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Were the DUP right all along? Power-sharing in Stormont is on the brink of collapse

Brinkmanship in Northern Ireland. Credit: PAUL FAITH/AFP via Getty

Brinkmanship in Northern Ireland. Credit: PAUL FAITH/AFP via Getty


February 21, 2023   8 mins

Northern Ireland is the Brexit wound that will not heal. Britain’s fourth prime minister in as many years now finds himself in the same position as all the others: locked in a defining battle with Brussels, seeking an answer to the apparently unanswerable border dilemma, squeezed by EU red lines and recalcitrant unionist opposition.

And yet, where there is discord, there is at least a degree of harmony. Speak to almost anyone in London, Washington, Brussels or the great capitals of Europe and you can be sure to hear the same diagnosis: Northern Ireland’s unionists only have themselves to blame. It was they, after all, who campaigned for Brexit; they who rejected Theresa May’s “all UK” backstop; and they who then championed Boris Johnson. Now that they have found themselves locked behind an Irish Sea border, they can hardly complain, let alone be allowed to blackmail their way out of trouble. As such, according to conventional wisdom, Rishi Sunak must finally get tough with the DUP and, if necessary, simply impose whatever deal he reaches with Brussels for the good of the nation, for Europe, and even for Western unity itself.

If you believe this is somehow an answer, however, I’m afraid you too are part of the problem. Of course, the DUP has made serious mistakes along the way, but the political crisis in Northern Ireland is not some desperate stunt by embarrassed unionists seeking a technocratic fix. Far from it. It is one of substance, principle and politics — and, if anything, it is not the DUP whose judgement has been shown to be lacking throughout this whole sorry affair, but that of its many critics intent on trying the same essential solution no matter how many times it runs into the same problem.

At heart, the DUP is both correct in its central analysis of the Protocol, and also correct to be sceptical about the prospect of the EU changing its position sufficiently to address its concerns. Strip away the fluff and the DUP’s central concern is — and always has been — reasonable. Under the current arrangements, Northern Ireland will inexorably diverge from the rest of the UK without unionist consent, challenging the basic political settlement of the Good Friday Agreement.

From the beginning of this crisis, far more attention has been given to ensuring there is no physical infrastructure on the land border than on protecting the power-sharing political settlement at the heart of the Good Friday Agreement. While these two objectives are connected, they are not the same thing — as we are now discovering. After six years of negotiations, there is every chance we will end up with the former but not the latter.

In essence, the Good Friday Agreement is a grand political compromise in which Irish nationalism accepts the continued existence of Northern Ireland as a sovereign part of the United Kingdom for as long as a majority of the population consent to it. In return, unionism accepts the end of majoritarian rule in favour of permanent power-sharing. The reason Brexit has proved so difficult is because there is no obvious way for the UK to leave the EU that is politically acceptable in Westminster and both communities in Northern Ireland. Constitutionally, however, the starting point for the negotiations should have been for Northern Ireland to leave the EU on the same terms as the rest of the UK — unless a specific set of arrangements could be agreed by both communities.

The problem is that the exact opposite of this happened, as London and Brussels flipped the problem on its head. In December 2017, Theresa May agreed a deal which meant that whatever happened in the future, Northern Ireland would remain permanently anchored to EU law to ensure there was never any need for a land border. From this moment, the challenge became not how to ease the land border to make it acceptable to nationalism, but how to ease the sea border to make it acceptable to unionism.

This was never some mere practical tweak, but a significant constitutional change which unionism understandably rejected but has never been able to reverse.

Unless Sunak is able to negotiate a different outcome, Northern Ireland will remain permanently locked to certain EU laws. These laws can change without Northern Ireland’s consent and will only apply in Great Britain if the UK government decides to follow suit. For as long as this is the case, Britain and the EU can agree as many clever ways of managing the border as they like, but the ratchet will remain, pulling Northern Ireland away from the rest of the UK to keep it tied to the Republic.

By pointing this out, Northern Ireland’s unionists are not being unreasonable or reactionary, though there are certainly many within the party who are both. They are simply describing the reality of the arrangements that have been agreed without their consent. And what is more, just as they have long warned, and the Irish government has long known, the effect will almost certainly be the permanent collapse of power sharing in Northern Ireland.

The blame for the current political crisis in Northern Ireland, therefore, rests far less with its unionists, and far more with those who laid the intellectual foundations for what is currently in place. Yet we continue to look away from this basic reality.

It was Theresa May who made the commitment — not required by the Good Friday Agreement — that there could be no physical infrastructure on the land border under any circumstances.The Irish government also pushed for this settlement, knowing full well the strain it would place on power-sharing. May’s commitment was unprecedented and constitutionally transformative. Originally, she had promised only to avoid a “return to the borders of the past”, which was a perfectly reasonable commitment well within the confines of the Good Friday Agreement. By going further, May placed Britain on an inexorable path either to a soft “high alignment” relationship with the EU, in order to rub out the regulatory border she had agreed within the UK, or to a sea border to ensure Britain would not become a rule-taker from Brussels. In truth, she could deliver neither.

Even when May negotiated a “whole-UK” customs union with the EU, Northern Ireland’s unionists were correct in their observation that this original regulatory sea border lay underneath. Under May’s deal, Northern Ireland would remain tied to single market regulations in perpetuity, without any input from the Stormont assembly or executive. It was only when May was defeated in parliament — three times — that she gave up and resigned. Boris Johnson then emerged and tried to unpick the basic logic of her backstop — and failed. He did, however, at least insert an element of democratic consent into his eventual deal. Under the terms of Johnson’s Protocol, the Northern Irish assembly has the power to reject it — but only by a majority vote. The Good Friday Agreement had introduced government by parallel consent; the Protocol ignored this. Given the very raison d’ĂȘtre of the DUP is to protect the union with Great Britain, why should they have accepted this?

Of course the DUP has also made large strategic miscalculations. Principally, they were far too slow to point out the challenges to the basic functioning of the Good Friday Agreement inherent in both May’s backstop and Johnson’s protocol. They were slow to this in large part because of their ambivalence to the agreement in the first place. It is reasonable to argue that the DUP is guilty of opportunism, using the provisions of an agreement it once opposed to defeat the new thing it now opposes. For this they deserve harsh criticism. They must also now ask themselves how long they can keep saying “no” without undermining the long-term support for the union in Northern Ireland itself — particularly among the professional middle classes for whom the permanent loss of devolved government may be worse than the slow ratchet of divergence from Britain.

Still, let us state clearly the reality of the situation. The Protocol that exists in theory has never existed in practice because it was never fit for purpose. In as much as it functions today, it does so because the UK government unilaterally refused to apply great chunks of it. And yet the people who say the DUP should give way now are the same people who said they should give way then, accepting a deal which has proved unimplementable; one which first of all gave Northern Ireland no democratic input and then only managed to do so on a majority basis. It is not good enough to conclude that the people to blame for this mess are those who were opposed to it from the beginning, rather than those who designed it.

As things stand, the UK and EU are nearing the terms of a deal to soften the reality of the Protocol in order to make it more acceptable to unionists. Inside Number 10, there are hopes that significant compromises have been squeezed out of the EU which could be enough to assuage the DUP’s concerns. Much of the focus has been on the prospect of a “lane” system, which will allow goods to move from Great Britain to Northern Ireland and back without any checks, as well as a compromise on the role of the European Court of Justice interpreting the EU law that applies in Northern Ireland. Alongside other technical fixes, there is hope that such changes should allow the sea border to be as close-to frictionless for internal UK trade as is possible.

Yet the unionist concern is not just one of practicality, but principle. The fundamental problem is that Northern Ireland is not only subject to the current EU regulations, but to future ones as well. This means that over time, even if Britain does not revoke a single piece of EU law or pass any new laws of its own, Northern Ireland will still slowly drift from the UK regulatory orbit by the simple process of being subject to EU democracy unlike the rest of the UK. This process, in fact, has already begun. Take one small example. Since Brexit, the EU has banned the food additive titanium dioxide used in a whole array of sweets, chocolates, icing and the like. This may or may not be a sensible move, but the additive is now legal in Britain and illegal in Northern Ireland.

It is for this kind of reason that much of the internal focus in Number 10 has been to find a way to give the Northern Irish assembly some kind of say on future EU rules, while also providing guarantees about divergence from Britain. While there is some confidence in Downing Street, pessimism abounds among those I have spoken to in the DUP. The DUP has demanded a guarantee that “no new regulatory barriers [will] develop between Northern Ireland and the rest of the United Kingdom unless agreed by the Northern Ireland Executive and Assembly”. The key point here is that any executive must, under the terms of the Good Friday Agreement, include both unionists and nationalists. This demand, in other words, is for what is known as a “unionist veto” over either EU laws or British laws. It is hard to see how this could be agreed, other than in the form of a unilateral guarantee by the British government, which would be tantamount to the UK promising to align itself with any EU laws that apply in Northern Ireland. We would, in effect, be back in the realm of Theresa May’s Chequers deal. It’s hard to see Boris Johnson or Liz Truss accepting such an outcome quietly.

