Opinion

The truth is the DUP is not going to get anything it wants – Brian Feeney

Brian Feeney

Brian Feeney

Historian and political commentator Brian Feeney has been a columnist with The Irish News for three decades. He is a former SDLP councillor in Belfast and co-author of the award-winning book Lost Lives

Sir Jeffrey Donaldson speaks during an anti-Northern Ireland Protocol rally in Ballymoney last year
Sir Jeffrey Donaldson speaks during an anti-Northern Ireland Protocol rally in Ballymoney last year Sir Jeffrey Donaldson speaks during an anti-Northern Ireland Protocol rally in Ballymoney last year

IN an uncanny way the DUP mirrors the Conservative party with which the DUP believed it had a close relationship since 2010.

Both parties are deeply split. Both parties are being held to ransom by a minority of bone-headed ideologues ready to scream “Betrayal!” at any move they think threatens to undermine their extreme right-wing beliefs.

Curiously, the ideologues in the DUP hold similar views to the right-wing nutters in the Conservative party: anti-woke, the current favoured shibboleth and dog whistle, anti-immigrant, anti-asylum seeker, anti-Palestinian and of course anti-EU.

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DUP and Tories: Weak leaders

There’s more, but that’s enough antis to be going on with to give you the idea. Both parties have weak leaders who only became party leaders with a weak mandate after a couple of attempts. As a result, both leaders are unable to enforce their will on the ideologues in their parties. They have to defer, appease, placate.

The DUP has been in bits since it fell apart in May 2021. The rift has never been healed. Donaldson’s obvious fear is that if he throws in the towel on the protocol the ideologues will secede, adding another unionist party to the many that have emerged since 1973.

Using Peter Robinson, as Lord Empey has described, as a distress flare is a way for the beleaguered Donaldson to make a proxy speech appealing to the ideologues. Robinson was able to go further than Donaldson did in his tedious wheedling conference speech but it will have no effect. The day after Robinson’s BBC interviews, unelected naysayers were out in force on BBC and social media.

Lord Empey
Lord Empey Lord Empey

Of course, Robinson’s correct that the DUP will not get all they want but it wouldn’t have been prudent to tell the whole truth, namely that they’re not going to get anything they want. They got the Windsor Framework and that’s it.

DUP's impossible demands

The party issued a statement repeating their impossible demands: ‘restoring our place in the union and our ability to trade within the UK and its internal market'. Not going to happen. Can‘t happen. Some of the naysayers were quoting the 2020 New Decade, Same Approach con job in which they claim the British promised unfettered UK trade. Nope.

Read Par 10 where the British promised ‘to guarantee unfettered access for Northern Ireland’s businesses to the whole of the UK internal market’. Fooled again. That’s only access for the north’s businesses to the UK internal market, not east-west because they couldn’t promise GB businesses unfettered access to the north.

Why? Simple: because the north is in the EU single market and the British have no say what enters the single market. That’s a matter for the EU.

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What the British have agreed, and reiterated in the Windsor Framework, is that the Irish Sea is the external border of the single market and that the British have undertaken to police that border on behalf of the EU and subject to EU rules and inspection. That fact that this agreement (the protocol) is an international trade deal in which devolved regions have no say remains forever beyond the grasp of the DUP ideologues and their loyalist keyboard warriors and ‘community workers’.

It's a delicious irony that one of the customs sheds where inspections will be carried out is in Larne in the constituency of the DUP’s loudest protester, Sammy Wilson.

DUP MP Sammy Wilson tweeted a picture of himself holding sausages in 2021, claiming "chilled British sausages are a threat to the peace process" and calling for the "farcical" Northern Ireland Protocol to go
DUP MP Sammy Wilson tweeted a picture of himself holding sausages in 2021, claiming "chilled British sausages are a threat to the peace process" and calling for the "farcical" Northern Ireland Protocol to go DUP MP Sammy Wilson tweeted a picture of himself holding sausages in 2021, claiming "chilled British sausages are a threat to the peace process" and calling for the "farcical" Northern Ireland Protocol to go

Wilson is correct in what he says about the difficulties for GB goods coming to the north and those difficulties will increase as Britain diverges from EU rules. As a result, people will turn to the Republic as an unfettered source of guaranteed high quality goods and materials.

Then again, as Lord Empey says, isn’t all that what the DUP supported on October 2 2019 when they welcomed Johnson’s Irish Sea border plan to ‘Get Brexit Done’?

As for the other demand, restoring the place in the union, unfortunately every UK court found the protocol has no constitutional implications.