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Northern Ireland’s anguish isn’t over Every side has acted appallingly

Members of the colour party march in 2023 (Charles McQuillan/Getty Images)

Members of the colour party march in 2023 (Charles McQuillan/Getty Images)


January 31, 2024   5 mins

Northern Ireland’s unionists have agreed to do what the Conservatives could not: pay the price for Brexit. The magnitude of this moment should not be underestimated, but nor should it be particularly celebrated. Right or wrong, the DUP’s decision to resume power-sharing after two years of protest at the Government’s original Brexit agreement marks the culmination of a long, grubby process from which almost no-one — save perhaps Jeffrey Donaldson, the DUP leader — emerges with much credit.

For most people, the idea that the DUP deserves any credit will come as something of a surprise. The standard interpretation of the past few years is that the DUP brought this settlement on themselves: they backed Brexit and must now swallow a sea border with Britain as a result. The reality few are willing to face, however, is that ever since the Brexit vote, the fate of Northern Ireland has been, at best, a secondary consideration for almost every actor in this distasteful drama.

Far from the DUP being to blame, every side — and I mean every side — has acted appallingly, including the Irish government and the European Commission. As such, the conclusion is not some grand settlement of which we can all be proud — but a tense, uneasy armistice which will have to be nurtured carefully over the coming years if it is not to wither and die. Perhaps the real tragedy is that it is still the best we could have hoped for.

Essentially, Rishi Sunak’s “Windsor framework” remains in place, though with added ameliorations to make it less noticeable. The DUP finally decided to accept this deal because, quite simply, there were no good alternatives left: it was Sunak’s deal with devolution, or Sunak’s deal without devolution. There was no option in which the Windsor framework was not part of the package.

Some loyalists in Northern Ireland would prefer to maintain a principled opposition to any divergence between Great Britain and Northern Ireland — in the hope that, eventually, a future government will have to renegotiate it. The reality, though, is this is a very long game. The prospect of a British prime minister unilaterally abandoning its agreement with the EU ended with the removals of Boris Johnson and Liz Truss.

And yet, here’s the great paradox: what we have today is Boris Johnson’s Brexit settlement, endorsed by all those who opposed and continue to loathe everything that Boris Johnson stood for. When push came to shove, Parliament overwhelmingly rejected Theresa May’s proposed Brexit settlement, in which Great Britain paid a higher price in sovereignty to reduce (but not remove) the Irish sea border. Instead, it endorsed Johnson’s alternative, in which the UK retains far more freedom to act independently of the EU at the cost of a harder sea border. Sunak’s achievement in office has been to negotiate — and, now, impose — various ameliorations to this Johnsonian settlement, to make it more palatable to unionism. But still, the settlement is Johnson’s, backed by both the Conservative and Labour parties.

From the moment this political settlement became obvious last year — when the House of Commons endorsed Sunak’s Windsor Framework — the DUP had no good options left. “We’d reached the bottom of the Celebrations tin,” as one influential voice within the DUP told me. “There were only Bounties left.”

This, in essence, was Jeffrey Donaldson’s central challenge as leader of the DUP. There was no point in waiting for a Labour government to emerge later this year because Keir Starmer had made clear that he was going to keep Sunak’s deal. The only alternative, then, was to hope that the Conservative Party lost the next election, replaced Sunak with someone prepared to rip up his agreement, and then won a majority to enact this plan at some point after 2029. Would voters in Northern Ireland really accept such a prospect? And so it was a Bounty or nothing. “Ah, the taste of paradise
” as my DUP insider put it. Quite.

For much of the past six years, the DUP has been mocked and maligned by the apparent grown-ups in London, Dublin and Brussels, who never miss an opportunity to advise what is in unionism’s best interests. In reality, with the decision taken on Monday night, it is now the DUP that has made the greatest sacrifice to settle Brexit.

The Irish government knew from the very beginning that the proposals they were pushing would not be acceptable to unionists and would therefore undermine the political settlement established by the Good Friday Agreement. And yet, they were not prepared to compromise themselves, whether that meant enforcing some controls on the sovereign border between Northern Ireland and the Republic — or, indeed, between themselves and the rest of the EU.

They made this choice because it was in their interest to do so. Britain’s statecraft, in contrast, was lamentable. Here, the Conservatives deserve particular scorn. And none more so than the supposed “Spartans”, who were so unshakable in their defence of British sovereignty — until a compromise emerged that meant only Northern Ireland had to take the pain.