Few unionists I have spoken with are hopeful that the deal eventually agreed will be acceptable. The DUP is likely to calculate it will lose more votes by accepting it than by rejecting it, even if that means rejecting power-sharing indefinitely. One unionist optimist I spoke to put the chances of agreement at 60-40 against.

Should this happen, only the narrowest of paths will remain for power-sharing to return to Northern Ireland. First, the UK government would have to call fresh elections to the assembly, which would be fought over the new terms of the Protocol. It is theoretically possible that the moderate Ulster Unionist Party could emerge victorious on a pledge to go back into government to make the best of a bad situation. It is also possible that an electoral revolution could sweep the anti-sectarian Alliance party into power, overturning the nationalist and unionist duopoly.

The truth, however, is that such prospects are thin. It is far more likely that the DUP will be correct in its calculation that its best chance of avoiding a split and remaining the leading party of unionism lies in rejecting the renegotiated Protocol (should it not meet their demands) and, with it, power-sharing itself. If so, we will be back to where we have always been, the constitutional wound at the heart of Brexit still raw and untreated — perhaps untreatable. Northern Ireland will be governed by direct rule from London and Brussels, the political settlement at the heart of the Good Friday Agreement dead.

Those who profess to support the Good Friday Agreement should not be calling for the DUP to be ignored, but the opposite. The deal now being negotiated between Britain and the EU may be the last best hope of saving power-sharing in Northern Ireland this side of a Labour government, but unless it can win the consent of both communities it will not end the crisis because, in the end, it is a political crisis of consent, not a technocratic one of management. No-one can say they weren’t warned.


Tom McTague is UnHerd’s Political Editor. He is the author of Betting The House: The Inside Story of the 2017 Election.

TomMcTague

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Katharine Eyre
Katharine Eyre
1 year ago

“…Northern Ireland will still slowly drift from the UK regulatory orbit by the simple process of being subject to EU democracy unlike the rest of the UK”.
EU democracy is an oxymoron. I think you mean “EU law”.

Jeremy Smith
Jeremy Smith
1 year ago
Reply to  Katharine Eyre

It is not, specifically the deal was voted on by the elected governments of nation states and EU Parliament.

Katharine Eyre
Katharine Eyre
1 year ago
Reply to  Jeremy Smith

I don’t think you’ve understood either the relevant sentence or my comment correctly.

Liam O'Mahony
Liam O'Mahony
1 year ago
Reply to  Katharine Eyre

..nor indeed have you yourself!

Liam O'Mahony
Liam O'Mahony
1 year ago
Reply to  Katharine Eyre

..nor indeed have you yourself!

Andrew Fisher
Andrew Fisher
1 year ago
Reply to  Jeremy Smith

Jeremy, the machinations and decision making processed of our latter day Holy Roman Empire may be many things, but they are not ‘democracy’. Of course until a single polity, say ‘The United States of Europe’ exists – and where the populations believe they are primarily citizens of such as a state and not France, Germany etc – democracy in the EU cannot actually exist in principle.

Last edited 1 year ago by Andrew Fisher
Liam O'Mahony
Liam O'Mahony
1 year ago
Reply to  Andrew Fisher

…now you just being silly aren’t you? Get a grip will you. You think Liz Truss/Kwazi Kwarteng’s proposal to reduce the tax on the mega rich was democratic? What proportion of the UK population would suppot that do you think? And it wasn’t the UK population that stopped her was it? It was the markets! The Markets rule the UK.. very democratic indeed!

Liam O'Mahony
Liam O'Mahony
1 year ago
Reply to  Andrew Fisher

…now you just being silly aren’t you? Get a grip will you. You think Liz Truss/Kwazi Kwarteng’s proposal to reduce the tax on the mega rich was democratic? What proportion of the UK population would suppot that do you think? And it wasn’t the UK population that stopped her was it? It was the markets! The Markets rule the UK.. very democratic indeed!

Liam O'Mahony
Liam O'Mahony
1 year ago
Reply to  Jeremy Smith

Wow, -38 score. That must be a record? And on a statement of absolute, undeniable fact as well. Usually downticks are reserved for reasoned, logical, commonsense opinions only. The tick heads in UnHerd’s community finally show themselves for what they are: narrow-minded, one-sided, fact-ignoring, gung ho idiots! Well done guys! As my dear old mum used to say “what’s the point of being ignorant unless you can show it off”?

Katharine Eyre
Katharine Eyre
1 year ago
Reply to  Jeremy Smith

I don’t think you’ve understood either the relevant sentence or my comment correctly.

Andrew Fisher
Andrew Fisher
1 year ago
Reply to  Jeremy Smith

Jeremy, the machinations and decision making processed of our latter day Holy Roman Empire may be many things, but they are not ‘democracy’. Of course until a single polity, say ‘The United States of Europe’ exists – and where the populations believe they are primarily citizens of such as a state and not France, Germany etc – democracy in the EU cannot actually exist in principle.

Last edited 1 year ago by Andrew Fisher
Liam O'Mahony
Liam O'Mahony
1 year ago
Reply to  Jeremy Smith

Wow, -38 score. That must be a record? And on a statement of absolute, undeniable fact as well. Usually downticks are reserved for reasoned, logical, commonsense opinions only. The tick heads in UnHerd’s community finally show themselves for what they are: narrow-minded, one-sided, fact-ignoring, gung ho idiots! Well done guys! As my dear old mum used to say “what’s the point of being ignorant unless you can show it off”?

Andrew Schofield
Andrew Schofield
1 year ago
Reply to  Katharine Eyre

There can be no EU democracy when the European Court gave a ruling to allow free masons to sit secretly as judges without the need to declare their membership of it.

Liam O'Mahony
Liam O'Mahony
1 year ago

Does such a law require this in the UK at this time? A simple yes or no will suffice?

Liam O'Mahony
Liam O'Mahony
1 year ago

Does such a law require this in the UK at this time? A simple yes or no will suffice?

Liam O'Mahony
Liam O'Mahony
1 year ago
Reply to  Katharine Eyre

EU law is derived via EU democracy. Like UK law it never pleases everyone. EU law is in fact far more democratic because unanimity is often required whereas a simple majority suffices in the UK. Sure the current UK PM was elected by less than 1% of the UK population! Is that what you consider democratic? Yer ‘havin’ larf init?

Julian Farrows
Julian Farrows
1 year ago
Reply to  Liam O'Mahony

The EU is as corrupt as hell and Britain is better off without it. More European nations should follow suit.

Julian Farrows
Julian Farrows
1 year ago
Reply to  Liam O'Mahony

The EU is as corrupt as hell and Britain is better off without it. More European nations should follow suit.

Jeremy Smith
Jeremy Smith
1 year ago
Reply to  Katharine Eyre

It is not, specifically the deal was voted on by the elected governments of nation states and EU Parliament.

Andrew Schofield
Andrew Schofield
1 year ago
Reply to  Katharine Eyre

There can be no EU democracy when the European Court gave a ruling to allow free masons to sit secretly as judges without the need to declare their membership of it.

Liam O'Mahony
Liam O'Mahony
1 year ago
Reply to  Katharine Eyre

EU law is derived via EU democracy. Like UK law it never pleases everyone. EU law is in fact far more democratic because unanimity is often required whereas a simple majority suffices in the UK. Sure the current UK PM was elected by less than 1% of the UK population! Is that what you consider democratic? Yer ‘havin’ larf init?

Katharine Eyre
Katharine Eyre
1 year ago

“…Northern Ireland will still slowly drift from the UK regulatory orbit by the simple process of being subject to EU democracy unlike the rest of the UK”.
EU democracy is an oxymoron. I think you mean “EU law”.

Ian Barton
Ian Barton
1 year ago

A good summary of the issue – it’s so irritating that the (predominantly Remainer) MSM continue to criticise Johnson for what in reality is Theresa May’s stupidity in creating this problem in the first place.

Last edited 1 year ago by Ian Barton
Jeremy Smith
Jeremy Smith
1 year ago
Reply to  Ian Barton

How do you explain pieces on DT and Spectator blaming Boris?
Remainer conspiracy.
What was (details please) the Leaver plan for Northern Ireland?

Ian Barton
Ian Barton
1 year ago
Reply to  Jeremy Smith

Red Lanes, Green Lanes, trusted traders and proportional digital rules on checks – rejected years ago by the EU 


Last edited 1 year ago by Ian Barton
Rasmus Fogh
Rasmus Fogh
1 year ago
Reply to  Ian Barton

Or, in other words, leave the EU border open to British imports, and count on the EU to solve all the problems that Brexit created. I wonder why the EU did not want to do that?

