The DUP(Democratic Unionist Party) has just aired another Party Political Broadcast. This time they want to present themselves as an impossibly more cuddly bunch.For such a deluded gathering of political grotesques that is a big ask.They’ve decided that the image needs some buffing up for the less-astute pilgrims ,in wake of their long list of scandals, while previously in office. This time they’ll be all sweetness and light .Their leader Arlene Foster is calm and smiling , promoting a fairytale calm near statues and memories of the CS Lewis characters from “the Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe”. This is the fantasy side of Norneverland folk-memory which she wants to promote, rather than the real horrors of the place under unionist rule ,during the times of their creation. That will make the voters forget surely? This has obviously been filmed before the lovely “Crocodile” diatribe where the madness in Arlene Foster’s eyes was much more evident as she lambasted those greedy Nationalists who want to eat them all up. This one is for the simple countryvolk whose only worry is that the First Minister simply has to be a “Pradestant” or the world will end and the graves will be opened to the heavens ,as angelic trumpets blare and bellow .Should Sinn Fein ever designate a First Minister, this is the scenario. This is not the time to tell the poor dears the truth , so let’s roll out another fantasy and drift back to the good old days when everyone knew their rightful place and all was well with the world.Let us all retreat to those balmy childhood years .
All of it is so far from the reality of how the DUP conducted themselves while in government.
Why has no one picked up on this before now? DUP(Democratic Unionist Party) man Nelson McCausland was on the radio this morning telling broadcaster Stephen Nolan that his party had not actually really signed up to the St Andrews Agreement back in October 2006…Some weeks ago his colleague Mr Edwin Poots said something similar live on television and I was energised to write about it. This is a line of argument that they are curiously developing very late in the day …as if to convince themselves that they owe no-one any explanation as to why they were not fully involved and that their recent tenure was no more than a grand plan ….a politically magical sleight -of- hand , even…in line with the japery of their In/out Ministers of the Hokey Cokey pantomime season of a year or so back..Just a bit of stage -business to keep them in jobs with full -pockets and somewhere to idle away their days.
It’s not that I didn’t actually know this , deep in my intestines.I mean , all the signs were there all along so I don’t have to make excuses to myself but to actually have the downright gall to come right out and tell everyone that your party was nothing more than an assortment of time-wasters …..well..l…l ….that’s another kettle of beans entirely, isn’t it? I was dumbfounded to hear him say it at all ,but hardly surprised given the DUP’s performance over this past ten years.Mr Nolan , as with many things that I expect a well-informed broadcaster to know already, seemed to be aghast at this revelation. Sometimes I really wonder is he feigning shock or is he simply realising , for the very first time ,what a weird and ridiculous situation we are living within.The DUP obviously had their fingers crossed behind their backs when the deed was done ten years ago so it wasn’t really a real deal at all. They were just pretending to be politicians all along. Crossed fingers, behind your back , don’t count, after all!!
My question would be why the DUP were allowed to enter local government at all ,if they did not even believe in the foundation stones of that office. It was obviously something like a bit of a con job .It was like setting out to build a house on boggy land without fixing steel into the foundation-raft or pouring concrete into the footings.If anything, the ten years since the signing was a demonstration that they did not actually want the local government to work at all, but were prepared to cavalierly suck up any financial benefits that the little bit of power allowed them .That is exactly what they proceeded to do and the British government were willing to let them to shut them up. It was a nice little earner.
It’s easy enough to forget how hard won an agreement of any kind was, but to refresh :
“The St Andrews Agreement (Irish: Comhaontú Chill Rímhinn; Ulster Scots: St Andra’s ‘Greement, St Andrew’s Greeance or St Andrae’s Greeance) was an agreement between the British and Irish governments and Northern Ireland’s political parties in relation to the devolution of power in the region. The agreement resulted from multi-party talks held in St Andrews in Fife, Scotland, from 11 to 13 October 2006, between the two governments and all the major parties in Northern Ireland, including the two largest, the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) and Sinn Féin. It resulted in the restoration of the Northern Ireland Assembly, the formation (on 8 May 2007) of a new Northern Ireland Executive and a decision by Sinn Féin to support the Police Service of Northern Ireland, courts and rule of law.”
Plenty of time was allowed for the participants to read and agree to the terms of the agreement but there were also deadlines set up to concentrate their minds, otherwise they may have wrangled forever.That is how business is usually done.It’s not as if everyone wasn’t given time to evaluate and read the details of the agreement.Peter Hain , the incumbent Secretary of State at the time , gushed that it was an “astonishing breakthrough”, but that’s the kind of claptrap a politician will say anyway and we all know now that Peter Hain has also said live on radio that agreements are not worth the paper they are written on.Sinn Fein went into consultation at an Ard Fheis in the following January of 2007 and made sure that their followers were onside and the various other politicians across the parties made welcoming noises.The institutions were duly reinstated and the DUP and Sinn Fein met to form a government.
In light of the DUP’s inability to actually live up to the agreement they signed, there is no point in wishing that they might do otherwise at some future time. In fact ,much is being made of an Irish Language Act as an arrow in the DUP’s election quiver at this very moment and we have once again heard the traditional Norneverland cries of “NEVER, NEVER, NEVER!!” which has given the land its sobriquet. Rather than being issued from the stentorian lungs of the deceased Rev. Ian Paisley these are being issued from the pursed lips of Arlene Foster a decade later.We all know what this means .Paisley knew himself that he was at the Last Chance Saloon and would have to accept either the St Andrews deal or Joint-Rule from Westminster and Dublin, together. There was no other road to travel. Paisley took his choice, seemingly in good faith but his example was not followed by many in his party.
As the situation now stands ,Sinn Fein lived up to their part of the bargain and attempted ten years of rapprochement while the DUP proved set in stone….unable to bend and treating that as a strength .Now no one will really want to enter a power -sharing government with the DUP because they are seen as uncompromising liars and renegers at the very least ,or thieves , racists and bigots at worst , so someone very transparently trustworthy will be needed to act as their future guarantor if they accrue sufficient votes. Where to find such a paragon in the whole wide world?Are the Westminster Government to be trusted to do that? They didn’t stand by the St Andrews Agreement so who will the guarantor for the DUP be? What this means is that there will be a stalemate coming up no matter how this new election pans out. In the unlikely event of the DUP being decimated by other unionist parties such as the UUP, there is still that original agreement to be fulfilled.
Who wants to or would be able to work with the DUP at any level?
Is it preferable to side-line them completely and simply accept Joint rule from Westminster and Dublin for several years, as being a more efficient thing to do? Can it turn out to be any worse than the litany of DUP scandals? At bottom , they do not appear to respect even their own vague idea of “democracy”.
Not only that, if they are so inflexible in such a simple detail as an Language Act which is a common standard throughout the UK and further afield, how will they ever manage the more complex contortions required in the sharing of power in a mixed society in future ? They’ve already singularly failed at that in the past , so far.It’s not as if they haven’t been given plenty of chances to give everyone a fair shake ,without bias.To give Ian Paisley his due , he at least knew that he’d already reached the end of the line while these characters haven’t even managed to board the train as yet..