Though the surprisingly prolonged talks between the Democratic Unionist Party and the Conservatives may give the appearance of inevitable failure, in reality the Tories are unlikely to walk away from their only sure path back to continued governance in the United Kingdom. Conversely the far-right and ultra-nationalist grouping from the UK-administered north-east of Ireland will almost certainly ensure that a deal is done. One which will further its own political and communal power in the disputed region. So what items are on the substantial list of demands being made by Arlene Foster and her ten Westminster MPs in return for propping up lame duck prime minister Theresa May? The Dupes might be offering hints and suggestions in public and private, and the Irish and British media might be making a series of educated guesses, however, much of the speculation is filled with deliberate chaff and confusion.
The Democratic Unionists want what they have always wanted: the political, legal and cultural supremacy of a British separatist minority within Britain’s reduced colonial territory on the island of Ireland. The specific details of the demands, the language and the terminology, the tactics and the strategies, may have changed but the overall objective is the same: no surrender. Using previous DUP discussion documents and election manifestos, taken with current information leaking from the backdoor coalition negotiations, we can outline the following items that may be on the regional party’s shopping list:
- A diminution of the cross-party, intergovernmental Good Friday or Belfast Agreement of 1998. That is, the peace deal which effectively ended three decades of insurgency and counterinsurgency conflict in the UK-ruled Six Counties. In particular, a rolling back of “Dublin interference” in Belfast affairs, a key concession to the northern nationalist community and the government of Ireland under the Irish-British peace process.
- A block on any possible reunification referendum in the north-east of the country for the next five years, regardless of local political, electoral or demographic circumstances. A unity plebiscite in the event of a fifty/fifty nationalist and unionist split in the contested territory is another foundation block of the Good Friday Agreement.
- A “hands-off” approach by London towards the region’s supposedly unique cultural and social traditions. In other words, the British state facilitating the anachronistic fusion of unionist politics and Protestant fundamentalism, an ideology which manifests itself in a militant opposition to Roman Catholicism, homosexuality, marriage equality, feminism, abortion and anything perceived as liberal or progressive within the confines of the Six Counties.
- The “Britishcisation” of the United Kingdom’s legacy colony through concessions to the Orange Order and others, with the removal of restrictions on disputed parades and marches, a greater use of UK flags and symbols in official buildings, signs and documentation, and the introduction of distinctly British public holidays.
- Conversely, and as would be expected from a fanatically hibernophobic party, a drastic suppression of any outward signs of Irishness in public spaces, including the continued ban on the use of the Irish language in the UK-controlled regional courts, no equality for Irish-speakers through legislation and no recognition or funding of all-Ireland structures.
- A significantly increased number of official visits by members of Britain’s royal family to the north-east.
- Greater impediments to visits by the President of Ireland.
- A de facto general amnesty for members of Britain’s Armed Forces and allied services, military, paramilitary and intelligence, for war crimes or acts of terrorism committed in Ireland during the historical conflict or “Irish-British Troubles” from 1966 to 2005.
- The renewal of post-conflict arrests, detentions, prosecutions and imprisonments of former Irish republican insurgents despite the carefully negotiated commitments given to the Republican Movement two decades ago by Britain in order to end the “Long War”.
- The establishment of a so-called “IRA Victims’ Fund” to channel tax-payers’ money to persons injured or otherwise effected by the military campaign of the Irish Republican Army. A majority of these compensation payments would inevitably go to unionist communities in the north of Ireland, particularly to former members of the British forces, including allied pro-UK terror gangs, or their families.
- A commitment by the UK government to fully budget a “Northern Ireland Investment Fund“, to oversee infrastructure projects and increased capital spending on health and education.
- The replacement of European Union funding for the Six Counties, in full, by the Treasury in London, particularly in the important area of agriculture.
- Setting a unique, regional corporation tax set between 10% and 12.5%, equal to or significantly lower than that of the United Kingdom or Ireland in order to attract foreign direct investment.
- A significant cut or total abolition of airport passenger duty tax for the region’s airports.
- The allocation of funds for predominantly unionist neighbourhoods and constituencies, funnelled through state and DUP-associated organisations, including terrorist-influenced bodies loosely affiliated to the party. Some of this would be used to fund loyalist community groups, bands, the Orange Order and so-called “Ulster-Scots” advocacy groupings.
- Increased transport and communication links between Britain and its overseas’ outpost, with a proposed (and entirely fantastical) maritime bridge or undersea tunnel between County Antrim and south-west Scotland.
- A transfer of some post-Brexit UK government departments and agencies to the Six Counties, using a mixture of locally recruited employees and relocated civil service staff from Britain.
- An increase in the size and number of British military bases and installations in the north, with training and logistical units, and administrative departments permanently relocated from Britain.
- Restrictions on Sinn Féin, including the party’s access to the House of Commons and Westminster in general, with a loss of public-finances, as available to all other parties with elected MPs.
- A further suspension of overdue constituency boundary changes for Westminster elections in the north which would generally favour the nationalist community. That or some form of gerrymandering to ensure the continuation of an artificial hegemony for pro-union parties.
- The reinforcement of partition, in line with the DUP’s off-the-record briefings, and at odds with its public pronouncements about favouring a “soft” Brexit border around the Six Counties.
- Full disengagement from the European Union, including if necessary from the Single Market and the Customs Union, along with the rest of the United Kingdom. This is the so-called “hard Brexit” option, a crash-and-burn severance of UK-EU relations, ushering in a new era of British isolationism.
- A guarantee of no “Irish Sea EU-UK customs border” between Ireland, including the Six Counties, and Britain, a relatively straightforward solution favoured by some officials in Dublin and Brussels.
- No designation of the Six Counties as a “Special Status Region” between the United Kingdom, Ireland and the European Union.
- A withdrawal of Britain from the European Court of Human Rights and associated conventions and treaties, a crucial component of the negotiated peace deals of the late 1990s and early 2000s.
- Tighter restrictions on immigration to the United Kingdom and on the rights of non-nationals to access employment, social welfare, education, health, and so on. In other words, a “Britons first” policy.
- The end of the television licence fee in the UK with the gradual “reform” of the BBC, including partial-privatisation of the public service broadcaster, in line with the DUP’s opposition to the “liberal media”.
It remains to be seen how many of these DUP hardline demands will be brought to the talks’ table and how many the Tories will yield to.