Gary Taylor
Gary Taylor
1 year ago
Reply to  Rasmus Fogh

So the EU wouldn’t be happy. Why do I care? They can put up a hard border if they want.

Rasmus Fogh
Rasmus Fogh
1 year ago
Reply to  Gary Taylor

Depends whether you want to trade with the EU, have people travel back and forth, or cooperate with them on keeping migrants out of Britain. If you opt for trade war and isolation you can do whatever you want – like North Korea. But is that how you want to live?

Liam O'Mahony
Liam O'Mahony
1 year ago
Reply to  Gary Taylor

They have done! Everywhere else, ie just not between NI and the EU (ROI). When did you last bring goods from the UK into the EU?

Last edited 1 year ago by Liam O'Mahony
Rasmus Fogh
Rasmus Fogh
1 year ago
Reply to  Gary Taylor

Depends whether you want to trade with the EU, have people travel back and forth, or cooperate with them on keeping migrants out of Britain. If you opt for trade war and isolation you can do whatever you want – like North Korea. But is that how you want to live?

Liam O'Mahony
Liam O'Mahony
1 year ago
Reply to  Gary Taylor

They have done! Everywhere else, ie just not between NI and the EU (ROI). When did you last bring goods from the UK into the EU?

Last edited 1 year ago by Liam O'Mahony
Brendan O'Leary
Brendan O'Leary
1 year ago
Reply to  Rasmus Fogh

It’s the UK/Ireland border.
Ireland is not free to cooperate with the UK though – they have to do what the EU tells them.

Liam O'Mahony
Liam O'Mahony
1 year ago
Reply to  Rasmus Fogh

Well put!

Gary Taylor
Gary Taylor
1 year ago
Reply to  Rasmus Fogh

So the EU wouldn’t be happy. Why do I care? They can put up a hard border if they want.

Brendan O'Leary
Brendan O'Leary
1 year ago
Reply to  Rasmus Fogh

It’s the UK/Ireland border.
Ireland is not free to cooperate with the UK though – they have to do what the EU tells them.

Liam O'Mahony
Liam O'Mahony
1 year ago
Reply to  Rasmus Fogh

Well put!

Liam O'Mahony
Liam O'Mahony
1 year ago
Reply to  Ian Barton

3 questions: if you go via the green lane,
1. are there ever any (random) checks?
2. do you need the same paperwork you have to have going via the Red lane?
3. if you don’t have the required paperwork when checked randomly going through the green lane what happens?
Have you ever used a green lane?

Rasmus Fogh
Rasmus Fogh
1 year ago
Reply to  Ian Barton

Or, in other words, leave the EU border open to British imports, and count on the EU to solve all the problems that Brexit created. I wonder why the EU did not want to do that?

Liam O'Mahony
Liam O'Mahony
1 year ago
Reply to  Ian Barton

3 questions: if you go via the green lane,
1. are there ever any (random) checks?
2. do you need the same paperwork you have to have going via the Red lane?
3. if you don’t have the required paperwork when checked randomly going through the green lane what happens?
Have you ever used a green lane?

Ian Barton
Ian Barton
1 year ago
Reply to  Jeremy Smith

Red Lanes, Green Lanes, trusted traders and proportional digital rules on checks – rejected years ago by the EU 


Last edited 1 year ago by Ian Barton
Robert Parker
Robert Parker
1 year ago
Reply to  Ian Barton

Brexit is the problem and Boris Johnson created it to further his personal vanity, not Theresa May.

Liam O'Mahony
Liam O'Mahony
1 year ago
Reply to  Robert Parker

Correct.. though my theory is BJ did for larf as well as for vanity! It’s akin to burning ÂŁ50 notes in front of homeless people.. actually, the way it has worked out it is VERY like that isn’t it. “Great fun” he said.. wot a lark eh?

Liam O'Mahony
Liam O'Mahony
1 year ago
Reply to  Robert Parker

Correct.. though my theory is BJ did for larf as well as for vanity! It’s akin to burning ÂŁ50 notes in front of homeless people.. actually, the way it has worked out it is VERY like that isn’t it. “Great fun” he said.. wot a lark eh?

Liam O'Mahony
Liam O'Mahony
1 year ago
Reply to  Ian Barton

..in the first place? Ab initio as Boris might say? I don’ funk so mate! You’ll find an earlier event was the root cause I think?

Jeremy Smith
Jeremy Smith
1 year ago
Reply to  Ian Barton

How do you explain pieces on DT and Spectator blaming Boris?
Remainer conspiracy.
What was (details please) the Leaver plan for Northern Ireland?

Robert Parker
Robert Parker
1 year ago
Reply to  Ian Barton

Brexit is the problem and Boris Johnson created it to further his personal vanity, not Theresa May.

Liam O'Mahony
Liam O'Mahony
1 year ago
Reply to  Ian Barton

..in the first place? Ab initio as Boris might say? I don’ funk so mate! You’ll find an earlier event was the root cause I think?

Ian Barton
Ian Barton
1 year ago

A good summary of the issue – it’s so irritating that the (predominantly Remainer) MSM continue to criticise Johnson for what in reality is Theresa May’s stupidity in creating this problem in the first place.

Last edited 1 year ago by Ian Barton
Malcolm Knott
Malcolm Knott
1 year ago

All down to Theresa May who could not bring herself to utter the word ‘No.’ This turmoil is her legacy.

Malcolm Knott
Malcolm Knott
1 year ago

All down to Theresa May who could not bring herself to utter the word ‘No.’ This turmoil is her legacy.

