Foster speech devoid of a single policy

Posted By: November 02, 2016

Brian Feeney. Irish News (Belfast). Wednesday, November 2, 2016

It wasn’t very edifying, was it, the DUP conference, that is?

The low point was the party leader’s speech lashing out in all directions except one – Sinn Féin – to hide the fact that she had nothing to say.

You might have noticed that the only person interviewed on BBC NI on Monday was Peter Weir about his attempt to sneak the 11 plus back into education by the back door.

Out of the window goes the Northern Ireland curriculum for 10 and 11-year-olds.

As for the main event at the conference, Arlene Foster’s speech, it was the knockabout stuff that used to be ‘the pravince’[province] of the conference clown Sammy Wilson. Instead, Arlene took it upon herself to insult opposition politicians in her most vulgarian terms.

You didn’t hear any criticism of their policies or grounds for opposing her. Rather she tried to ridicule them in a pretty strained, far-fetched comparison with an ancient TV sitcom [Steptoe and Son] obviously chosen to be instantly recognizable to her mostly ancient adoring audience.

While she obviously has nothing but contempt for Colum Eastwood [SDLP leader] as a lightweight, Arlene Foster evidently really doesn’t like Mike Nesbitt [ Ulster Unionist Party ( UUP) leader]. Any reference to him—even in the caricature she chose for him—was made with a dismissive snarl in the corncrake- contralto she reserves for people she believes ought to be swatted away.

If anything could be taken from that portion of her speech—apart from its unbecoming comportment for someone who is the first minister— then it is her clear intent to destroy the UUP.

Two recent converts to the DUP from the ranks of UUP councilors confirmed that intent.

That was the only policy announcement, oblique though it was.

Strange that a Party’s leader’s speech was devoid of a single policy on a matter of substance.

Repeating that she wants to make The North a better place is hardly cutting edge.

The whole performance was, leaving the obligatory DUP nastiness aside for a moment, superficial.

There was no insight or imagination.

As others have noticed, no vision. Repetition of clichés like no ‘hard border’, complete nonsense like the ‘biggest economic opportunity for decades’, and of course, parroting ‘Brexit means Brexit’ which even Theresa May now tries to avoid saying because of the jeers the meaningless phrase provokes.

It’s not been a good week for Foster. She kicked off the preliminaries to her conference with an acute case of foot in mouth disease when she announced that being trolled on social media made her harden her opposition to equal marriage and that she intended to misuse “Petitions of Concern” to block change.

That’s despite the Fresh Start Agreement containing promises to reform the petition procedure. 

Then she had to row back frantically to deny that DUP policy was decided by online abuse.

Then she told the BBC she knew ‘plenty of people in that community’,  namely the gay community, who opposed equal marriage. Do you believe that? The only statement omitted from this back-tracking was to claim, ‘Some of my best friends are gay.’

She didn’t think for a minute that her whole distasteful speech— and her earlier promise to block any change towards equal marriage— or her refusal to discuss any change in abortion law,  or say if she’d give her party a free vote,  make it easy for any Irish official, as she claimed, ‘to talk down Northern Ireland’.

Who would want to open shop in a place where someone like Arlene Foster is First Minister,  whose first set piece speech after Brexit  is abusive and uninspiring? Apart from her antediluvian views on morality and human relations, there is her denial of the reality that The North is going to be dramatically worse off because of her craven loyalty to a Conservative government,  which has no idea what course they’re going to follow aside from sweetheart deals with sectors of industry and finance to compensate for the 20 per cent tariff the EU will slap on them after the UK leaves the single market.

Ironically the only people here likely to benefit from the financial speculators who have already discounted the pound by the 20 percent margin are traders in border towns where a substantial majority of the people vote Sinn Féin [ It is now much cheaper for people in the Irish Republic to cross the Border and buy stuff in Northern Ireland].