The first challenge for the DUP, from here, will be to maintain party unity through the arduous process of re-establishing power-sharing. It has just had to swallow a large dose of particularly bitter medicine, and there will be little appetite for more. If Donaldson loses the party in the coming weeks, or indeed the wider unionist community, there is little hope of Stormont returning anytime soon, if at all. In 1973, when Ted Heath negotiated a power sharing deal acceptable to unionist leaders, it was soon brought down by grassroots opposition. In the end, devolved government would not return to Northern Ireland for another quarter of a century.

According to those who were at the DUP’s meeting on Monday night, a sense of realism descended on proceedings. The leadership had set seven tests for the UK government to meet before it would consider going back into Stormont. Those at the meeting said it was obvious the party had achieved something on each test, but not enough to have met them all clearly. The crucial point rammed home, however, was that there was “no identifiable path to anything more”, as one insider put it to me. In other words, they had reached the end of the road: it was this or nothing.

Another insider in the room added that even the hardliners in the party — Nigel Dodds and Sammy Wilson — were “measured and honest” in their remarks. Both recognised there was no perfect solution. “A lot of it came down to [the fact that] we can’t trust the Tories,” they said. “But by not doing something, we leave them [the Tories] in charge of everything.”

Herein lies the predicament of Northern Irish unionism. When the interests of the British state come into conflict with the interests of Northern Ireland’s unionists, there is only ever going to be one winner. And so the battle for unionism is never-ending: to protect its place in a union where it does not trust its interests will be protected.

The upshot is a settlement that reflects the uneasy, complicated nature of Northern Ireland — and one that defies all the usual canards spouted about the place. Northern Ireland has not emerged with no borders, but with two. Its economy has not been integrated into Ireland’s, but remains largely dependent on the British state and Britain’s internal market.

Unionism has suffered a painful defeat, but it lives to fight another day. “Bank it and build it,” Donaldson urged the DUP on Monday night. This is now the plan. So expect more battles to come: this is the never-ending reality of Northern Ireland.


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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David McKee
David McKee
5 months ago

Ah, we pine for those prelapsarian days before 2016, when power-sharing worked like a dream, and when unionists and nationalists joined hands in joyful dancing…

Except it was never like that. Power-sharing _never_ worked. What one side proposed, the other opposed. Just because. It was permanent gridlock. But then, it was deliberately designed that way.

The only way out is to reorient Northern Irish politics to a left-right divide, rather than a unionist-nationalist divide. And that will only happen when Labour decides to contest elections in Northern Ireland.

So quit bellyaching about Brexit, Mr. McTague, and tell Starmer to extract a digit.

Martin M
Martin M
5 months ago
Reply to  David McKee

The other way out is a united Ireland. I doubt that will be a popular view here, but it will get rid of the “Brexit issues”.

Steve Murray
Steve Murray
5 months ago
Reply to  Martin M

The way the demographics are going, that seems like a real possibility within a reasonable timespan. What the EU will look like if/when it happens is another matter.

Geraldine Kelley
Geraldine Kelley
5 months ago
Reply to  Steve Murray

Nobody outside N Ireland seems to understand that we will never vote to be outside the Union as long as we are given the huge welfare support that is delivered from Westminster. This region is unfortunately economically weak and always has been. Belfast is a different world from the rest of Ulster and is still a Pygmy in comparison to most major English cities. Derry, where I now live, has an employment sector wherein nearly 60% of economically active people work for the state in one way or another. Go figure!

Eamonn Toland
Eamonn Toland
5 months ago

Benefits for OAPs, low-income working families and the unemployed are vastly higher in the Republic than in NI, but so are income taxes. It’s been estimated that applying the tax and benefit structure of the RoI to NI would leave over 70% of people in NI better off AND reduce the need for a subvention by about a billion. Whether the better off 30% would pay for it is moot….
More urgently for NI, it has some of the best grammar schools and the worst school dropout rates in the UK, with far fewer people with third level qualifications than the RoI. Regardless of whether NI remains in the UK or not, keeping working-class kids in education to boost economic activity, productivity and reduce dependency on HMG for a subvention ought to be the #1 priority for the Assembly.

Charles Stanhope
Charles Stanhope
5 months ago
Reply to  Eamonn Toland

Aren’t these vaunted Grammar Schools still entirely SECTARIAN?

Eamonn Toland
Eamonn Toland
5 months ago

More mixed than they used to be but still with a religious ethos (and generally strong academic results). I was always a fan of the integrated sector but TBH the much, much bigger issue is keeping people in education long enough to be productive in skilled jobs.

Charles Stanhope
Charles Stanhope
5 months ago
Reply to  Eamonn Toland

I happen to know a couple of teachers at our finest Public Schools, who only comparatively recently left the bosom of the NI educational system. Both are indelibly stamped with that “ religious ethos” that you speak of.

Not a good report particularly when you consider that WE*are paying for this nonsense.

