Journalists are just as susceptible to “fake news” as anyone else, especially when the news chimes with their own beliefs or prejudices. That is certainly the case with the press in Ireland and the United Kingdom which has largely accepted the Democratic Unionist Party’s claim that it opposes a so-called “hard border” in Ireland, despite its insistence that a “hard Brexit” is the necessary outcome of any parliamentary agreement with the Conservative Party in London. Obviously, these dual positions are incompatible. There can be no invisible partition line between the UK-ruled Six Counties and the rest of the island if Britain crashes out of the European Union, including the common market and customs area. The media’s gullibility resembles the thinking of those commentators who accept Bill Cosby’s quixotic protests of innocence while also acknowledging his admission that he used narcotics to render female companions or acquaintances insensible. The two things cannot be reconciled.
The DUP has been uncomfortable with the all-Ireland, nationalist-accommodating dimensions of the peace settlement in the north-east of the country since the original Good Friday Agreement of 1998. Very little has happened over the last two decades to change that. Arlene Foster may enjoy the prestige of the power-sharing executive in the north-east of the country, but it is entirely for venal and communal reasons. The Democratic Unionists have made it clear since the ascension of the formerly thuggish politico Peter Robinson in 2008 that they regard Stormont as their “parliament” and “government” with northern nationalists functioning as house-trained Uncle Toms. The party as a whole has reaped the rewards of that attitude, politically and financially. However, in the DUP hinterland the slow evaporation of the boundary between north and south has caused anxiety and apprehension. In recent years the frontiersmen of hardline unionism have demanded that twenty years of “soft reunification” be reversed and Brexit has become the mechanism of that reversal. One that the Dupes and their sometime fellow travellers in the gun-gangs of the UDA and UVF have embraced.
The Democratic Unionist Party will likely get to keep its cake and eat it to, thanks to the desperation of Theresa May and the electorally-wounded Tories in Britain. The shrunken overseas’ outpost of Greater England will be showered with funding from the UK, upgrading health services, social welfare provisions, educational needs, roads and rail networks, driving a large developmental wedge between Ireland north and south. This will happen in part because of the DUP conviction that making the British occupied north more attractive to its inhabitants, a more cushioned place, will persuade soft nationalists to become soft unionists. Or at least economically so. And thus the death rattle of the Northern Pale, in reality all of two-and-a-half counties, will be put off for another decade or more.
At the end of the day, the DUP’s objectives are not about prosperity, or Brexit, or the betterment of people’s lives in the Six Counties or the neighbouring United Kingdom. Its about the fucking border, stupid!