Posted By: January 17, 2024


Distributed to Congress by Irish National Caucus

“Members of Congress will find this hard-hitting, no-nonsense article by Brian Feeney helpful. England cannot provide the solution because England is the problem in that part of Ireland which England is still holding on to. I say England because we can hardly blame Wales or Scotland, despite individuals like Lloyd George and Lord Balfour.”—Fr. Sean McManus

Blame for stalemate sitting squarely with inept proconsul Heaton-Harris

Brian Feeney. Irish News. Belfast. Wednesday, January 17, 2024

THE British government adopted the Windsor Framework on March 24 last year. Politically we’re exactly where we were then, but the newly agreed, streamlined protocol procedures came into operation on October 1 regardless.

Otherwise, absolutely nothing has changed in the stand-off between the proconsul [Secretary of State for Northern Ireland] and the DUP. The blame for this rests squarely on our inept, out-of-his-depth proconsul, a man who has demonstrated repeatedly his lack of political nous.

It was obvious by last June that Jeffrey Donaldson couldn’t get his party to accept the Windsor Framework. His attempt to off-load the decision to a committee of DUP ‘has beens ’ failed when they, obviously, gave the wrong answer.

Yet the proconsul continued to play the DUP’s game, pretending there were talks, that there was “progress being made’” when it was self-evident there wasn’t and couldn’t be.

Couldn’t be, because the Windsor Framework had been adopted by the Commons with one of the biggest majorities in history: 515-29. It had been done and dusted; the UK’s relationship with the EU had been reset and the UK wasn’t about to change it unilaterally. Everyone except the DUP could see that.

It was at that point, before last summer, the proconsul should have publicly stated what everyone knew.

That is, the Windsor Framework was the British government’s best shot and if the DUP didn’t jump at it, declare victory, and return to Stormont, then they had only themselves to blame.

But he didn’t. He continued to play the DUP charade that there were substantive negotiations.

Since there were not, all the proconsul did was to provide cover for the DUP’s stupidity and intransigence and in the process allow the DUP to make a fool of him.

He has been a complete and utter failure in office. The DUP are laughing up their sleeves at him.

They are quite right when they say his disgraceful attempt to blackmail the party by refusing to fund public services and [to] pay people the money they’re entitled to.

The public isn’t stupid. They know whose fault it is—the proconsul’s. Furthermore, he’s demonstrating clearly that he is a proconsul in the true sense of the word, namely a colonial appointee answerable to no one here [in Northern Ireland], however foolish his actions may be. That’s why he, and no one else, has provoked the closest thing to a general strike here tomorrow.

It is unconscionable for a politician, even one who represents no one here, who has no dog in the fight, to tell public servants they are entitled to more money during a cost-of-living crisis and to admit that public services are underfunded, then in the same breath tell people they’re not getting the money they’re entitled to, because he can’t solve the political problem he’s created.

It seems he was daft enough to believe that the DUP would grab the extra money and new funding basis for The North for which they’d been arguing, claim victory, and present their constituents with a Christmas present.

His ploy was so obvious even Sammy Wilson recognized it for what it was and called it “a bribe”. It could not conceal the fact that absolutely nothing had changed about the Windsor Framework and Donaldson’s seven tests remained unachievable.

As a result, our proconsul is hoisted with his own petard. Monday saw him board the same carousel of pointless meetings, and today he will yet again announce there’ll be no assembly election because it would be an election to nothing: around and around we go.

Nevertheless, there’s another aspect to his partisan indulgence of the DUP. It’s not simply a matter of their obstinacy to refuse to accept the reality of the protocol. What the DUP is up to, as you’ve read here before, is an attempt to resurrect the unionist veto on progress.

They keep harping that they want a deal that “unionists, as well as nationalists, can support, which underpins the foundations of our devolved government rather than undermining them”. No. Wrong. It sounds reasonable but is really code for a unionist veto. It’s rubbish as far as the protocol is concerned, for neither unionists nor nationalists need to be consulted or consent to an international trade agreement.

More important, however, is that unionists’ consent is not needed for any change that Stormont is competent to deal with.

It’s false to claim that the foundation of the Good Friday Agreement requires support of both unionists and nationalists for any change – an impossibility.

The DUP’s block on any progressive legislation was the reason Sinn Féin walked out of Stormont in 2017.

A Stormont majority is sufficient, but the DUP’s abuse of blank, pre-signed petitions of concern, was designed to block that.

Their false claim about the basis of the GFA is their latest ploy.