Donaldson’s DUP in Disarray

Posted By: August 11, 2021


DUP leader’s mixed messages causing confusion

DUP leader Jeffrey Donaldson has said it is important for the leader of unionism to be at Westminster but has also said he hoped to be in the assembly and first minister in the autumn.

Brian Feeney. Irish News. Belfast. Wednesday, August 11, 2021.

As it writhes in its death throes, not surprisingly the party of Paisley is in disarray and confusion exemplified by its new leader’s mixed messages.

At the weekend he said it was important for the leader of unionism to be at Westminster, so he was content to remain there, but he also said he hoped to be in the assembly and first minister in the autumn. Which is it?

This is also the guy who said he could live with 40,000 job losses if that’s what the hard Brexit he advocated meant. How do you square that astonishing remark from any politician with his newfound concern for the economic damage he claims the protocol is causing? Does he care about jobs and prosperity or is he more concerned about imaginary damage to his unionist sentiments?


His confusion about the protocol, the workings of which he and his colleagues have done everything they can to obstruct, has now reached laughable proportions. He keeps repeating the “Irish Sea border”, his new name for the protocol must go because “it contravenes Article 6 of the Act of Union”. Probably that sounds convincing if you’re a lower deck lawyer leading a march round Rathcoole or Newtownards, but Donaldson conveniently doesn’t say that the judgment he lifted that from goes on to point out that subsequent Westminster legislation supersedes the Act of Union and therefore the protocol is valid and lawful. Besides, Donaldson never refers to the small matter of the infamous 1921 Anglo-Irish Treaty which created a British border in Ireland, never mind the Irish Sea, and also did a bit of damage to his beloved Act of Union.


His other hobby horse is his repeated assertion that any future arrangement, “has to have the consent of unionists”. Er, no it doesn’t. The UK is perfectly free to make trade agreements with any other country without reference to any regional assembly. Perhaps Donaldson doesn’t realize that his beloved Brexit doesn’t, and never will have, the consent of a majority of people in The North? No matter. That’s OK because the DUP voted for it, so therefore it has the consent of, altogether now, “the people of Ulster”, obviously synonymous in his mind with DUP voters. Their consent is all that matters despite electoral evidence to the contrary in 2017 and 2019.


Thanks to the DUP’s fateful attachment to Brexit unionists are now a minority in Stormont and among MPs from here at Westminster. Do keep up at the back there, Jeffrey.


Here’s another confusing assertion he peddles. He is pressing the British to invoke Article 16 of the protocol misleading his supporters into believing that would make the protocol go away. A bit like Jeffrey’s magic “seeing-inside-lorries” border technology he advocated risibly for four years. Article 16 doesn’t make the protocol go away. Instead, it triggers all kinds of compulsory efforts to investigate how to make it work more effectively though it can also trigger retaliatory EU sanctions if arbitration finds invoking Article 16 was unjustified. However, at the end of it all Donaldson’s sea border/protocol is still there.


You can see Donaldson’s difficulties even if you enjoy watching him twist in the wind. How does he assert his control over an assembly party, half of whom voted against him in his leadership contest with Poots? How does he stop Givan doing the full Paisley on social change matters like abortion, thereby hemorrhaging younger, educated, liberal voters to Alliance?


You notice Donaldson is the dog that didn’t bark on Givan’s threat to veto any attempt to place abortion services on the executive agenda. How does Donaldson discipline his more racist, antediluvian colleagues? [His] silence on asylum seekers at Carrickfergus? If he resigns from Westminster who will the Lagan Valley candidate be? Certainly neither Givan nor Poots, either of whom would hand the seat to Alliance.


So far Donaldson’s answers to these questions have been consistently wrong.