Frank McCusker
Frank McCusker
1 year ago

Er, no.
No offence, but save us from articles about Ireland written by Brits : ) 
Consistently clueless. 
Just another shallow article, derived from stereotyped outsider theories, by someone who, despite his Celtic-sounding name, knows little about the realities of Northern Ireland, and, demonstrably, even less about the realities of the Irish nationalist mindset in NI in 2023. His ignorance seeps out of every sentence.
In fact, the DUP has heaped error upon error upon error.
If I was a strategist paid to advise the DUP on how to save the Union, I’d give them pretty much zero out of 10. Their naive bungling has done more to wreck the Union than anything that Republicanism ever achieved. 
First DUP error – they assumed that Nationalists are desperate to leave the Union. Inconvenient fact, not widely understood in GB, and certainly not in the DUP. We’re not. Vast majority of us couldn’t care less. 
Second DUP error – they assumed that giving NI a privileged position in the Venn diagram, i.e., access to both GB and EU markets, will hasten the end of the Union.
In fact (see 1 above), it will do the exact opposite.
I’m a Nationalist, (NI variety), involved in politics, and I’m very well aware of the nuances of my community. No Irish nationalist in NI puts flags above money. Unlike the DUP, obsessed as they are with the past, and with flags, and with religion etc, no Irish nationalist in NI is idealistic enough to ever wish to wreck what we see as a privileged position, in preference for sole access to the EU market.
The DUP are incapable of seeing that the Protocol is how you strengthen the union – because it allows you massively to expand the number of small-u Unionists.
I shouldn’t be saying this, as the DUP’s ignorance and endless tactical blundering has been a source of mirth to the rest of us, but really, there comes a point when, for the greater good, the DUP needs to take on board some advice in its own interests. The late Ian Paisley Sr was a smart man, wily, visionary, charismatic, and a real leader, and, while of course disagreeing with his politics in principle, I nonetheless liked and respected him. Donaldson by contrast is a waxworks model, paralysed by inherited “thinking” and by fear. He’s the opposite of a leader. 
The irony is that the DUP is trying to prevent the very thing that has the potential to cement the Union.
I’m not even a Unionist, and their blundering still has me face-palming in disbelief. How dumb are these guys? 
And why are they being so dumb?
Precisely because they assume that that nationalists in NI area as motivated by flags and symbols as they are.
That’s their fatal error – they think we’re as backwards-looking as they are, and they lack confidence in the appeal of the union. 
They wish to set up borders, fences, barriers – because, deep down, they don’t believe in the union. They cannot conceive of a reality wherein their ancient “enemies” would be happy to inhabit a shared polity with them. 
But we would.
This perpetual insecurity leaves then wide open to be shafted by posh English Brexiters, whom they naturally defer to. Johnson could cuckold them forever, and they’d still come crawling back. 
In relation to the main Brexit deal, the narrative was: “Brexit is not a devolved matter. The fact that a majority of people in NI voted against it is irrelevant. Their views do not need to be considered”.
Somewhat harsh, but, constitutionally, that is entirely correct.
However, isn’t it remarkable that, in relation to a constituent element of the Brexit deal, namely the Brexit Protocol, that narrative has been turned on its head. It now reads: “Even though the Brexit Protocol is not a devolved matter, and even though a majority of people in NI support the Protocol, we must ensure that a minority view in NI, namely the view of the DUP, is not only taken into account, but must be permitted to act as a brake (or as a de facto veto) on the decisions of the UK Parliament”.
Isn’t it also remarkable how there is so much Brexiter melodrama about how an occasional oversight role for the ECJ would be an “infringement of sovereignty” and, at the same time, how there is such a deafening Brexiter silence about how, under the UK’s new trade deals, offshore investor courts will oust the jurisdiction of the UK’s courts?
The context for this cynicism is internal Tory power struggles. In that context, the Tory Brexiters are using the Protocol issue as part of a performative anti-EU purity test, and are using the DUP as a mud-flap.
From my blog:
“While many pro Irish unity folk would always of course say (if questioned about it) that they would like a united Ireland at some indeterminate point in the future, privately they would admit that there were now no obvious downsides to being in the UK either. In that way, for most of the Irish community North of the Irish border, Irish unity had been relegated to a manana project. Increasingly, whatever about their political theory, in practice, Sinn FĂ©in (the pro Irish unity party in the North of Ireland) were de facto committed to making N Ireland work. The DUP simply weren’t shrewd or perceptive enough to realise this massive step-change in pro Irish unity real world thinking. Instead, in an error of catastrophic proportions for the North’s British Unionists, the reliably-choleric DUP knee-jerked emotionally and blindly to their opponent’s sacred cow mantras, and to their opponents’ actions from 40 years earlier, while failing utterly to realise the surprisingly pro-Union (with GB) de facto nature of their opponent’s current working realities. From a pro-union with GB perspective, it was an unforgivable error. One of the first rules in any competitive situation, whether it’s in business or in politics, is that you must know your opponent. What do they say they want? What do they really want? What are they happy to live with? What is their bottom line? What matters to them, and why? Obviously, that level of knowledge obliges you to think with a cold head, to think rationally and strategically, to treat your opponents with a serious amount of respect, and be prepared to adopt a satisfactory compromise position. Very obviously, the absolutist DUP has shown itself entirely devoid of any of those capabilities. Unfortunately for the DUP and for Brexiters in general, hampered as they are by half a century of cultural apocalypticism and a simplistic, proto-Trumpian, binary solution mindset, their knowledge of N Ireland’s pro-Irish unity community’s real day-to-day priorities and motivations is unforgivably poor, and seemingly derives largely from their own cartoonish and outdated stereotypes, and from their own fears and fevered imaginings. Their ability to formulate nuanced and far-sighted strategy in their own political interest seems largely absent.
However, the DUP’s rationale, if one could call it that, seems to have been: “Let’s p*ss off the pro united Ireland population as much as possible; let’s make NI difficult and unworkable for them; that’s bound to convince them of the merits of the Union with GB!” The DUP failed completely to realise that many in the pro Irish unity camp were de facto in the pro Union with Britain camp already. That is, the DUP based its strategy on what it thought its opponents were, as opposed to what they actually were. As an analysis failure, as a policy failure, that takes some beating; and is explicable entirely by the DUP’s comfortable bigotry which ensures that it views its political opponents through the narrow prism of its own ingrained prejudices, and acts accordingly, generally taking the wrong option every time.
This ability to paint themselves into corners (and then to blame the paint-brush) is irrational to an extent that almost defies explanation. The DUP’s Brexit antics derive from a tedious mix of self-pity, white cultural nostalgia, impotent rage and chronic insecurity. The DUP’s Brexit “policy” is a perfect example of how to cut off your nose to spite your face.”
See blog: https://ayenaw.com/2021/10/23/why-brexit-is-failing/
And, if you’ve made it this far, this is where we need to get to in the North of Ireland – everything else is just a recipe for endless strife:
https://ayenaw.com/2021/02/06/venn-land/
Not that any of this will even slightly dent the armour of logic-repelling tribalism that afflicts the DUP and their ultra-Brexiter fellow-travellers. As the old saying has it I might as well be whistling jigs to a milestone.  This post will attract nothing but the customary hatred. Unlike Lord Palmerston, you believe in “perpetual enemies”. The idea that, heaven forfend, one might enter into a workable rapprochement with the despicable Irish and the hated EU is not an idea that can flourish in the Brexiter bubble. Simply, you enjoy having hate figures, and you’d be bereft if you didn’t have them. Political purity is way too much fun for you guys and you’re psychologically incapable of compromise.  
Oh well

Stephen Magee
Stephen Magee
1 year ago
Reply to  Frank McCusker

You could also have mentioned that, just like a century ago, the Unionist tail is wagging a considerable portion (100 MPs, by some accounts) of the Tory dog.

CHARLES STANHOPE
CHARLES STANHOPE
1 year ago
Reply to  Frank McCusker

Thank you Mr McCusker for making the somewhat long winded case for England completely ridding itself of NI with immediate effect.

We can no longer afford such largesse and NI learn must learn to pay for itself. That is not TOO much to ask is it?

A “plague on both your houses” as we lightheartedly used to say.

Liam O'Mahony
Liam O'Mahony
1 year ago

…trust you Charlie to come up with your idiotic and oh so predictable remarks, and in reply to such a well put case too..

Liam O'Mahony
Liam O'Mahony
1 year ago

…trust you Charlie to come up with your idiotic and oh so predictable remarks, and in reply to such a well put case too..

Jeremy Eves
Jeremy Eves
1 year ago
Reply to  Frank McCusker

The concept of a quasi Irish Sea border is offensive to Unionists. Frankly we feel betrayed by the English. They voted for, and had to get, Brexit – so go for the least worst deal and ignore the 2.8% of the UK population in NI.
But the deal is done, and the offense and injury already suffered. If only our politicians including the DUP would make the protocol work, create NI as the Singapore of Europe (having your cake and eating it) with access to GB and EU markets, there would never be a united Ireland. It suits Sinn Fein just fine for this mess to continue. As the seafarers used to say if seeing a ship uncertain in its course – its better to take avoiding action than Be Right, Dead Right.

David Wildgoose
David Wildgoose
1 year ago
Reply to  Jeremy Eves

The English are the only people in the Union without their own devolved Parliament. Quite frankly, many of us feel betrayed by the so-called “Unionists” in the rest of the UK. We voted for Brexit. Every day we are denied the right to vote on all the matters that the devolved Parliaments vote on. And you think we should have lost our democratic rights in the Brexit vote as well?

English Independence can’t come to soon!

CHARLES STANHOPE
CHARLES STANHOPE
1 year ago

Hear, hear!

Liam O'Mahony
Liam O'Mahony
1 year ago

Hear hear from me too because that will quicken Scottish, Welsh AND NI independence.. we can then form a new Federation of Celtic States! ..and little Englanders will be happy in there own little England, criticising everyone as they sink beneath the economic and cultural waves! Rule Enlandia, Englandia rules the waves.. mind you so did King Cnut didn’t he, or thought he did?

CHARLES STANHOPE
CHARLES STANHOPE
1 year ago

Hear, hear!

Liam O'Mahony
Liam O'Mahony
1 year ago

Hear hear from me too because that will quicken Scottish, Welsh AND NI independence.. we can then form a new Federation of Celtic States! ..and little Englanders will be happy in there own little England, criticising everyone as they sink beneath the economic and cultural waves! Rule Enlandia, Englandia rules the waves.. mind you so did King Cnut didn’t he, or thought he did?

David Wildgoose
David Wildgoose
1 year ago
Reply to  Jeremy Eves

The English are the only people in the Union without their own devolved Parliament. Quite frankly, many of us feel betrayed by the so-called “Unionists” in the rest of the UK. We voted for Brexit. Every day we are denied the right to vote on all the matters that the devolved Parliaments vote on. And you think we should have lost our democratic rights in the Brexit vote as well?

English Independence can’t come to soon!

Dermot O'Sullivan
Dermot O'Sullivan
1 year ago
Reply to  Frank McCusker

Thank you for that. Just one disagreement really: the DUP are not stupid. They know how to shake the money bag and have demonstrated their ability to sucessfully do so repeatedly.

Liam O'Mahony
Liam O'Mahony
1 year ago
Reply to  Frank McCusker

Wow! Quelle surpise! 17 net upticks.. I guess you put your case so well even the diehards were blown away.. or maybe they saw how lengthy your excellent contribution is and couldn’t be arsed reading it? In any case, well done for a good helping of realism in the face of su much bifoonery!

Benjamin Dyke
Benjamin Dyke
1 year ago
Reply to  Frank McCusker

I can’t understand 2 sentences here and I’m not surprised with your claims that the DUP don’t understand them :
“First DUP error – they assumed that Nationalists are desperate to leave the Union.”
“The DUP failed completely to realise that many in the pro Irish unity camp were de facto in the pro Union with Britain camp already.”
What is an Irish nationalist that wants to be in the UK? Someone who wants a United Ireland to be a member of the UK? Is it that simple? What am I missing here?