(*The ever generous English taxpayer.)

Niall Cusack
Niall Cusack
5 months ago

Certainly not the Royal Belfast Academical Institution (“Inst”) which was established in 1810 specifically as a NON sectarian school welcoming boys of all religions (including Jews).
Also Methodist College Belfast (“Methody”), which despite its name has always welcomed boys and girls of different faiths.
My parents went to Methody (neither of them was Methodist) but sent me to Inst. In front of our gates is a statue of a fiery Presbyterian preacher who objected vigorously to what we call today ‘integrated education ‘.
He stands with his backside to Inst and we called him “the Black Man”! An epithet which was not racist but purely malicious.
There are Catholic Grammar Schools, and a friend of mine teaches in one. He assures me that there is no question of excluding non-Catholics. On the contrary, they are welcomed in increasing numbers.
What did you say?
“Grammar Schools still entirely sectarian”!
For once, Charles, you are sadly misinformed.

Charles Stanhope
Charles Stanhope
5 months ago
Reply to  Niall Cusack

I don’t wish to sound too pedantic but despite those two magnificent examples you quote, according to that impeccable source ‘ The Belfast Telegraph’:- “More than 90% of schools in Northern Ireland are still segregated by religion.” QED?

Niall Cusack
Niall Cusack
5 months ago

Your question referred to “these vaunted Grammar Schools” which form less than 10 per cent of schools in Northern Ireland.
I do not deny and bitterly regret that educational apartheid still prevails.
But not in the grammar schools. QED.

Charles Stanhope
Charles Stanhope
5 months ago
Reply to  Niall Cusack

Agreed,I should initially have been much more precise!

However I think we both agree that until this “educational apartheid” is abolished there will be little real progress.

Niall Cusack
Niall Cusack
5 months ago

Yes, we do agree, as so often, to my very great surprise.
But there are no “Protestant” grammar schools (or indeed Primary schools).
The Roman Catholic Church insists (quite understandably) on inculcating a “Catholic ethos” by preserving a separate Catholic educational system. Hence schools tend to be labelled “Catholic Grammar” and so on.
Where do you get your figures from?
I don’t understand your final sentence.

Charles Stanhope
Charles Stanhope
5 months ago
Reply to  Niall Cusack

Again the Wikibeast seems to provide a fairly comprehensive list.

Many of the ‘Protestant’ ones were ‘silent’ on religion, so I was a little uncertain if they were non-denominational or not. Cynically perhaps,I assumed they were/are ‘hiding’ something!

Yes it is odd we are so often in agreement. Personally I have always found Englishmen get on far better with the Irish than they do with the Welsh and Sc*tch. I put it down to the Irish sense of humour! Something that is somewhat lacking with the others.

David McKee
David McKee
5 months ago
Reply to  Eamonn Toland

You’re right. Reforming education ought to be top priority. But since the Good Friday Agreement came into force, b-all has happened. Which illustrates my point about permanent gridlock.

Martin M
Martin M
5 months ago

Your last sentence makes perfect sense, in view of what you say in your first sentence.

Andrew D
Andrew D
5 months ago
Reply to  Martin M

Or a united Ireland within the UK. It won’t be popular there, but it too will get rid of the Brexit issues. Fat chance I know but might as well say it

Martin M
Martin M
5 months ago
Reply to  Andrew D

I suggest you do a lap of the Republic spruiking that model.

Andrew Fisher
Andrew Fisher
5 months ago
Reply to  David McKee

“Bellyaching”? It was an excellent analysis of political realism. Which your comment is not, because Labour are not going to contest elections in Northern Ireland! “Tell Starmer”?! That’ll do it obviously…

David McKee
David McKee
5 months ago
Reply to  Andrew Fisher

Excellent analysis? Oh, please. It was just another Remoaner whinge.

