People are focusing attention on the wrong things in the DUP deal

The Guardian yesterday wrote a woeful article about the DUPs links to Ulster Resistance (you can read that article here). I have already discussed the lazy labelling of the party as terrorist sympathisers, dealing at length with both their Ulster Protestant Volunteers and Ulster Resistance links. You can read those comments here. The pertinent comments to bear in mind regarding the Guardian article are these:

1. Notice the total lack of pictures of any DUP member holding weaponry
2. Wearing uniform does not make a paramilitary group. If it did, the Boys Brigade and Scouts are in trouble.
3. The DUP had severed all links before the organisation teamed up the UDA & UVF. The organisation made such links because the political clout it had through DUP links had disappeared.
4. Peter Taylor, in his book Loyalists, sought evidence that Paisley had any involvement in procuring weapons. His suggestion was repeatedly rebuffed by men who have no love for the man.
5. The closest to a link the article can establish is that Emma Pengelly’s father, Noel Little, was (potentially) involved in gun running. She was 9 at the time.
6. Most loyalist men have no love for Paisley or the DUP leadership because of the consistency with which the party denounced their activities and the language with which they did it.

The one thing we should avoid is calling the DUP terrorist sympathisers. The history of the party and the consistency with which they have denounced terrorist organisations, the lack of any real links, pictures or loyalists citing DUP involvement in terror activities mean the label is not credibly open.

In a similarly foolish Guardian article, Stella Creasy argued the DUP are denying women their reproductive rights. Likewise, the Labour Party – in a misguided and dangerous move – determined in the manifesto to impose Great British abortion law on the region. I will not rehearse all the reasons why this is a major problem here, I would encourage you to read this article on it instead. The three most significant points are: (a) both communities are overwhelmingly pro-life; (b) all parties in Northern Ireland, in line with the democratic will of the people, are not pro-choice (not just the DUP); and, (c) Jeremy Corbyn supported Sinn Fein throughout the troubles, a party determined to stand against what they perceived as ‘British rule’. For Labour to suggest imposing an abortion law upon the region against the overwhelming view of the people, is not only fundamentally hypocritical given their leadership’s historic stance in the region, it is downright dangerous in respect to maintaining the peace. You can read the full article to see this fleshed out in more detail.

Nor is it right to over-focus on the power-sharing agreement. There is no doubt that the Conservatives going into an agreement with the DUP has long-term ramifications for the Stormont government. The British strategy of neutrality is being undercut. Not only are the Conservatives in hock to the DUP but Theresa May is now arguing ‘Britain will never be neutral’ on defending Northern Ireland’s place within the United Kingdom. However, let us remember that it was Sinn Fein’s leader in Northern Ireland – Martin McGuinness – who brought down the power-sharing executive shortly before his death earlier this year. It should be noted that this was not even over any perceived historical issue but a financially mismanaged green energy scheme that was marked by, at best, incompetence. To argue that power-sharing is “now” in danger is disingenuous because the executive had already collapsed thanks to the late Sinn Fein Deputy First Minister. The power-sharing agreement was already under threat long before the Con-DUP deal.

Further, the emphasis on DUP policies that don’t play so well in Great Britain should not be over-emphasised. The DUP are a democratically elected party in the United Kingdom parliament. The Conservatives – for good or ill – won the largest majority of all UK political parties. This gives them a democratic mandate to seek to form either a minority government, confidence and supply deal or coalition. They are welcome to do this with whichever democratically elected UK parties are willing to work with them. By all means, continue to make the argument against their policies and oppose the decisions they make if you will. But to argue they have no mandate to attempt to form some sort of government is simply foolish.

The legitimate and reasonable point that should be focused upon is the £1bn deal struck between the two parties. Theresa May has spent the entire general election campaign banging on about there being no ‘magic money tree’. Any time Labour determined that something could be funded, they were derided as appealing to some fantasy fiscal fund that simply did not exist. For 8 years, the Conservatives have refused to give even inflationary pay rises to public sector workers (except police, of course, with whom they have a special deal). This means public sector workers have had real terms pay cuts and many who went into their profession 8 years ago have found their pay decreasing in value. For them, there was simply the derisory rebuff with which they palmed off every Labour pledge: ‘no magic money tree’.

Imagine our surprise, then, that £1bn was suddenly discovered when Theresa May’s government looked as though it would be unable to govern. Note how hollow the DUP calls of working ‘in the best interests of the whole UK’ sound when it turns out they have secured an extra £1bn for Northern Ireland at the expense of every other UK region. The argument sounds even more hollow when the Guardian report:

A leading cabinet minister [Michael Fallon] has rejected the idea that the £1bn of extra spending for Northern Ireland is a “bung” to the Democratic Unionists to prop up the government, arguing it is necessary investment for a more deprived part of the UK.

How interesting that ‘necessary investment’ was only forthcoming when the Conservative Party were in need of partners to prop up their government. How convenient that ‘necessary investment’ in Northern Ireland coincides with partners coming from Northern Ireland. What a coincidence that the precise amount of extra investment being requested by the largest party in the region was immediately found at the point they entered into an agreement with the government.

It should be a national outrage that nurses, doctors, teachers and others have repeatedly been given real terms cuts on the ground of there being no money but, as soon as the government require the support of a party asking for extra cash, it is immediately found. What clearer evidence do we need of ideological undercutting of the public sector? The money existed and was not released for those working in public sector roles but was swiftly discovered for Northern Ireland when their votes were required to help the Tories cling onto power. At a time when teachers are leaving the profession in droves and we are, once again, facing a shortage of nurses the government choose to repeatedly do down the incentives to train and remain. After all there is no magic money tree. Apparently, however, they managed to genetically modify one as soon as the possibility of Tory MPs leaving parliament in droves rears its head.

This, dear friends, ought to be the focus of any outrage. The DUP are a democratically elected UK party. Much of the mud being slung in their direction is, at best, unfair and often untrue. They have negotiated a deal for their region which, given the opportunity, you can bet your bottom dollar any other minority party would have sought to do the same. The government, on the other hand, have repeatedly insisted there is no money. They have repeatedly cut people’s wages, living standards, benefits and the like all on the grounds that ‘there is no magic money tree’. Yet no sooner than the votes have been counted, they are flinging money at a party to prop up their ailing government. Michael Fallon is entirely wrong to decry the claim of it being a “bung” for that is precisely what it is. Not only a bung, but a bung paid for by every public sector worker who has seen their salaries cut year on year.

Theresa May has fleeced the people and done so to save her own skin. If Sinn Fein could bring down the Stormont executive over the DUP’s financial mismanagement – which was primarily a matter of mere bungling incompetence – is this not worse? It is one thing for the government to seek an agreement with another democratically elected party, it is quite another to offer financial incentives for obvious personal gain at the expense of those who elected you to govern. It is surely nothing less than an abuse of power and does call into question her mandate. What is clear is that nobody voted for this deal.

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