Stephen Magee
Stephen Magee
1 year ago
Reply to  Frank McCusker

You could also have mentioned that, just like a century ago, the Unionist tail is wagging a considerable portion (100 MPs, by some accounts) of the Tory dog.

CHARLES STANHOPE
CHARLES STANHOPE
1 year ago
Reply to  Frank McCusker

Thank you Mr McCusker for making the somewhat long winded case for England completely ridding itself of NI with immediate effect.

We can no longer afford such largesse and NI learn must learn to pay for itself. That is not TOO much to ask is it?

A “plague on both your houses” as we lightheartedly used to say.

Jeremy Eves
Jeremy Eves
1 year ago
Reply to  Frank McCusker

The concept of a quasi Irish Sea border is offensive to Unionists. Frankly we feel betrayed by the English. They voted for, and had to get, Brexit – so go for the least worst deal and ignore the 2.8% of the UK population in NI.
But the deal is done, and the offense and injury already suffered. If only our politicians including the DUP would make the protocol work, create NI as the Singapore of Europe (having your cake and eating it) with access to GB and EU markets, there would never be a united Ireland. It suits Sinn Fein just fine for this mess to continue. As the seafarers used to say if seeing a ship uncertain in its course – its better to take avoiding action than Be Right, Dead Right.

Dermot O'Sullivan
Dermot O'Sullivan
1 year ago
Reply to  Frank McCusker

Thank you for that. Just one disagreement really: the DUP are not stupid. They know how to shake the money bag and have demonstrated their ability to sucessfully do so repeatedly.

Liam O'Mahony
Liam O'Mahony
1 year ago
Reply to  Frank McCusker

Wow! Quelle surpise! 17 net upticks.. I guess you put your case so well even the diehards were blown away.. or maybe they saw how lengthy your excellent contribution is and couldn’t be arsed reading it? In any case, well done for a good helping of realism in the face of su much bifoonery!

Benjamin Dyke
Benjamin Dyke
1 year ago
Reply to  Frank McCusker

I can’t understand 2 sentences here and I’m not surprised with your claims that the DUP don’t understand them :
“First DUP error – they assumed that Nationalists are desperate to leave the Union.”
“The DUP failed completely to realise that many in the pro Irish unity camp were de facto in the pro Union with Britain camp already.”
What is an Irish nationalist that wants to be in the UK? Someone who wants a United Ireland to be a member of the UK? Is it that simple? What am I missing here?

Frank McCusker
Frank McCusker
1 year ago

Er, no.
No offence, but save us from articles about Ireland written by Brits : ) 
Consistently clueless. 
Just another shallow article, derived from stereotyped outsider theories, by someone who, despite his Celtic-sounding name, knows little about the realities of Northern Ireland, and, demonstrably, even less about the realities of the Irish nationalist mindset in NI in 2023. His ignorance seeps out of every sentence.
In fact, the DUP has heaped error upon error upon error.
If I was a strategist paid to advise the DUP on how to save the Union, I’d give them pretty much zero out of 10. Their naive bungling has done more to wreck the Union than anything that Republicanism ever achieved. 
First DUP error – they assumed that Nationalists are desperate to leave the Union. Inconvenient fact, not widely understood in GB, and certainly not in the DUP. We’re not. Vast majority of us couldn’t care less. 
Second DUP error – they assumed that giving NI a privileged position in the Venn diagram, i.e., access to both GB and EU markets, will hasten the end of the Union.
In fact (see 1 above), it will do the exact opposite.
I’m a Nationalist, (NI variety), involved in politics, and I’m very well aware of the nuances of my community. No Irish nationalist in NI puts flags above money. Unlike the DUP, obsessed as they are with the past, and with flags, and with religion etc, no Irish nationalist in NI is idealistic enough to ever wish to wreck what we see as a privileged position, in preference for sole access to the EU market.
The DUP are incapable of seeing that the Protocol is how you strengthen the union – because it allows you massively to expand the number of small-u Unionists.
I shouldn’t be saying this, as the DUP’s ignorance and endless tactical blundering has been a source of mirth to the rest of us, but really, there comes a point when, for the greater good, the DUP needs to take on board some advice in its own interests. The late Ian Paisley Sr was a smart man, wily, visionary, charismatic, and a real leader, and, while of course disagreeing with his politics in principle, I nonetheless liked and respected him. Donaldson by contrast is a waxworks model, paralysed by inherited “thinking” and by fear. He’s the opposite of a leader. 
The irony is that the DUP is trying to prevent the very thing that has the potential to cement the Union.
I’m not even a Unionist, and their blundering still has me face-palming in disbelief. How dumb are these guys? 
And why are they being so dumb?
Precisely because they assume that that nationalists in NI area as motivated by flags and symbols as they are.
That’s their fatal error – they think we’re as backwards-looking as they are, and they lack confidence in the appeal of the union. 
They wish to set up borders, fences, barriers – because, deep down, they don’t believe in the union. They cannot conceive of a reality wherein their ancient “enemies” would be happy to inhabit a shared polity with them. 
But we would.
This perpetual insecurity leaves then wide open to be shafted by posh English Brexiters, whom they naturally defer to. Johnson could cuckold them forever, and they’d still come crawling back. 
In relation to the main Brexit deal, the narrative was: “Brexit is not a devolved matter. The fact that a majority of people in NI voted against it is irrelevant. Their views do not need to be considered”.
Somewhat harsh, but, constitutionally, that is entirely correct.
However, isn’t it remarkable that, in relation to a constituent element of the Brexit deal, namely the Brexit Protocol, that narrative has been turned on its head. It now reads: “Even though the Brexit Protocol is not a devolved matter, and even though a majority of people in NI support the Protocol, we must ensure that a minority view in NI, namely the view of the DUP, is not only taken into account, but must be permitted to act as a brake (or as a de facto veto) on the decisions of the UK Parliament”.
Isn’t it also remarkable how there is so much Brexiter melodrama about how an occasional oversight role for the ECJ would be an “infringement of sovereignty” and, at the same time, how there is such a deafening Brexiter silence about how, under the UK’s new trade deals, offshore investor courts will oust the jurisdiction of the UK’s courts?
The context for this cynicism is internal Tory power struggles. In that context, the Tory Brexiters are using the Protocol issue as part of a performative anti-EU purity test, and are using the DUP as a mud-flap.
From my blog:
“While many pro Irish unity folk would always of course say (if questioned about it) that they would like a united Ireland at some indeterminate point in the future, privately they would admit that there were now no obvious downsides to being in the UK either. In that way, for most of the Irish community North of the Irish border, Irish unity had been relegated to a manana project. Increasingly, whatever about their political theory, in practice, Sinn FĂ©in (the pro Irish unity party in the North of Ireland) were de facto committed to making N Ireland work. The DUP simply weren’t shrewd or perceptive enough to realise this massive step-change in pro Irish unity real world thinking. Instead, in an error of catastrophic proportions for the North’s British Unionists, the reliably-choleric DUP knee-jerked emotionally and blindly to their opponent’s sacred cow mantras, and to their opponents’ actions from 40 years earlier, while failing utterly to realise the surprisingly pro-Union (with GB) de facto nature of their opponent’s current working realities. From a pro-union with GB perspective, it was an unforgivable error. One of the first rules in any competitive situation, whether it’s in business or in politics, is that you must know your opponent. What do they say they want? What do they really want? What are they happy to live with? What is their bottom line? What matters to them, and why? Obviously, that level of knowledge obliges you to think with a cold head, to think rationally and strategically, to treat your opponents with a serious amount of respect, and be prepared to adopt a satisfactory compromise position. Very obviously, the absolutist DUP has shown itself entirely devoid of any of those capabilities. Unfortunately for the DUP and for Brexiters in general, hampered as they are by half a century of cultural apocalypticism and a simplistic, proto-Trumpian, binary solution mindset, their knowledge of N Ireland’s pro-Irish unity community’s real day-to-day priorities and motivations is unforgivably poor, and seemingly derives largely from their own cartoonish and outdated stereotypes, and from their own fears and fevered imaginings. Their ability to formulate nuanced and far-sighted strategy in their own political interest seems largely absent.
However, the DUP’s rationale, if one could call it that, seems to have been: “Let’s p*ss off the pro united Ireland population as much as possible; let’s make NI difficult and unworkable for them; that’s bound to convince them of the merits of the Union with GB!” The DUP failed completely to realise that many in the pro Irish unity camp were de facto in the pro Union with Britain camp already. That is, the DUP based its strategy on what it thought its opponents were, as opposed to what they actually were. As an analysis failure, as a policy failure, that takes some beating; and is explicable entirely by the DUP’s comfortable bigotry which ensures that it views its political opponents through the narrow prism of its own ingrained prejudices, and acts accordingly, generally taking the wrong option every time.
This ability to paint themselves into corners (and then to blame the paint-brush) is irrational to an extent that almost defies explanation. The DUP’s Brexit antics derive from a tedious mix of self-pity, white cultural nostalgia, impotent rage and chronic insecurity. The DUP’s Brexit “policy” is a perfect example of how to cut off your nose to spite your face.”
See blog: https://ayenaw.com/2021/10/23/why-brexit-is-failing/
And, if you’ve made it this far, this is where we need to get to in the North of Ireland – everything else is just a recipe for endless strife:
https://ayenaw.com/2021/02/06/venn-land/
Not that any of this will even slightly dent the armour of logic-repelling tribalism that afflicts the DUP and their ultra-Brexiter fellow-travellers. As the old saying has it I might as well be whistling jigs to a milestone.  This post will attract nothing but the customary hatred. Unlike Lord Palmerston, you believe in “perpetual enemies”. The idea that, heaven forfend, one might enter into a workable rapprochement with the despicable Irish and the hated EU is not an idea that can flourish in the Brexiter bubble. Simply, you enjoy having hate figures, and you’d be bereft if you didn’t have them. Political purity is way too much fun for you guys and you’re psychologically incapable of compromise.  
Oh well

