Foster out of her depth

Distributed by Irish National Caucus

By seeking direct rule, Arlene Foster has effectively sacked herself

Brian Feeney. Irish News. Belfast. Friday, February 16, 2018


Arlene Foster’s Valentine’s Day present surprised everyone but for the wrong reasons.

It wasn’t simply that her card was soaked in vinegar and the content, devoid of affection, conveyed all the wrong sentiments for the occasion.

More than that, the result is she landed everyone in a serious predicament on Wednesday because she hadn’t thought through the consequences of her action.

The question for both governments, for it is their move, is where do they go from here?

Simon Coveney is clinging to the capsized boat hoping it can be righted but there is no sign of any help on the horizon. How can there be? The last year has demonstrated repeatedly that neither the Irish government nor Sinn Féin has a partner for stability or a peaceful North.

The simple cause is the shockingly stupid decision Theresa May made out of desperation after her catastrophic misjudged election last June. She meddled in the politics of The North.

What is astonishing is that she [Mrs. May] is incapable of learning from her experience in December that,  not only has she no leverage on the DUP, quite the reverse but that they are quite prepared to humiliate her anytime they feel like it. Then again she suffers almost weekly humiliation from her own party’s MPs and what is laughingly called ‘her’ cabinet.

The only wonder is that Arlene Foster didn’t walk out of her meeting with May on Monday and say there was no deal but waited until Wednesday.

The added complication is, as always, Brexit.

Irish government sources say that May spent almost all the time in her meeting with Varadkar pleading with him for help about squaring the circle of The Border. He was in danger of being sucked into bilateral negotiations with the British but demurred – just.

Rising tensions between London and Dublin about the content of the withdrawal treaty make it difficult for the Irish government to exert any pressure on the British about a joint approach on The North but even without the tensions how could there be a joint approach when May is in bed with the DUP?

Now that devolution has collapsed the Irish government can assert its rights to be involved in The North under the 1998 bilateral British-Irish Agreement, separate from the multi-party Good Friday Agreement.

The DUP is pushing hard against these rights between the two contracting parties hoping to return to the position before the 1985 Anglo-Irish Agreement when the Irish government had no role in the north.

All that leaves Theresa May between a rock and a hard place.

If she resists the Irish government’s rightful and legally justified demands at the behest of the DUP,  what chance has she to soften the Irish  government’s approach to the requirements of the EU27 for regulatory alignment at The Border?

These DUP demands to keep the Irish government at bay are the reason Arlene Foster incredibly asked on Wednesday to be sacked,  by demanding direct rule.

She must know in that event she will no longer be party leader. On the other hand the events of the past week show that she has no leadership capacity.

She was set a test of holding her nerve against the disgraceful campaign by parts of the media and UUP wreckers,  and explaining to her backwoodsmen and bible-thumpers  in words of one syllable the advantages of being in charge of their own destiny. She failed. She’s out of her depth.

We now know Arlene can talk the talk, too much of it ill-judged, but she can’t walk the walk.