Brian Feeney: We have a major problem with Arlene Foster

Posted By: October 26, 2016

First Minister Arlene Foster greets Prince Michael of Kent. 

Picture by Niall Carson/PA Wire

Brian Feeney. Irish News (Belfast). Wednesday, October, 2016.
 IT’S clear we have a major problem with Arlene Foster.

Her peasant-like forelock-tugging obeisance to the British government is guaranteed to do the prospects of prosperity for people here a lot of harm.

It’s bad enough that she won’t admit she doesn’t speak for the majority of people here when it comes to Brexit but it’s much worse when she unthinkingly parrots what the British prime minister says especially repeating nonsense about the `opportunities’ Brexit offers.

Look, Brexit offers no opportunities and certainly Arlene can’t name one because she doesn’t know what Brexit means any more than Theresa May and her Three Brexiteers, appropriately dubbed the three blind mice by Nick Herbert MP. Herbert, who led the Conservative party’s Remain campaign, has expressed concern that the British government could be heading towards “Brexit fundamentalism, or giving themselves up to a romanticized 1950s vision of Britain, a country of imperialist chauvinism”. You could see why Arlene finds that beguiling.

The only opportunity the British government’s current rudderless route offers is for the leaders of Scotland, Wales and The North to unite to act together to salvage something from the wreckage but Arlene Foster spurns that chance. On Monday Sturgeon and Jones both made clear they want special status for Scotland and Wales. Sturgeon wants Scotland to be treated on equal terms with England. Fat chance, but at least she’s staking a claim. Of course Theresa May said no to everything but who is the only one of the devolved leaders agreeing with her at the meeting? Arlene of course.

It may be that her desire to be May’s poodle stems from her unquestioning uncritical loyalty to everything British and remotely royal. Did you see her astonishing cringe worthy pantomime curtsey to minor royals, cousins of the queen or something, when they visited Fermanagh in July? Does anyone do that in 2016? Does anyone with the protocol status of a head of government – yes she and Martin McGuiness are regarded as such – curtsey to someone whose relationship with the queen you’d need to be a genealogist to work out?

On the other hand, though less likely, Arlene may give her lapdog support to the British government because the eight DUP MPs hope to scrape some crumbs from the floor of the House of Commons if they support May in her difficulties ahead as she tries to push through whatever plans her three blind mice come up with. So far it’s been a fiasco. Theresa May’s five minutes at 1.00 a.m. last Tuesday in Brussels went down like a lead balloon. Every time she opens her mouth the pound sinks further, now to its lowest exchange rate for 168 years. However, not to worry, Arlene backs her to the hilt. Europe’s cut off hay.

Arlene won’t have noticed Ireland’s EU commissioner Phil Hogan at an Oireachtas committee last week since, like her British government, she seems not to notice anything outside the UK.

She certainly studiously avoids noticing anything in the Republic. Hogan said there will have to be changes to the Border, which tellingly Arlene calls `the frontier’ when she’s standing at Belleek. Hogan said, it’s hard Brexit or no Brexit. It wasn’t a personal view. Hogan was speaking for the commission.

No wonder Enda Kenny is begging for an agreed response of The North which of course can’t happen because Arlene will veto anything critical of the British government. Compare with Nicola Sturgeon who came out of Downing Street spitting nails on Monday. Needless to say, our First and deputy First Minister couldn’t agree a response since they are diametrically opposed on how to proceed.

It’s all going to become a lot worse as details from the three blind mice begin to emerge. Martin McGuinness will be seeking maximum support and cooperation from Dublin for special status

for The North but there can’t be a united all-Ireland strategy to benefit people here, because Arlene Foster will ignore anything from Dublin, sticking slavishly to everything emerging from Westminster just because it says `British’ on it.

Another few months of this and the `new best friends’ deal between Sinn Féin and the DUP will unravel. It’ll be just like old times.