Stephen Walsh
Stephen Walsh
1 year ago

With a Labour government in the UK imminent, the Irish government and Sinn Fein (they’ll soon be the same thing), sense an endgame. Power sharing was only a means to an end for Sinn Fein anyway, a game to be played, or regularly collapsed, to extract more concessions. Now, the formerly Protestant community is in a demographic death spiral, driven in part by a decades long brain drain of school leavers to GB, as Sinn Fein student activists created a hostile atmosphere in the QUB and UoU university campuses. There has been a collapse also in unionist self confidence, and it is true that the DUP were foolish not to realise that their interests were not aligned with the Brexit hardliners. But Leave would have won the referendum even if everyone in NI had voted Remain. GB will find that once it loses NI, through neglect and ignorance, further breakups are a step closer. A good article, although the “anti sectarian” Alliance party would be better described as “super-Woke”.

Stephen Walsh
Stephen Walsh
1 year ago

With a Labour government in the UK imminent, the Irish government and Sinn Fein (they’ll soon be the same thing), sense an endgame. Power sharing was only a means to an end for Sinn Fein anyway, a game to be played, or regularly collapsed, to extract more concessions. Now, the formerly Protestant community is in a demographic death spiral, driven in part by a decades long brain drain of school leavers to GB, as Sinn Fein student activists created a hostile atmosphere in the QUB and UoU university campuses. There has been a collapse also in unionist self confidence, and it is true that the DUP were foolish not to realise that their interests were not aligned with the Brexit hardliners. But Leave would have won the referendum even if everyone in NI had voted Remain. GB will find that once it loses NI, through neglect and ignorance, further breakups are a step closer. A good article, although the “anti sectarian” Alliance party would be better described as “super-Woke”.

Steve Murray
Steve Murray
1 year ago

It was clear enough at the time that Boris Johnson’s deal with the EU regarding the Irish border was made in order to escape the constitutional impasse that’d rocked Westminster since the referendum.

The choice he faced was political turmoil for NI or continuing turmoil across the entirety of the UK, and of course the former was going to be the outcome.

The downfall of Sturgeon, Sunak may calculate, will have taken sufficient wind out of the Scottish nationalist sails (and therefore also the Welsh sails) to push ahead for a deal that will put the DUP in a position which is more likely to see the DUP become irrelevant, either through accepting it OR not accepting it.

The re-unification of the island of Ireland is, and should be, an historical inevitability. It needn’t lead to further breakup on the mainland of GB, as might’ve been feared. The arguments couldn’t be more different: reunification rather than simple secessation. That’s the only point over which i’d differ from McTague’s otherwise excellent analysis – probably the best i’ve read on this matter.

Last edited 1 year ago by Steve Murray
Steve Murray
Steve Murray
1 year ago

It was clear enough at the time that Boris Johnson’s deal with the EU regarding the Irish border was made in order to escape the constitutional impasse that’d rocked Westminster since the referendum.

The choice he faced was political turmoil for NI or continuing turmoil across the entirety of the UK, and of course the former was going to be the outcome.

The downfall of Sturgeon, Sunak may calculate, will have taken sufficient wind out of the Scottish nationalist sails (and therefore also the Welsh sails) to push ahead for a deal that will put the DUP in a position which is more likely to see the DUP become irrelevant, either through accepting it OR not accepting it.

The re-unification of the island of Ireland is, and should be, an historical inevitability. It needn’t lead to further breakup on the mainland of GB, as might’ve been feared. The arguments couldn’t be more different: reunification rather than simple secessation. That’s the only point over which i’d differ from McTague’s otherwise excellent analysis – probably the best i’ve read on this matter.

Last edited 1 year ago by Steve Murray
Stephen Magee
Stephen Magee
1 year ago

You’re joking, aren’t you? The DUP has only one policy objective – keeping Nationalists out of power. All their carry-on about the Protocol is just an excuse for refusing to join a government in which Sinn Fein is the largest party.

Liam O'Mahony
Liam O'Mahony
1 year ago
Reply to  Stephen Magee

…and that is so obvious that only someone who refuses to accept the blinding obvious can fail to see it! ‘none so blind as those who will not see!

Liam O'Mahony
Liam O'Mahony
1 year ago
Reply to  Stephen Magee

…and that is so obvious that only someone who refuses to accept the blinding obvious can fail to see it! ‘none so blind as those who will not see!

Stephen Magee
Stephen Magee
1 year ago

You’re joking, aren’t you? The DUP has only one policy objective – keeping Nationalists out of power. All their carry-on about the Protocol is just an excuse for refusing to join a government in which Sinn Fein is the largest party.

Rasmus Fogh
Rasmus Fogh
1 year ago

This is all true enough. But there is a little more” (as Don Branzini said to Don Corleone). A Brexit with the customs and regulatory border on land would mean that NI would “inexorably diverge from the rest of Ireland without nationalist consent”. Indeed, that is why the DUP championed Brexit. There was no outcome of Brexit that could have preserved the political balance in NI, and the Brexiteers knew that. They just did not care. It may be that the current proposal is tilted against the DUP, but Mr McTague’s proposal is equally tilted against the nationalists. And they, at least, did not actively try to break the conditions that permitted the peace settlement.

Last edited 1 year ago by Rasmus Fogh
Rasmus Fogh
Rasmus Fogh
1 year ago

This is all true enough. But there is a little more” (as Don Branzini said to Don Corleone). A Brexit with the customs and regulatory border on land would mean that NI would “inexorably diverge from the rest of Ireland without nationalist consent”. Indeed, that is why the DUP championed Brexit. There was no outcome of Brexit that could have preserved the political balance in NI, and the Brexiteers knew that. They just did not care. It may be that the current proposal is tilted against the DUP, but Mr McTague’s proposal is equally tilted against the nationalists. And they, at least, did not actively try to break the conditions that permitted the peace settlement.

Last edited 1 year ago by Rasmus Fogh
JĂŒrg Gassmann
JĂŒrg Gassmann
1 year ago

So in the final analysis, the root of the problem was putting a Brexit vote before the people of the four nations of Britain (which was thumpingly rejected by the voters of Northern Ireland) in which the issues of the island of Ireland and the relations between Northern Ireland and Ireland were simply not considered.
The Protocol is no doubt flawed. Every attempt throughout history to square the circle has failed in the face of reality. Legislatures have voted to set “pi” at four instead of 3.14etc. to facilitate calculation, to the obstinate refusal of reality to comply.
In the last Stormont elections, parties in favour of the Protocol carried an overwhelming majority. Unfortunately, the Good Friday Agreement gives no voice to the non-sectarian parties, only to the extremists. It was a necessary expedient at the time, but is now a clog.
Yes, this is a problem. But its roots go back a very long way, the Protocol is but the cherry on top.

Last edited 1 year ago by JĂŒrg Gassmann
Liam O'Mahony
Liam O'Mahony
1 year ago

Well put.. you can be assured of accuracy by receiving few upticks and lots of downticks from most of the little Englanders on UnHerd.

Liam O'Mahony
Liam O'Mahony
1 year ago

Well put.. you can be assured of accuracy by receiving few upticks and lots of downticks from most of the little Englanders on UnHerd.

