- 22 Jul 19
Over the past two years, the DUP have strutted around Westminster like people who matter. That made it all the more hilarious when so many Tory MPs stuck two fingers up at Nigel Dodds and his cronies by voting to introduce same sex marriage and abortion in Northern Ireland, if the Stormont Assembly is still not functioning by 21 October. The next few months might be fun yet...
Observing all of the idiocy that has surrounded Brexit over the past two years, you might have concluded that the current UK parliament was incapable of doing anything at all useful, ever. Turns out that this is not quite true.
You’d have to laugh, really.
As students of local history will recall, the power-sharing government in Northern Ireland collapsed on 9 January 2017. Since then, the devolved administration in the Assembly in Stormont has been abandoned and left like a crashed truck at the side of a disused boreen. The British and Irish governments have tried to persuade the DUP and Sinn Féin to get the wheels back on the Assembly wagon, to no avail.
Most people accept that the DUP are the bigger offenders here. A deal was struck by the party leadership with Sinn Féin, but the requirement for an Irish Language Act apparently couldn’t be sold to the ever generous and inclusive lovelies of the DUP faithful. And so the long limbo of Assembly atrophy has dragged out over a tedious 30 months, with little sign that any compromise might be on the cards.
Perhaps the vote taken in June 2016 by the UK to leave the EU has played a part in this. What’s undeniable is that it saw a new kind of poison being slipped into the water in the North.
In the Brexit referendum, the DUP campaigned to leave. Within the North, their campaign failed badly. Almost 56% voted to remain in the EU. It gradually became clear, however, that, as far as the DUP were concerned, what the people of Northern Ireland wanted was irrelevant. In the UK overall, the vote was 51.9% leave against 48.1% remain. Derry would have to exit the EU too.
As we all know, the hapless architect of the Brexit fiasco, Conservative Prime Minister David Cameron, felt obliged to resign after the Leave vote was confirmed. Theresa May replaced him. As Prime Minister, she proceeded to make one of the most disastrous miscalculations in British political history. The Conservative government which she had inherited enjoyed a working majority of 17 in the House of Commons. She could have ploughed on and made things work. Instead, high on the improbability of her accession to No.10 Downing Street, she called a snap election in June 2017. Her assumption was that she would return with an increased majority, to strengthen her hand in the upcoming Brexit negotiations.
The Tories lost 13 seats. Labour gained 30. The parliamentary arithmetic meant that the only way that Teresa May could form a government was with the support of the DUP, who had six MPs – representing a potential swing of 12 in any contentious votes in the House of Commons.
There are people who believe that there is an underlying historical momentum to events. But chaos theory probably provides a better explanation for what happened in relation to Brexit.
Theresa May took a spectacularly stupid – and completely unnecessary – gamble and lost. The DUP became king – or perhaps that should be queen – makers. They had Teresa May by whatever the female equivalent of the short ‘n’ curlies is.
If you had made this shit up, you’d have been laughed out of the meeting with Netflix’s commissioning department.
“I think your man must have taken a tab of the brown acid.”
“Hahahahahahahahahahahah! Two tabs!”
But this was how it all spun disastrously out. The DUP tail was suddenly in a position to wag the stupid Tory dog. Who cares about the Assembly, eh? Six dinosaurs were effectively given a mandate to run the entire UK! It was all part of God’s plan. Of course it was. Sammy Wilson blessed himself a la Cristiano Ronaldo, and looked to the skies. Thank you, Jeebus.
The DUP were now in a position to bring the whole edifice crashing down around them – and everyone else too. It didn’t matter what people in Northern Ireland voted for. It didn’t matter either that all of the experts were in agreement that tens of thousands of jobs will be lost in the North, in a No Deal scenario. Nor that a few hundred thousand are likely to find themselves out of work in the UK as a whole.
What did Boris Johnson say to industry leaders in the UK, who predicted that Brexit would be bad for business? “Fuck business.” The DUP were prepared to go even further: “Fuck everyone.”
The only thing that matters – as we all know – is ‘alignment’ with the rest of the UK. Come hell or high water the backstop would have to go. To achieve that goal, the DUP’s default position seems to be: we will torch the UK economy; we will take the risk of impoverishing millions. Alignment with the rest of the UK is a principle worth causing people to go hungry for.
There’s a hundred holes you could pick in the DUP’s twisted position. When it comes to foot and mouth disease Northern Ireland is aligned not with the UK, but with Ireland. And the same is true in relation to any infectious disease. This is an island. Whether it is people or cattle, you can check the bodies as they arrive in Cork, Dublin or Belfast.
