EU's strong taste for reality leaves sour taste in mouth of DUP
Brexit soup Anyone? – a treat for everyone, dip in your option spoon and you get whatever flavour you fancy. The EU has, at least, issued a recipe for option C, but its strong taste of reality has left a sour taste in the mouth of the DUP. Theresa May tried to sweeten the dish with some saccharine words but didn’t back them up with a practical solution. Still, the DUP swallowed them with desperate relish. Dublin love C soup because it would placate northern nationalists and further erode the border in Ireland. It would also likely simplify post-Brexit trade between Ireland and Britain. A soft border in the Irish Sea designed to keep the north as ‘an integral part of the UK’ could be extended along the coast of Ireland as part of the final deal. This would mollify the Welsh and the Irish who would otherwise be further restricted in that corner of mutual trade. The EU could justify the hybrid border because of the Good Friday Agreement and the fact that a sea border is much simpler to police. Option A where Britain stays in the customs union is not dead because Mrs May says so. The cross-party remainers at Westminster have not surrendered and we could still see Jeremy Corbyn make good on his promise to agree this arrangement. The technological soft border on Ireland [option B] is a smugglers’ charter that can only hobble legal commerce. It would need the return of the British army to police or blow parts of it up. I’m sure we remember how well that worked out last time. Then there is option Z, no deal. It would make option B seem simple where the only growth, on the island, would be in land purchases adjoining the very hard border by people who would prefer not to pay the probably exorbitant tariffs on the transfer of goods within Ireland.
Then there is the electronic border, the one on the internet that earns England most of its income via stocks, shares and services. This will be protected at any cost, including option C.
The DUP can make good on their promise to put the ‘national’ interest first if this becomes the final agreement.
The north’s essential services are already straining at the seams, if a bad financial Brexit results then they could burst.
The NHS, benefits and pensions would be put at great risk and unionist jingoism would become a luxury that England can no longer afford. Soup may become our staple diet.
Onus now on Westminster to deliver equal civil marriage rights
Some positive news to come out of Westminster recently was the clarification from Karen Bradley MP that the government will allow a free vote on any “conscience issue” [a term I wholly disagree with in this context] in relation to marriage equality.
While this is great news, it is not completely surprising as today’s Tory party would have a very difficult time whipping liberal conservatives to vote against equal marriage.
The onus is now on Westminster to deliver equal civil marriage rights to the vast majority of people in Northern Ireland who want to see this change, including a majority of our political representatives, community/voluntary groups, business community and the general public.
Labour’s Conor McGinn has already confirmed his intention to bring legislative change in the form of a PMB to the commons.
The LGBTQ community in Northern Ireland have waited far too long to be afforded the same rights as our friends in the Republic, Britain and much of western Europe.
For years we have been told that change is coming and we need to wait just a little longer.
The Green Party would prefer that equal marriage be delivered through the assembly which has already voted in favour of it.
The party was in the process of drafting a private members bill on equal marriage when the assembly collapsed. But in the absence of a functioning assembly, we support Conor McGinn and any MP who
seeks to deliver where the assembly has failed.
Northern Ireland has had 14 months of political stalemate, during which time the LGBTQ community have been told time and time again that our rights as equal citizens were top of the political agenda and we would see change if any deal were to be done.
Without complete reform of the petition of concern as part of a deal, then the LGBTQ community have little hope of securing equal civil marriage rights in any new assembly. This is a failure on the part of our main political parties.
Green Party, East Derry
Why do we accept serial political failure, at least as far as it affects everyone in Northern Ireland? We have suffered some 40 years of various forms of unionist parties preventing progress and then Sinn Féin doing likewise. Once they had achieved their dominance of their ‘own lot’ they failed for the last 20 years to do little if anything positive for the whole of Northern Ireland. Yet they still herd us like cattle into the political cul-de-sac of sectarianism, negativity and vetoes. Surely it is up to us ‘cattle’ to object to this seemingly endless failure. You can’t make an omelette without breaking eggs. So, is it not time that more of us refused to vote for the serial failures, and accept the outcome, which we can then build upon?
There have been chances of making progress that most of us could tolerate, if not gladly welcome. But these have been squandered. Mutual Vetoes (aka petitions of concern) don’t work. It was stated many times 20 years ago that there is a system where a qualified majority will ensure decision making while respecting the tribal make up and the different degrees of willingness of the Northern Ireland population to accept change.
Why do you and I continue to accept this serial failure; the consequent waste of our taxes; the waste of our young talent who emigrate and the wasted opportunities to deal with the difficult issues which continue to blight the lives of so many of our people?
To make Northern Ireland more normal, we all have to make uncomfortable decisions and changes and the sooner the better.
In the upcoming by-election in West Tyrone, the Sinn Féin candidate has identified Brexit as the issue that will frame the campaign. As someone who has attempted to dismantle Theresa May’s precarious parliamentary majority through the courts, I envy the effect a prospective Sinn Féin MP could have in bringing a beleaguered Tory government down and on Brexit. If the election is about Brexit, if the hard right of the Tory party and their DUP friends have Theresa May on the ropes, surely now is the time for seven Sinn Féin MPs to take their seats. That would present a fatal blow to Theresa May’s leadership. If no leader emerges, it could precipitate a general election that could see a socialist prime minister take power with an anti-austerity agenda and who would keep Northern Ireland within the customs union, if not the single market. It might even frustrate the whole Brexit process.
The political value of Sinn Féin taking their seats could scarcely be higher, and with their nationalist competition – the SDLP – effectively neutered, the opportunity of a by-election in a safe border constituency when the UK government is particularly vulnerable is surely tantalising. Sinn Féin’s stocks would rise in NI, the Republic, Britain and Europe. All over a banal ‘oath’ that many MPs take with their fingers crossed behind their backs anyway.
Sixmilecross, Co Tyrone