JĂŒrg Gassmann
JĂŒrg Gassmann
1 year ago

So in the final analysis, the root of the problem was putting a Brexit vote before the people of the four nations of Britain (which was thumpingly rejected by the voters of Northern Ireland) in which the issues of the island of Ireland and the relations between Northern Ireland and Ireland were simply not considered.
The Protocol is no doubt flawed. Every attempt throughout history to square the circle has failed in the face of reality. Legislatures have voted to set “pi” at four instead of 3.14etc. to facilitate calculation, to the obstinate refusal of reality to comply.
In the last Stormont elections, parties in favour of the Protocol carried an overwhelming majority. Unfortunately, the Good Friday Agreement gives no voice to the non-sectarian parties, only to the extremists. It was a necessary expedient at the time, but is now a clog.
Yes, this is a problem. But its roots go back a very long way, the Protocol is but the cherry on top.

Last edited 1 year ago by JĂŒrg Gassmann
Rachel Bailie
Rachel Bailie
1 year ago

I’m someone who had a drastically different childhood than my parents due to the GFA and the resulting peace/less violence. It’s still not a normal society though. The issue with the border is that people who live near it drive through it everyday. My granny will drive 20 mins from Tyrone to Donegal because she reckons the butcher there does nicer meat. If you put any infrastructure/stops on the border it seriously disrupts people, brings back bad memories and is a serious risk of being blown up. It’s also a very twisty border and goes through multiple fields so no idea how you’ll police that. The EU funded a lot of peace building projects especially getting kids from different communities together. The government has slashed a lot of youth work etc and those projects aren’t happening in the same quantity as they did 10 years ago. Equally we’re part of the UK (still slim majority in favour) so the sea border just separates us too. NI has done so well since power sharing in many ways and the DUP’s refusal to go back into power sharing simply because they don’t like the results is shameful.

Rachel Bailie
Rachel Bailie
1 year ago

I’m someone who had a drastically different childhood than my parents due to the GFA and the resulting peace/less violence. It’s still not a normal society though. The issue with the border is that people who live near it drive through it everyday. My granny will drive 20 mins from Tyrone to Donegal because she reckons the butcher there does nicer meat. If you put any infrastructure/stops on the border it seriously disrupts people, brings back bad memories and is a serious risk of being blown up. It’s also a very twisty border and goes through multiple fields so no idea how you’ll police that. The EU funded a lot of peace building projects especially getting kids from different communities together. The government has slashed a lot of youth work etc and those projects aren’t happening in the same quantity as they did 10 years ago. Equally we’re part of the UK (still slim majority in favour) so the sea border just separates us too. NI has done so well since power sharing in many ways and the DUP’s refusal to go back into power sharing simply because they don’t like the results is shameful.

j watson
j watson
1 year ago

For all its faults membership of the EU and the shared sovereignty that required becalmed the stridency of sectarianism in NI. What was the point, we all followed the same rules? And whilst other issues caused power sharing problems the fundamentals were settling at least for a generation.
Then Brexit. NI categorically did not vote for it. They voted for the GFA though, overwhelmingly, let us not forget. DUP can twist and turn whichever way to find a constitutional argument suggestive the restrictions should be more centred on the Land rather than Sea border. But where is the NI mandate for this?
How to get out of this mess – well why not ask the people in NI? Protocol Mk2 would get a majority and the DUP know that. Hence they, and hard line Brexiteers, will not call for the same ‘test’ they pushed for that got us all into this god awful mess in the first place.

Nick O'Connor
Nick O'Connor
1 year ago
Reply to  j watson

The importance of the EU for peace in Northern Ireland sounds semi-plausible, but I’m not sure it’s correct. I don’t remember anyone making the argument pre-2016 (which is not to say that literally no one made it, but certainly that it was seen as being of very limited relevance). It’s not that external influence was underplayed; the centrality of the US was always acknowledged. The ECHR is built into the Belfast Agreement; the EU isn’t.

I think, before Brexit, it would have seemed ludicrous to say that EU regulatory uniformity played a major role in ending the centuries of conflict in Northern Ireland. It posits a level of power and influence for the EU that even the most committed Brexiteers weren’t claiming it had yet achieved. And I think the EU’s importance for the peace process has been retconned by those who oppose Brexit, and have been searching for arguments to use in doing so.

Last edited 1 year ago by Nick O'Connor
Eamonn Toland
Eamonn Toland
1 year ago
Reply to  Nick O'Connor

Common membership of the EU is referenced in the preamble to the GFA, and the deregulation of trade within the EU helped make the border invisible after demilitarisation.

It wasn’t highlighted by the media as an issue during the Brexit campaign, despite efforts by the then Irish Taoiseach Enda Kenny, and former PMs Blair and Major. Unfortunately they got little air time, perhaps on the basis that their Remain instincts made some people distrustful of their concerns, despite their involvement in peace building over decades.

Liam O'Mahony
Liam O'Mahony
1 year ago
Reply to  Nick O'Connor

Be careful.. you are in danger of disappearing up your own ass! It’s a nice touch: the unwary will surely fall for it, but hey, some of us see you coming from 50m away!

Eamonn Toland
Eamonn Toland
1 year ago
Reply to  Nick O'Connor

Common membership of the EU is referenced in the preamble to the GFA, and the deregulation of trade within the EU helped make the border invisible after demilitarisation.

It wasn’t highlighted by the media as an issue during the Brexit campaign, despite efforts by the then Irish Taoiseach Enda Kenny, and former PMs Blair and Major. Unfortunately they got little air time, perhaps on the basis that their Remain instincts made some people distrustful of their concerns, despite their involvement in peace building over decades.

Liam O'Mahony
Liam O'Mahony
1 year ago
Reply to  Nick O'Connor

Be careful.. you are in danger of disappearing up your own ass! It’s a nice touch: the unwary will surely fall for it, but hey, some of us see you coming from 50m away!

Nick O'Connor
Nick O'Connor
1 year ago
Reply to  j watson

The importance of the EU for peace in Northern Ireland sounds semi-plausible, but I’m not sure it’s correct. I don’t remember anyone making the argument pre-2016 (which is not to say that literally no one made it, but certainly that it was seen as being of very limited relevance). It’s not that external influence was underplayed; the centrality of the US was always acknowledged. The ECHR is built into the Belfast Agreement; the EU isn’t.

I think, before Brexit, it would have seemed ludicrous to say that EU regulatory uniformity played a major role in ending the centuries of conflict in Northern Ireland. It posits a level of power and influence for the EU that even the most committed Brexiteers weren’t claiming it had yet achieved. And I think the EU’s importance for the peace process has been retconned by those who oppose Brexit, and have been searching for arguments to use in doing so.

Last edited 1 year ago by Nick O'Connor
j watson
j watson
1 year ago

For all its faults membership of the EU and the shared sovereignty that required becalmed the stridency of sectarianism in NI. What was the point, we all followed the same rules? And whilst other issues caused power sharing problems the fundamentals were settling at least for a generation.
Then Brexit. NI categorically did not vote for it. They voted for the GFA though, overwhelmingly, let us not forget. DUP can twist and turn whichever way to find a constitutional argument suggestive the restrictions should be more centred on the Land rather than Sea border. But where is the NI mandate for this?
How to get out of this mess – well why not ask the people in NI? Protocol Mk2 would get a majority and the DUP know that. Hence they, and hard line Brexiteers, will not call for the same ‘test’ they pushed for that got us all into this god awful mess in the first place.

Jon Hawksley
Jon Hawksley
1 year ago

A very good analysis of the NI conundrum but I am not sure why he concludes in favour of the DUP. NI did not vote for Brexit. The DUP holding out for a hard Brexit was, and is, the tail wagging the dog and they are not on any moral high ground. The DUP could have had a soft Brexit and no border with the rest of the UK. They will end up with a softer Brexit and a softer border with the UK. If they refuse to power share NI will continue to be ruled by the civil servants until another, more pragmatic, unionist party eclipses them. The losers are the people of NI who are not getting the strong political leadership they need to get value for money from government spending.

Jon Hawksley
Jon Hawksley
1 year ago

A very good analysis of the NI conundrum but I am not sure why he concludes in favour of the DUP. NI did not vote for Brexit. The DUP holding out for a hard Brexit was, and is, the tail wagging the dog and they are not on any moral high ground. The DUP could have had a soft Brexit and no border with the rest of the UK. They will end up with a softer Brexit and a softer border with the UK. If they refuse to power share NI will continue to be ruled by the civil servants until another, more pragmatic, unionist party eclipses them. The losers are the people of NI who are not getting the strong political leadership they need to get value for money from government spending.