Niall Cusack
Niall Cusack
5 months ago
Reply to  David McKee

Although he can be somewhat forthright in expressing his views, I fear that Charles Stanhope is right when he says that most English people really don’t give a toss about us in Northern Ireland.
You may recall that there was a Campaign for Labour Representation in Northern Ireland. I don’t remember if you were involved, but I wasted between 15 and 20 years of my life
campaigning for the right to join the Labour Party.
In those days, if you applied to join the Labour Party and gave a Northern Ireland address, you were bluntly informed that Labour did not organise in NI and you were advised to contact the SDLP, the Catholic Nationalist Party!
Fine if you were a Catholic and a Nationalist, which most people were not!
The Campaign for Labour Representation wrote to every MP in the House of Commons; we spoke to numerous Constituency Labour Parties; and we lobbied the Labour Annual Conference every year in Blackpool or Brighton or Bournemouth or wherever.
Our greatest apparent convert to the cause was Mo Mowlam! She accepted the argument that if Labour was governing Northern Ireland, surely the electorate had a right to vote for or against the party of government. Wasn’t that what representative government meant?
And then. . … Someone had a word in Mo Mowlam’s ear!
And when she became Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, suddenly she had forgotten all those arguments about democratic accountability.
It had been made clear to her that Labour would never ever organise in the North of Ireland.
Nor will it.
Young people still stand as Socialist Alternative or People Before Profit in Belfast or Derry, and I applaud them, but they get nowhere.
Kate Hoey (typically a Trotskyite now turned Baroness and a rabid TUV Unionist!) was sent in to destroy the Campaign for Labour Representation, but the truth is that although working class Catholics were seriously interested in the possibility of participating in UK politics, working class Protestants were not!
As to the Local Assembly at Stormont, if the DUP endorses Michelle O’NEILL as First Minister, it will have done more to cement the Union of Northern Ireland and Great Britain than any Unionist Party to date.
Sinn FĂ©in has a cast iron commitment to the Good Friday Agreement which enshrines the principle of consent, and Michelle has signed up to it.
With a probable Sinn FĂ©in Taoiseach in the next Irish Government (Mary Lou) and a Sinn FĂ©in First Minister in Belfast, interesting times lie ahead.
Postscript:
How are you going to get rid of us, Charles? By what mechanism? And is the King to be consulted!

Charles Stanhope
Charles Stanhope
5 months ago
Reply to  Niall Cusack

Father Quinlan I do hope I haven’t upset you by being “somewhat forthright “ but I abhor ambiguity.

Sadly ‘we’ are so spastic that we have no mechanism for getting rid of you. You will have to do that yourselves, but I fear you are NOT so stupid as the wretched Sc*tch and will put pragmatism before emotion.

The King, as ever, will do precisely what he is told.

Niall Cusack
Niall Cusack
5 months ago

Very well said, Sir! I too abhor ambiguity.

Jonathan Nash
Jonathan Nash
5 months ago

One of the most powerful political songs of my youth was “Alternative Ulster” by Stiff Little Fingers – a yelp of protest that ordinary people, and especially the young, were being screwed by the politics and violence of the sectarian big men. Unfortunately although the bombs and guns have largely gone, the toxic politics remain.

Charles Stanhope
Charles Stanhope
5 months ago

Why on earth are still in Northern Ireland. We should by rights have got out more than a century in either 1914 or 1918.

No Englishman I know of gives a ‘tinker’s cuss’ about the wretched place. For the past fifty years and more it has, in short, been an astonishingly expensive embarrassment.

It time to move on, haven’t we enough troubles of our own?

Peter B
Peter B
5 months ago

Mixed feelings about this. In many ways, it’s more trouble than it’s worth. And the Unionists seem to believe that they can be both a special case and treated exactly the same as everyone else in the UK (surely some contradictions in there – just as there are with all the unequal devolutions). There’s always a cost to being special.
On the other hand, it’s not certain that the republic really wants them back right now and we should support majority self-determination. But the republic has changed beyond recognition since the 1970s and the objections to ultimate reunification can’t be as strong as they once were.
I’m surprised that a committed imperial historian like you doesn’t have some flickering nostalgia for some of the great Irish regiments that featured so often in our great battles.

Charles Stanhope
Charles Stanhope
5 months ago
Reply to  Peter B

Most of those “great Irish regiments” were disbanded in 1922. Those that remain in the British Army are almost unrecognisable thanks to incessant amalgamations!

However I did recently visit the former Regimental Depot of the late 88th Foot,The Connaught Rangers, or “Devil’s Own”, and was very pleasantly surprised by how very little if anything had really changed!

However the time for nostalgia is over and as soon as the people of Northern Ireland can be weaned off the umbilical cord of astonishing English largesse, the better for all concerned. In such a progressive paradise as the Irish Republic they can only possibly prosper.

Damon Hager
Damon Hager
5 months ago
Reply to  Peter B

It’s astonishing. Here we have a community of people loyal to the United Kingdom, and who have made immense sacrifices in that country’s interests. Yet there are many in the rest of the UK who either don’t give a damn, or openly favour that community’s opponents.
As an Englishman, it makes me ashamed. Given the way we’ve consistently betrayed the Unionists, perhaps they really would be better off joining the South. At least some of us here in England would rue the day.

Dermot O'Sullivan
Dermot O'Sullivan
5 months ago

You do not take into account the deep feelings of many Unionists (I am not one) who consider themselves as British as those living in Finchley. Isn’t there a line in a play that goes something like: ‘History, it seems, is to blame.’

