Posted By: May 15, 2014

The noted Belfast columnist wonders if another British leader is playing the Orange Card.

Brian Feeney. Irish News ( Belfast). Wednesday, May 14, 2014
ON THE evening of 30 April as Gerry Adams was being taken into custody in Antrim David Cameron was hosting a cosy reception in the garden of 10 Downing Street for the DUP’s eight MPs and Peter Robinson who, if you remember, used to be an MP. Coincidence?Cameron’s children played around in the garden as drinks, (no doubt orange juice figured prominently), were served. You can be sure there was much merriment about what Gerry Adams was drinking in Antrim at the same time.

We’re asked to believe this gathering arose out of a meeting to try to extract millions from Libya for Gaddafi’s supplying semtex to the IRA. If you believe that you’ll believe anything for Libya is fast imploding with rival tribes competing for control.

The Guardian, which broke the story, speculated that Cameron was angling for DUP support in the event of a hung parliament. Support would be on the basis of what is called ‘confidence and supply’, that is the DUP backing Cameron on the queen’s speech and the budget thereby allowing him to stay as prime minister of a minority government. Well maybe. On the other hand Cameron on Sunday assured the BBC’s Andrew Marr that he would not continue as Prime Minister if he could not get an in-out referendum on Europe through parliament. That seems to rule out a minority government.

Whatever the motive for Cameron’s drinks reception in Downing Street one matter is certain – the DUP were selling and Cameron was buying. It’s not the first time unionists have prostituted themselves at Westminster and it won’t be the last. It’s 130 years ago that Randolph Churchill first played the Orange Card. It’s exactly a century ago that the Conservatives used unionists in an attempt to unseat the Liberal Government and prevent reform of the House of Lords. Unionists thought it was about Home rule. Labour governments are just as unprincipled. In June 2008 the DUP supported Gordon brown on 42 days detention for terrorist suspects in return for dropping water charges, speeding up asset sales here and excluding the North from the Abortion Act. Although he got 42 days through the Commons with DUP help, brown lost in the end.

There are many dangers in these sort of machinations. The most obvious and the one that Unionists never seem to learn is what Seamus Mallon told Molyneaux’s UUP in the 1990s when they were at the same game. “If you can be bought, you can be sold”, Mallon said. How right he was for John Major’s government was in talks with the IRA at the time. Ten years earlier Molyneaux thought he had the ear of Thatcher’s government only to find she was concocting a deal with Dublin. Unionists are so easily seduced once they’re allowed to view the trappings of the vanished empire. Much more serious for politics here, and here is where it counts, is the message Cameron’s political stupidity and desperation sends to nationalists. First, the bias and discrimination against nationalists whose representatives Cameron has never met as a party. The Good Friday Agreement commits the British government to exercise ‘rigorous impartiality on behalf of all the people in the diversity of their identities and traditions’ and ‘parity of esteem and just and equal treatment’ for both communities. Obviously neither Cameron nor his clueless proconsul can meet that obligation given their preferential treatment of the DUP. The GFA commits the British government to act as an honest broker here. Neither Cameron nor the current proconsul can or do, given their very provocative wooing of the DUP for their own short term political advantage. Regardless of whether Cameron is trying to buy the DUP in the event of his failure to win a majority in the general election or simply to ensure their support in case the Lib Dems decide to cut loose from the coalition in October, every action, every decision he or his politically insignificant front woman takes affecting The North before next may will be analysed in the context of Conservative bias in favour of unionists. No wonder the British government didn’t express any opinion on the Haass proposals.

They wouldn’t want to offend the DUP would they?