by Jason Michael
Tweet Follow @Butterfly_Reb
Arelene Foster, First Minister of Northern Ireland and the leader of the province’s Democratic Unionist Party, is cock-a-hoop, and she has every reason to be. She has secured her personal and political ambitions in one fell swoop. Exploiting the utter desperation of Theresa May’s British government she has negotiated a starting £1bn sweetener for her party’s priorities in the North and killed the peace won by the Good Friday Agreement stone dead. It is in this deal – as no doubt we will soon see – that the chaos of May’s programme is fully exposed.
Doing deals with the DUP, other than being standard practice for the British government in the fragile politics of Northern Ireland, is deeply problematic in the context of wider British and European politics. Foster’s DUP – founded in 1971 by the anti-Catholic Reverend Ian Paisley – is a terrorist organisation protected from such a label only by its usefulness to London in maintaining the power imbalanced status quo in Belfast. Its links to loyalist murder squads in Ireland and to other terrorist states – Apartheid South Africa in years past and the State of Israel in the present – are well documented. If peace in Northern Ireland was ever a priority of May’s government, as John Major has said, then any deal with the DUP had to be off the table.
In Belfast the power-sharing Stormont executive has already broken down over yet another DUP corruption scandal, and now faces a Thursday afternoon deadline before some form of direct rule from the UK government is implemented. Further south, in Dublin, the Irish Minister for Foreign Affairs Simon Coveney made it clear there was an urgent need for political choices, saying the “heavy lifting” on the part of the DUP and Sinn Féin had to be done today. The stakes are high, and while the British Prime Minister appears not to give a damn, Ireland – a signatory to the Good Friday Agreement – is acutely aware that the reintroduction of London rule will likely take the whole island of Ireland back to the dark and violent days of the Troubles.
Ireland – a signatory to the Good Friday Agreement – is acutely aware that the reintroduction of London rule will likely take the whole island of Ireland back to the dark and violent days of the Troubles.
Theresa May, a politician of unparalleled incompetence in the Prime Ministerial office, has made this deal, not for the sake of peace and security in Ireland, but for the sole purpose of keeping her and her Brexiteer Conservative administration in power. Achieving this has cost the British taxpayer £1bn today and the promise of a further £500m in future investment – that is a whopping bribe of £100m for each of the DUP’s ten MPs. What is more troubling is that this inducement is only the beginning of the DUP’s shake-down. This £1.5bn, as the DUP sees it, is only to get the Tory government past the ratification of the Queen’s speech – securing a minority government for the two years of the Article 50 negotiations in Brussels. But the next two years will present May’s government with quite a few hurdles, and London’s weakness is Foster’s opportunity. At long last we will all get to see just how big the British government’s money tree is, and the DUP harvesters are ready.
Of course this means that both Scotland and Wales, where Tory MPs have form for putting party before country, are about to be screwed. Given that Theresa May has now put a price on votes at Westminster, Scotland with its thirteen Conservative MPs should stands to receive a windfall of £1.3bn and Wales £800m for its eight Conservatives. The SNP and Plaid Cymru have reminded their Tory colleagues of this, but it won’t happen. Toryism has no interest in the well-being of the devolved governments or in the countries – the countries they see as “regions” – of the United Kingdom. Toryism serves one master, and that is neither Scotland nor Wales.
Ruth Davidson, the colonel in charge of the Scottish Conservative and Unionist Party, has continued to play the game – now taken up by Owen Jones – of blaming austerity in Scotland on the SNP government. Every Westminster cut mitigated by Nicola Sturgeon has provided ammunition to the Tories and Labour in this assault, giving them an avenue to deflect blame from the source of the cuts and to redirect it onto the people busy putting out the fires they cause. It is hilarious listening to Kezia Dugdale and her Scottish Labour stooges throwing a tantrum over their Tory allies not doing what’s right for Scotland. Labour has done little else but act against Scotland. Party and London over country is what unionism is all about.
“Toryism serves one master, and
that is neither Scotland nor Wales.”
What is truly odd in all of this is that not even Westminster is putting state before party. No one in power is doing what’s right for the people of Britain. This deal with the DUP is all about Brexit and the last thing Brexit is about is the people of Britain; England, Scotland, Wales, or Northern Ireland. Brexit is about Brexit – the consolidation of the powerbase of the divorced Tory establishment. Brexit and the dismantling of our rights that is coming with it will leave us all worse off. It will put the British establishment back where it has always wanted to be; in charge of a state where the people serve the single purpose of serving it.
It is this more than any other consideration that explains the willingness of the British government to shake the magic money tree for the DUP. Britain simply doesn’t care about the consequences this move will have for Northern Ireland. It cares just as little for what all of this means for the people of Scotland and Wales. The reality is that we live in a state that is willing to pay any amount of money to safeguard the position and privilege of the few over and against the needs of the many. This is modern Britain, and this is what its deal with the DUP is about.
It is difficult to see how the political fallout from this deal cannot be seriously big. On the one hand it paves the way for a Conservative Brexiteer-negotiated Brexit that can do nothing but put the British economy in a tailspin. On the other hand it will fundamentally weaken the conditions that have preserved peace in Northern Ireland. Scotland and Wales have been left with a bad taste in their mouths and over the course of the coming talks in Brussels this bad taste will be transformed into real discontent. Westminster has put the wants of its own powerful establishment first, and if this is not acted against in Scotland this can do nothing but hurt Scotland and Scottish people.
The Butterfly Rebellion