Charles Stanhope
Charles Stanhope
5 months ago

I have taken into account the Unionists and without wishing in anyway to brag have had considerable experience of them in the past.

Although I have an iota of sympathy for them, we the English had indulged them for long enough, and should not waste a scintilla of grief on disposing of them. They have had more that fifty years to sort themselves out and rejoin the civilised world and have abjectly failed to do so.

Enough is enough, as the ‘blessed’ Oliver Cromwell would have said “For God’s sake GO”.

Jeff Dudgeon
Jeff Dudgeon
5 months ago

Childlike view. What’s the point of maintaining army regiments if the first response by the officer class is to surrender. Bring on the Kingdom of Surrey. Perfection.

Charles Stanhope
Charles Stanhope
5 months ago
Reply to  Jeff Dudgeon

722 British soldiers were killed in Northern Ireland and a further 6,000 or so wounded.

It is you who are the child sir! And a most ungrateful one at that.

Niall Cusack
Niall Cusack
5 months ago

If your figures are accurate, which I doubt, then the Provisional Irish Republican Army were really quite efficient, weren’t they?
What are your sources?

Charles Stanhope
Charles Stanhope
5 months ago
Reply to  Niall Cusack

Silly me I had forgotten that the words AR*B and J* W are verboten!

Charles Stanhope
Charles Stanhope
5 months ago
Reply to  Niall Cusack

It’s the Wikibeast article on Operation Banner. Apparently another 719 died of “other causes”. Considering that is was over a period of about 35 years it’s hardly the Somme. The J*ws, Cypriots, Malay Chinese, and Ar*bs all did better on an annualised basis.
Where the IRA did brilliantly, almost equalling the fabled Assassins of 10-13th centuries was the audacious attack on the Grand Hotel Brighton which came within a whisker of decapitating the British state as you may well recall?
By comparison during the nano-war of 1919 -1921 about 180-200 were killed in action whilst another 180 died of Spanish flu, and another 40 odd killed themselves for some other inexplicable reason?
the weather perhaps?

Niall Cusack
Niall Cusack
5 months ago

Fascinating! Thanks, I’ll check it out.

Flibberti Gibbet
Flibberti Gibbet
5 months ago

I now feel the same.
The most persuasive factor for me has been the misbehaviour of Northern Ireland’s NHS GPs. Every 5 years they have a collective tantrum like a 3 year old in a supermarket deprived of a bag of sweets.
They point to the higher salaries of Ireland’s GP and demand parity. The UK Government typically gives in and funds a special payment.
The whole province has become accustomed to special treatment and high State spending.

Charles Stanhope
Charles Stanhope
5 months ago

How very interesting. Thank you. The whole place seems to filled with ‘ ungrateful children’ such your GP’s and Mr Jeff Dudgeon above.

Just like the hormonal teenager it’s about time they ‘left home’ and ‘stood on their own two feet’.

Damon Hager
Damon Hager
5 months ago

Your reply shows that you know little of Oliver Cromwell.
Please do not presume to speak for “we English”. I’m as English as you, and while I bear you no personal animus, I find your opinion on this subject appalling.

Jon Morrow
Jon Morrow
5 months ago

Probably all the British people that live there and call it home?

Charles Stanhope
Charles Stanhope
5 months ago
Reply to  Jon Morrow

Britishness is an anachronism and we can NO longer afford it.

Niall Cusack
Niall Cusack
5 months ago

That is perhaps the most interesting remark that you’ve made recently.
I would be delighted if you would care to expand on such a bon mot!
I have been rereading Roger Scruton’s book ‘England: an Elegy’, published in 2000.
It is extremely moving and helped me to understand why the Labour Movement abandoned us to our fate.
C P Snow would have no truck with that weasel word ‘British’ which he rightly took to be a euphemism for ‘English’.
Just what is it that “we” can no longer afford?

Charles Stanhope
Charles Stanhope
5 months ago
Reply to  Niall Cusack

As you know Britishness was a ‘construct’ that resulted from 1707 & 1801. It worked reasonably well up until 1914, and even survived our entry into the Common Market/EU in 1973.

However all changed with Blair’s implementation of his devolution plans. Whatever his motives, he either deliberately or inadvertently ‘killed’ the Union and with it Britishness.

A plethora of nationalist pygmies sprang from the ground, half formed, in Scotland and Wales. Worse, England for the first time in centuries was suddenly aware of the fiscal cost of these greedy, needy ‘pygmies’ who cursed us with one hand whilst begging with the other.

Having lived through all this I am quite content for England to jettison these peoples if they so wish and with it ANY fiscal responsibility for them. Am I being unreasonable?

ps. Did you ever meet Maurice Cowling?