Liam O'Mahony
Liam O'Mahony
1 year ago

A good piece of DUP propaganda for sure but it fails to recognise one crucial point, namely that the DUP was happy to be in the NI assembly as long as it was the majority party and so could be assured of lording it over Republicans. Obviously it wasn’t as attractive as absolute majority rule with its 12th July triumhalist style bullying approach but, taking the circumstances onto account it was the best they could get.
But when they lost their majority control in the NI Assembly that was a step too far. No more (albeit much toned down) majority control and instead settle for second fiddle? So they threw their toys out of the pram and bawled like the spoilt brats they are.
By the way the Good Friday Agreement does not require Unionist agreement in a united Ireland referendum – that will never happen: all that is required is a simple majority in NI to vote in favour. Republicans are now the majority and so the DUP are king Cnut style trying to hold back the waves. A bawling baby often has its mother’s sole attention whole her other children are ignored. A responsible mum knows this can’t go on so we wait for a Labour government and for the diehard DUP dodos to die off.
In the meantime the NI economy is doing very well with a foot in each camp, albeit with some paperwork; but sure the paperwork is going to be there no matter what solution is found!

Liam O'Mahony
Liam O'Mahony
1 year ago

A good piece of DUP propaganda for sure but it fails to recognise one crucial point, namely that the DUP was happy to be in the NI assembly as long as it was the majority party and so could be assured of lording it over Republicans. Obviously it wasn’t as attractive as absolute majority rule with its 12th July triumhalist style bullying approach but, taking the circumstances onto account it was the best they could get.
But when they lost their majority control in the NI Assembly that was a step too far. No more (albeit much toned down) majority control and instead settle for second fiddle? So they threw their toys out of the pram and bawled like the spoilt brats they are.
By the way the Good Friday Agreement does not require Unionist agreement in a united Ireland referendum – that will never happen: all that is required is a simple majority in NI to vote in favour. Republicans are now the majority and so the DUP are king Cnut style trying to hold back the waves. A bawling baby often has its mother’s sole attention whole her other children are ignored. A responsible mum knows this can’t go on so we wait for a Labour government and for the diehard DUP dodos to die off.
In the meantime the NI economy is doing very well with a foot in each camp, albeit with some paperwork; but sure the paperwork is going to be there no matter what solution is found!

CHARLES STANHOPE
CHARLES STANHOPE
1 year ago

The level of subsidy squandered on NI far exceeds even that squandered on the Scotch!

And what do we find?
26 years after the GFA, state funded sectarian education is still the norm and thus this nonsense continues. Enough is enough. Either hand the place over to the Republic or dump it on the EU. (They ‘richly deserve’ it.)

If we had honoured the 1914 Home Rule Bill this would now be ancient history.

Liam O'Mahony
Liam O'Mahony
1 year ago

England spends all that money on whisky? ..and we thought is was on the Scottish people.. now it makes sense!

Liam O'Mahony
Liam O'Mahony
1 year ago

England spends all that money on whisky? ..and we thought is was on the Scottish people.. now it makes sense!

CHARLES STANHOPE
CHARLES STANHOPE
1 year ago

The level of subsidy squandered on NI far exceeds even that squandered on the Scotch!

And what do we find?
26 years after the GFA, state funded sectarian education is still the norm and thus this nonsense continues. Enough is enough. Either hand the place over to the Republic or dump it on the EU. (They ‘richly deserve’ it.)

If we had honoured the 1914 Home Rule Bill this would now be ancient history.

CHARLES STANHOPE
CHARLES STANHOPE
1 year ago

” You have sat too long for any good you have been doing lately 
 In the name of God go! “

Although this statement was made by a 17th century expert on Irish affairs with reference to Parliament, I suspect most contemporary Englishmen would agree that it is equally applicable today to Northern Ireland.

The people (NI) are supplicants, beggars even, have they NO pride or sense of SHAME?

Last edited 1 year ago by CHARLES STANHOPE
Liam O'Mahony
Liam O'Mahony
1 year ago

You could not be more wrong Charlie boy, but then you’re wrong about most things.. still stuck in the 17th century I see?

Liam O'Mahony
Liam O'Mahony
1 year ago

You could not be more wrong Charlie boy, but then you’re wrong about most things.. still stuck in the 17th century I see?

CHARLES STANHOPE
CHARLES STANHOPE
1 year ago

” You have sat too long for any good you have been doing lately 
 In the name of God go! “

Although this statement was made by a 17th century expert on Irish affairs with reference to Parliament, I suspect most contemporary Englishmen would agree that it is equally applicable today to Northern Ireland.

The people (NI) are supplicants, beggars even, have they NO pride or sense of SHAME?

Last edited 1 year ago by CHARLES STANHOPE
Emmanuel MARTIN
Emmanuel MARTIN
1 year ago

The reality is that for the EU and many members of the ruling classes, the DUP are seen as the bad guys while Sinn Fein is the great cause of progress. Plus for Brussels, leaving an open wound in UK as a payback for Brexit was a good thing
The concept of the Good Friday agreement is that despite having democratic majority the DUP is not allowed to rule. Whereas unionists consider that time is on their side. As the great stateman (and great scumbag) Erdogan said : “One man, one vote, one time”
Uionist should make sure that South Ireland also bears a cost for open borders, by exporting non EU compliant goods and stirring up the tension. They also need to protray unionists as the bad guys, and throw pain at Brussels. Only then will their voice be respected again, whereas right now everyone sees them as a problem that needs to be manoeuvered then extinguished.

Last edited 1 year ago by Emmanuel MARTIN
P F
P F
1 year ago

“despite having democratic majority the DUP is not allowed to rule”? There has never been a DUP majority in NI and nowadays there isn’t even a unionist majority. The majority of NI voters opposed Brexit and the majority voted for parties who support the protocol. After winning the most seats SF are in line to take the role of first minister, a cynic might think that to be the real reason for the DUP’s refusal to allow the executive re-form.

Liam O'Mahony
Liam O'Mahony
1 year ago

Apart from yourself and tiny cabal within the dregs of Toryism no one, but no one outside NI supports the DUP.. there’s a reason for that: it’s not jealousy and it’s not because they are in any way misunderstood. Indeed their bigotry and backward looking, hate filled narrative is all too clear for anyone except the most stupid and ill-informed which, I guess are everywhere to be found, happily in small numbers. Screaming abuse at a small girl trying to get to school doesn’t really make for admiration and support. But it’s chickens coming home to roost time.
To make a start with yourself, please be aware that Munster is the South of Ireland. Donegal, in the Republic of Ireland has the most Northerly point on the entire island, namely Malin Head.. NiI occupies only 6 of Ulster’s 9 counties and is located at the NE of the island. Sinn FĂ©in is so much more progressive than the DUP you cannot really say DUP and “progressive” in the same sentence unless you insert words like “antithesis of” or “complete opposite of” ..the DUP is obsessed with 1649 and hasn’t really moved on since then; and never will either.

P F
P F
1 year ago

“despite having democratic majority the DUP is not allowed to rule”? There has never been a DUP majority in NI and nowadays there isn’t even a unionist majority. The majority of NI voters opposed Brexit and the majority voted for parties who support the protocol. After winning the most seats SF are in line to take the role of first minister, a cynic might think that to be the real reason for the DUP’s refusal to allow the executive re-form.

Liam O'Mahony
Liam O'Mahony
1 year ago

Apart from yourself and tiny cabal within the dregs of Toryism no one, but no one outside NI supports the DUP.. there’s a reason for that: it’s not jealousy and it’s not because they are in any way misunderstood. Indeed their bigotry and backward looking, hate filled narrative is all too clear for anyone except the most stupid and ill-informed which, I guess are everywhere to be found, happily in small numbers. Screaming abuse at a small girl trying to get to school doesn’t really make for admiration and support. But it’s chickens coming home to roost time.
To make a start with yourself, please be aware that Munster is the South of Ireland. Donegal, in the Republic of Ireland has the most Northerly point on the entire island, namely Malin Head.. NiI occupies only 6 of Ulster’s 9 counties and is located at the NE of the island. Sinn FĂ©in is so much more progressive than the DUP you cannot really say DUP and “progressive” in the same sentence unless you insert words like “antithesis of” or “complete opposite of” ..the DUP is obsessed with 1649 and hasn’t really moved on since then; and never will either.

Emmanuel MARTIN
Emmanuel MARTIN
1 year ago

The reality is that for the EU and many members of the ruling classes, the DUP are seen as the bad guys while Sinn Fein is the great cause of progress. Plus for Brussels, leaving an open wound in UK as a payback for Brexit was a good thing
The concept of the Good Friday agreement is that despite having democratic majority the DUP is not allowed to rule. Whereas unionists consider that time is on their side. As the great stateman (and great scumbag) Erdogan said : “One man, one vote, one time”
Uionist should make sure that South Ireland also bears a cost for open borders, by exporting non EU compliant goods and stirring up the tension. They also need to protray unionists as the bad guys, and throw pain at Brussels. Only then will their voice be respected again, whereas right now everyone sees them as a problem that needs to be manoeuvered then extinguished.

Last edited 1 year ago by Emmanuel MARTIN