Then there’s the DUP’s position on key social issues, which is utterly hypocritical. Same sex marriage? Not on our watch, they say. Abortion? We take our lead from Birmingham, Alabama – not Birmingham, England. Indeed, until June 2015, the DUP’s position on same sex marriage was ‘aligned’ to the Republic, not the United Kingdom. The same applied in relation to abortion, until the referendum to Repeal the 8th in 2018. So the whole business of insisting that Northern Ireland has to be ‘aligned’ with the UK is nonsense. The DUP want to be aligned only if it suits them.
Holding the balance of power entirely by accident has been like a drug. Suddenly the DUP could behave like a bunch of petty dictators on a coke binge, hopelessly in love with the sound of their own voices as they ranted against Teresa May’s withdrawal agreement, hammered out over two years with the EU. They held Teresa May to ransom. And now that she has been forced to resign, they are continuing in the same vein, as the clock ticks down to the UK’s departure date.
They have reverted to type, squawking ‘No surrender’ as the inescapable contradictions in the British position on the withdrawal agreement become obvious to one and all.
SAFE FROM SODOMY
Which explains the hilarity.
Two Labour MPs, Conor McGinn and Stella Creasy, spotted an opportunity. By way of Amendment, they tabled motions which would allow (a) same sex marriage, and (b) abortion, in Northern Ireland. Would the Conservative party – so grateful to the DUP for their support over the past two years – stand by their Brexiteer brethren and vote the proposals down?
Would they fuck!
The vote to allow same sex marriage was passed first, by a margin of 383 to 73. It was the kind of gross humiliation for the DUP that smacked of premeditated, carefully calibrated revenge. Later, on the same day, the Amendment on abortion was also passed, with 332 for and 99 against. It was as if the cold fury of the entire British political class had been turned on Nigel Dodds and his tiny cadre pumped-up reactionaries.
The die is not yet fully cast. The decisions taken in Westminster will only become law if the Northern Ireland Assembly is not back up and running by October 21. In a way, this is an even more ludicrously tasty outcome. Because it puts the DUP straight into the frying pan.
How desperate now are these Onward Christian Soldiers to uphold God’s law? The founder of the DUP, Ian Paisley Snr, famously wanted to keep “Ulster” safe from sodomy.
Surely that noble mission matters far more than the Loyalist desire to frustrate Sinn Féin on the issue of the Irish Language? Which is a greater danger to the identity of the Sons of Ulster: buggery or beag-ery?
You really have to see the funny side.
In the spirit of the times, might Arlene pick up the telephone and ask Michelle out for a quiet cup of coffee? Could she and the rest of the DUP ne’er do wells decide that they can stomach the cúpla focal in the cause of putting women and gays back in their collective boxes?
And how might Sinn Féin react to such an overture? If the DUP and Sinn Féin were to agree a deal on the Irish Language Act, it might end up scuppering what most people would see as far more important advances. On the face of it, all Sinn Féin have to do to deliver Same Sex Marriage and Abortion in the North is to keep the Assembly in limbo until after 21 October. The incentive to lie low and let British politics take its course is huge. And yet, and yet...
UNBELIEVABLE AND UNACCEPTABLE
Much squirming may yet ensue. The truth is that, once again, the DUP are out of step with the views of people in the North. Religion be-damned: a sizeable majority is in favour of same sex marriage.
In the context it is natural – and deeply sad – to think about Lyra McKee. An LGBTQ+ activist, Lyra was murdered by dissident Republicans during riots in Derry on the evening of 18 April 2019. There is nothing that would have meant more to her than to have seen the word coming down the mojo-wire from Westminster that Same Sex Marriage was to be introduced in Northern Ireland.
Lyra had planned to propose to her Derry-based partner, Sara Canning, before she was cut down by dissident thugs.
“Lyra and I wanted to get married, surrounded by our families and friends,” Sara Canning said in preparation for the March for Equality in Belfast recently, “because we shared a love which meant we wanted to spend the rest of our lives together. But, as things stand, the law in Northern Ireland says that the love that Lyra and I shared is not equal. It is unbelievable, and simply unacceptable, that in 2019, this discrimination is allowed to continue in any part of the UK or Ireland. That’s what I will be saying at the March for Equality in Belfast. I hope the Prime Minister is listening.”
Teresa May may not have been, but Conor McGinn, who is originally from Camlough, just outside Newry in Co. Down, was. If and when the passage of the law is finalised, it should be done in Lyra’s name. Speed the day.