Niall Cusack
Niall Cusack
5 months ago

No, as usual you are not being unreasonable.
I never met Maurice Cowling, but I read him and formed a very great respect for him. In particular, his book “The Impact of Hitler: British Parties and British Politics 1933 -1940” made an indelible impression on me.
Apart from Cowling and Scruton, the other one is Michael Oakeshott.
There was a time when the Tories really were the natural party of government.

Charles Stanhope
Charles Stanhope
5 months ago
Reply to  Niall Cusack

Long gone I’m afraid!

Damon Hager
Damon Hager
5 months ago

Bollards, Mr Stanhope. Pure, industrial bollards.

Damon Hager
Damon Hager
5 months ago

You may not give a tinker’s cuss about Northern Ireland, but I’m an Englishman too, and I do care. I happen to believe we owe a debt to Ulster Unionists for their loyalty, and not least (as Winston Churchill pointed out) their loyalty during the Second World War.

Damon Hager
Damon Hager
5 months ago

I’m an Englishman, from Lincolnshire. I care passionately about every region of the Union. My identity is British, not English.

John Walsh
John Walsh
5 months ago

In a few years,Ireland will be a muslim majority country, the so-called “troubles” will be replaced by a new form of trouble.The protestants and catholics are still fighting while the Titanic is sinking fast.

Brian Doyle
Brian Doyle
5 months ago
Reply to  John Walsh

And what data to you have to make such a ridiculous statement
Somebodies Propaganda has been firmly planted into your mind

Paul Monahan
Paul Monahan
5 months ago
Reply to  John Walsh

inshallah –

Eamonn Toland
Eamonn Toland
5 months ago

The difference between Ireland’s position and the UK’s was that Ireland recognised from the beginning that unless the UK was part of a common market with the EU a border would have to go somewhere, and that no amount of non-existent technology would ameliorate a land border that runs through kitchens and farms.

They would clearly have preferred Theresa May’s deal which would have addressed unionist concerns about differential treatment for Northern Ireland, although North-South trade has expanded massively following the Johnson deal.

I’m struggling to see how acting in the interest of your citizens is in any way appalling.

David Lindsay
David Lindsay
5 months ago

Jim Allister’s parents were from County Monaghan. How many of that mind are almost literally irredentist, coming off the nearly vanished Protestant minorities in the three Ulster countries that were allocated to the Free State? Still, the old joke about “the workers united will never be defeated” has been that no one would ever find out whether or not it was true. But had we reckoned without action co-ordinated among 16 trade unions in Northern Ireland?

The DUP are not Tories. That was the UUP. The DUP is a thoroughly populist affair in relation to its target electors. Offer it enough money for them, and it will sign up to almost anything. Including a First Minister who believes the IRA Army Council to be the sovereign body throughout Ireland. And including the permanent regulatory alignment of the United Kingdom with the European Union, because what has been announced cannot work any other way, and it is on this that the British Government has insisted. You can be an Ulster Unionist, or you can be a Brexiteer. But you cannot be both.

Niall Cusack
Niall Cusack
5 months ago
Reply to  David Lindsay

When and where did Michelle O’Neill say that she believes the IRA Army Council to be, as you put it: “the sovereign body throughout Ireland”?
That’s just stupid, from a Republican or any other standpoint.

Jonathan Story
Jonathan Story
5 months ago

Question: Is the UK sovereign, yes or no; Any agreement which infringes UK powers to do what is best for itself is illegitimate; That’s it.

Brian Doyle
Brian Doyle
5 months ago

This is all academic as the ongoing demographic changes guarantees that
Re unification is inevitable
However another massive force is rapidly swinging in favour of a United Ireland
And ‘It’s the Economy Stupid ”
If ones Cares to study and compare the economic performance of both the UK
and the Republic then it soon becomes apparent that Whilst the UK becomes poorer and poorer
The reverse is true of the Republic
If you take GDP / Head of population
Then the Republic is racing away from the UK
And should you care to factor in the 3 P,s
to the GDP data then the difference is a chasm
The 3 P,s are considered to present a more realistic picture as it affords one
To reasonabley accurately predict how the GDP will
Be within the next 5 to 10 yrs
And when one does so then the gap
Becomes huge
Therefore Unionists clinging to their precious Union shall prove to be acceptance of ever increasing poverty and deprivation
Remember
‘ The grass being greener on the other side of the fence ‘
Whilst the Republic increases it’s wealth
And Well Being
The 3 P,s to factor in to GDP are
Inflation and in main derived from the relevant surrounding loci
Cost of living and once more from the surrounding loci
Thirdly and by far the most importantly
Productivity The Republic consistently
Has exceptional high productivity
The UK pathetically stuck in the doldrums

