in Ireland, north and south, knows the truth.”—Fr. Sean McManus.

 Friendless DUP has made us all a hostage to its fortunes.

Co Armagh-born Geoff Martin, formerly the European Commission’s most senior representative in the UK … [He] was the European Commission’s representative in Belfast in the 1980s before becoming its most senior representative to the UK.

By Geoff Martin. Irish News. Belfast. December 31, 2023.

The Democratic Unionist Party stands in isolation throughout these islands and amongst all political parties – with no exceptions.

It stands alone. Its demands are irreconcilable.

It is holding to ransom the future of Northern Ireland and is wearing very thin any possibility of more concessions from Westminster and Whitehall.

How long can this be allowed to go on?

An election was held nearly two years ago. Sinn Féin became the largest party but the DUP refused to serve under a Catholic first minister. One wonders why?

The British government says that the talks have ended though the terms of the deal remain on the table if the DUP enters the executive. Let’s see.

Even though all the other parties still have issues upon which there are remaining problems to be resolved, at the least, they have been prepared to return democracy to its proper place in Stormont and take their responsibilities as democratically elected representatives. The DUP so far has not agreed

It is true that Northern Ireland no longer commands much attention in the British media and almost none elsewhere. The conflicts in Gaza and Ukraine have seen to that but for those dwindling few who think about Northern Ireland at all in Britain, they are appalled at the unresolved circumstances of the recent failure of the talks.

They know that the £14bn Northern Ireland has received from Britain per year in recent years, as well as the additional £3.3bn, is about 20% greater than any one of the British regions receive, per head. They also read that this colossal amount of taxpayers’ money has been subject to irresponsible spending as in the RHI scandal and in the current absence of proper ministerial supervision. They look at these figures while confronting a freeze in their own local council budgets as increasing numbers of local authorities in England are going broke. Birmingham is one of them.

What might be done as the New Year approaches? The DUP are twisting in the wind, divided internally and without any evidence of leadership to rescue them from implosion.

They may still have allies in the Conservative Party.

The current secretary of state has been a chairman of the European Research Group, as was his current minister of state. The ERG was and remains a small but influential group of largely anti-EU, right-wing English nationalists who have been and remain influential at Westminster. Boris Johnson was influenced by them in his many prevarications on Brexit. The ERG still has the DUP in its claws even though it no longer needs DUP votes to stay in power. At least for the time being.

It is very difficult to see any other DUP allies anywhere. A general election is expected in the UK next year with opinion polls pointing to a Conservative defeat, it is unlikely that a Labor government would wish to continue to prop up a grouping in which 17th-century practices remain in public view on an annual basis.

It is also entirely possible that if there is no resolution to the current impasse, there will be a Northern Ireland election after January 18. Whether this would radically change the electoral outlook is questionable. This is because more and more people in Northern Ireland are fed up with negative politics. There is some movement toward the Alliance Party which is not so interested in the fundamentals of the constitution as the DUP or Sinn Féin. But there is little sense of great change and people are likely to vote largely as they always have.

So can the current situation continue? It is expensive. It is unstable. Inward investors would remain uneasy at taking the risk. And even if an executive were to come about, the ugly face of bigotry is not far beneath the surface.

That is why more voices are being raised in favor of a new beginning after the UK general election. In the intervening period, a review of the Belfast Agreement is gaining substantial support. The current veto in favor of the DUP and Sinn Féin has served its purpose. But a more even-handed approach involving both the British and Irish governments may be required, much along the lines of the original intentions on that famous Good Friday.