Despite several months of talks – and non-talks – the Democratic Unionist Party still doesn’t get it. There will be no return to a unionist hegemony at Stormont under the guise of power-sharing, no restoration of a ministerial platform for the bigoted and the corrupt. Last night’s speech by the DUP boss, Arlene Foster, proposing a revived executive and assembly for the north-east of the country, has been rejected out-of-hand by Michelle O’Neill, Sinn Féin’s regional leader, and rightly so. The so-called deal put forward by the Fermanagh MLA amounts to nothing more than a transparent attempt to bring back the political status quo of 2007-2016, with pro-union hardliners once again dictating terms to the elected representatives of the northern nationalist community.
…what we cannot and will not do is simply agree to one-sided demands.
I have also heard from those within the Unionist community who hear others speaking about respect whilst at the same time they engage in a campaign to denigrate and demonise any and all aspects of our British identity in Northern Ireland or insult the Ulster Scots community. That is not acceptable.
I am proposing that we restore an Executive immediately. Put Ministers back into posts so that decisions can be made and that Northern Ireland can have a government again.
But we also agree to bring forward legislation to address culture and language issues in Northern Ireland within a time-limited period to be agreed. If we fail to do that in a way that commands cross community support then the Executive would cease to exist.
Which simply means another four years of unionist delaying tactics, coupled with periodic moments of crisis, where true equality between the contested territory’s Irish and British populations will be postponed indefinitely. As the former senior Ulster Unionist Party MP, Lord Kilclooney, stated during the week in the terminology of the American alt-right, nationalists are not equal to unionists, and the DUP has proven itself eager to put that prejudicial sentiment into practice for over a decade.
Of course, Arlene Foster also has a bigger goal in mind, one which pro-union politicians of all stripes are absolutely desperate to see in place: a loyalist-led government reigning supreme at Stormont for the year 2021:
In 2021, Northern Ireland will celebrate its centenary. Too much of the tale of our first century has been hallmarked by division. Now we stand on the cusp of a new century for Northern Ireland.
It is the duty of every republican, of every nationalist, of every progressive voice in Ireland and beyond to ensure that Britain’s colonial holdout on our island nation does not make it past its first century. To coin a phrase: beidh ár lá linn!