For 2022 The Republic showed that when the 3 P,s factored in that indeed they were the Richest Nation globally
With a fig.of $ 138,427 per head of population

I not going to embarrass any UK citizens
Or Unionists as to what the UK figure is
But suffice to say it is embarrassingly way way down the league

Geraldine Kelley
Geraldine Kelley
5 months ago
Reply to  Brian Doyle

I don’t know where you live, but I’m in Derry and the Donegal/Sligo folk would think you were on some fairly strong medication to propound the above. Health, housing, education, homelessness, mica damage, not to get started on the enormous backlash against Leo and his midnight dumping of illegals are all very problematic in Eire. Small towns and villages doubled or tripled in size by young men from the Middle East and N Africa have not gone down well as any search online will tell you.
Most of the revenue from foreign companies using Ireland as a tax dodge take their profits home with them. Dublin is certainly a hotspot but not for the vast numbers who can’t afford to live there but must commute from Athlone or Naas.
But the dream obviously continues – good luck with it.

Brian Doyle
Brian Doyle
5 months ago

Raw economic facts appear to hurt you

Care to explain UK debt mountain of ÂŁ2.7 Trillion, budget deficit and the Balance sheet shows liabilities in excess of assets by ÂŁ 8.6 Trillion
Once you do go at look at the similar for the Rebulic, who for the last 2 yrs producing budgetary surpluses and being put into a Citizens Sovereign Wealth fund
Anyway in conversation with a few learned persons in the Rebulic
Who inform me there a growing number of The Republic,s people
Who do not want re unification
Saying they are lazy, opionated , dangerous and more importantly the huge cost for the Rebulic if they had
To level up NI
Monies more and more are beginning to realise
As for strong medication tis the UK
who well and truly on and addicted to
In their delusional fantasies of glory,
Empire, economic and military might
Well the awful truth is that to all intents and purposes The UK
technically bankrupt
Next fiscal global crisis shall bring matters to a head by way of UK going cap in hand to the IMF
Who shall only give loan facilities with onerous conditions and interest rates all noatter which Political party in power
Warren Buffet one of the World’s greatest investors knows all I speak off and his sound advice to any with
UK assets is but slowly but surely
Divest themselves from the UK
Stating that Bankruptcy is always long in the making but impacts and becomes reality with frightening speed
These are simple facts you now have 2 choices

1) Come back with verified data from reputable sources that say otherwise

2 ) Continue with your delusions
With or without chemical assistance

Reality is all that can possibly exit
Why- because anything else can only
Be a product of imagination

Charles Stanhope
Charles Stanhope
5 months ago
Reply to  Brian Doyle

Didn’t we, the ever generous UK make a make an astonishing £3.21 loan to the Irish Republic in 2010-11?

It was repaid in full in 2021, but there appears to have been little or NO acknowledgment of this generosity from the Irish Republic that I have detected.

Stu N
Stu N
5 months ago

To be fair, I wouldn’t be overwhelmed with gratitude for a loan of ÂŁ3.21 either.

Charles Stanhope
Charles Stanhope
5 months ago
Reply to  Stu N

Well spotted!

Brian Doyle
Brian Doyle
5 months ago

However you failed to add that other than Iceland
Ireland was the 2nd country to put
The banking crash behind them then go onto create excellent productivity gains
The one and only way to create wealth is mainly by productivity
Something that the UK is so ill equipped to do so
Due to its Archaic FTP voting system
Poor education singularly failing to produce the skills for a modern successful Economy
Far less infrastructure
Oh by the way how’s HS2 going
In terms of
Budget adherence
Program adherence
Km operating
Take a wee look at what China has achieved in HS rail
I do believe England invented the word ‘ Coolie ‘ to label the Chinese with
But me thinks the Master has become ‘ The Coolie ‘
And China now very much the master
Particularly in matters of modern fit for purpose Rail Infrastructure
Go check the facts and tell me England not a nation of inept ‘ Coolies ‘ these days
After all you invented such terminology

Red Reynard
Red Reynard
5 months ago
Reply to  Brian Doyle

You seem to have a very strange syntax, a remarkably curious way of laying out, and a unique grammatical style. Now, I’m not suggesting for a moment that your figures are wrong; but I can’t help but wonder if you’re a badly written AI or perhaps a second language speaking mischievous little imp. . . . .hmm. . . .

Charles Stanhope
Charles Stanhope
5 months ago

I must admit to a certain feeling of schadenfreude when reading this.
Having spent 700 years getting rid of us how on earth did ‘you’ allow Sinbad & Co to overrun the place in less than 10 years may I ask?

