She came, she saw, she fucked off home. That summed up yesterday’s visit by Theresa May, the United Kingdom’s crisis-prone prime minister, to her country’s colonial outpost across the Irish Sea. Along with Taoiseach, Leo Varadkar, both heads of government dropped in to Belfast to stamp their imprimatur on a likely deal between Sinn Féin and the Democratic Unionist Party to restore the power-sharing regional assembly at Stormont. And both went away empty-handed, even Fine Gael’s notorious prince of smooth failing to make much of an impression on the pugnacious DUP boss, Arlene Foster, and her coterie of pro-union hardliners.
While the signs had been promising earlier in the day, with whispers of an imminent agreement, the Dupes pulled the plug on the potential sign-off, believing that Irish and British officials were attempting to bounce them into excessive concessions on SF’s progressive agenda on language rights, equal marriage and so on.
From the Guardian newspaper in the UK:
Theresa May has left Northern Ireland without a deal that would have seen the restoration of power-sharing government in the region.
The prime minister and the Irish taoiseach, Leo Varadkar, had travelled to Belfast on Monday hoping that the main parties represented in the Stormont assembly would reach a compromise ending 13 months of political deadlock.
But for the second time in less than a year the Democratic Unionist party kept May waiting. The party held out for a deal over several weeks last summer with the prime minister and the Tories that kept May in Downing Street after the general election. That eventually resulted in the DUP’s confidence and supply arrangement with the Tories, which still shores up the minority Conservative government.
On Monday the DUP was holding out on another deal May was seeking, this time involving compromises over Sinn Féin’s demands for an Irish language act that would lead to the resurrection of a cross-community government in Belfast.
DUP sources said there was still grave disquiet over any deal that could be perceived as the party supporting a stand-alone Irish language act that would put Gaelic on the same legal status as English throughout Northern Ireland.
It seems that Arlene Foster and the DUP in Belfast are the people calling the political shots in the United Kingdom, not the elected government or parties in London.