Paul Devlin
Paul Devlin
5 months ago
Reply to  Brian Doyle

Brian, the Republic is certainly better off than the north but those numbers really do flatter to deceive

Damon Hager
Damon Hager
5 months ago
Reply to  Paul Devlin

If the Republic is so prosperous, it’s curious that opinion polls (and they’re fallible, I admit) show no enthusiasm for reunification.
It’s very simple. A sustained majority for a united Ireland will mean just that. But a sustained majority for the Union, as we have now, will mean the status quo.
Happily, these things are now decided via the ballot box, not the nail bomb. Long may that continue.

Peter B
Peter B
5 months ago
Reply to  Brian Doyle

You’re not really naive enough to believe that the Irish GDP figures are based on real productivity and sustainable are you ? It’s almost entirely based on massive tax avoidance schemes for large US companies which the EU will not indefinitely tolerate (and the US may tire of too).
Do you seriously believe that Ireland is wealthier than countries like Switzerland ?
Enjoy the boom while it lasts. But remember it won’t be forever.

Robert White
Robert White
5 months ago

And yet, they [the Irish government] were not prepared to compromise themselves, whether that meant enforcing some controls on the sovereign border between Northern Ireland and the Republic — or, indeed, between themselves and the rest of the EU.
But why on earth would the Republic drive a wedge between itself and the ‘wider EU’ because of David Cameron’s referendum? No one in the republic voted for Brexit, obviously; the tragedy is, neither did Northern Ireland.

Abdullah Khan
Abdullah Khan
5 months ago

I love Bounties

UnHerd Reader
UnHerd Reader
5 months ago

So much wrong with this article.

1. On giving Johnson credit for the deal. No way would a Johnson government have been able to win the concessions Sunak did. EU didn’t trust Johnson so perception of trade and divergency risks on the EU side was much higher. Also, Johnson’s main inspiration for getting a deal was to win the general election, and not to help people and businesses in Northern Ireland. It’s not good to give someone credit when their motivations are self-serving.

2. Article claims there has been too much blame on the DUP. This deal is akin to the NI-only backstop the EU offered May but who rejected it in favour of the UK backstop because of DUP opposition. Also, you’re implying that the DUP speak for the people of Northern Ireland. The only people quoted in this article are from the DUP, so there is a strong element of bias in the piece. The majority of voters and business people in Northern Ireland opposed Brexit and supported NI Protocol and Windsor Framework. You also don’t challenge the DUP’s belief that they thought it was possible to support a hard Brexit promoted by English nationalists without having any implications for Northern Ireland.

3. Irish government acting irresponsibly. There couldn’t have been any border infrastructure in Ireland as most of the communities living around the border regions are staunch republicans, hence the security risk. Yes perhaps there were contingency measures in place for checks between Ireland and single market but there was already a solution in place in the shape of the NI protocol, which was only opposed by hard-line unionists in NI.

An interesting idea for an article would be if the DUP can’t trust London and public services in Northern Ireland are a complete shambles, what is it about the Union that wants to make them remain part of it?

Damon Hager
Damon Hager
5 months ago
Reply to  UnHerd Reader

“What is it about the Union that wants to make them remain part of it?”

Their profound sense of British identity, I suppose, rooted in history, culture and religion, and cemented by decades of resistance to a loathsome terrorist organisation.
But I do agree that, given how we in England have consistently let down the Unionists, their loyalty to the UK is little short of remarkable.

NB I would obviously condemn terrorism on *either* side of the conflict.

Suzanne Bhayro
Suzanne Bhayro
5 months ago

It’s not true that the “Spartans” were at fault.
Every brexiteer including the Spartans, knew that the EU was using the border issues as a big stick with which to hit the UK. Every brexiteer, including the Spartans, knew that the UK just needed to leave the whole Irish island as it’s always been… And let the EU do what IT feels necessary to protect ITSELF. But we had a government without the courage to do the obvious!
Apart from the Spartans, we still have a PM, government, and a HoC that are Cowards, continuing to Kowtow to the EU on absolutely every issue that affects the United Kingdom’s interests.

David Lewis
David Lewis
5 months ago

Any ‘union’ involves (at least) two parties and the other party’s patience is running out. NI is a basket case maintained by charitable donations from GB (or so my English friends tell me). The latest compassionate bung of over ÂŁ3billion has languished in a bank account because those quarrelsome Irishmen STILL can’t get their act together to form a committee (loosely called a ‘government’ over here) to decide how to spend it. It may be that a united Ireland eventually comes about not because Irishmen finally agree to settle their differences, but because Englishmen, Welshmen and Scotsmen (if still relevant) file for divorce.