The lecturer Paul Burgess has written a blunt opinion piece for RTÉ castigating the Irish government for its handing of the British Brexit crisis and its supposed “weaponising” of the Good Friday Agreement of 1998. However, in his piece the Belfast-born author admits that the hopes and aspirations of the Democratic Unionist Party, which has held a whip hand over the minority Conservative Party government in London since 2017, have less to do with Brexiteer notions of establishing a post-withdrawal Empire 2.0 in Britain and everything to do with imposing a Partition 2.0 in Ireland.
Behind the DUP’s insistence that a hard border on the island of Ireland in undesirable lies a single-minded constitutional imperative to maintain the Union, no matter what. It is in their DNA. It is what they do. Business and trade union leaders and farmer’s unions may have to be faced down. Economic forecasts may be bleak in the extreme. Demographic and democratic inevitabilities will be placed on hold. The “precious Union”must maintain above all else.
…behind closed doors, well-rehearsed rhetoric always comes to the fore. DUP apparatchiks are more likely to be cursing Theresa May as a treacherous Lundy and re-affirming an adamant no-surrender in the face of perceived constitutional subterfuge by Dublin and the EU.
The Tories might throw billions of pounds at it, but the DUP will always assert that their birth right cannot be bought. And so the advent of a hardened border – perhaps further reinforcing partition and re-affirming British separateness from an aspirational unitary state – is (whisper it) devoutly to be wished by Arlene and the gang.
In truth, the DUP is playing its own game in the Brexit shambles that has befallen north-western Europe, pursuing an agenda that it believes will reverse the advances made under the regional and international accords of 1998. Accords that the Democratic Unionists originally campaigned against, including some of the group’s leaders like Arlene Foster and Jeffrey Donaldson, who resigned in protest from the rival Ulster Unionist Party in 2003 because of the UUP’s support for the peace process. It’s ridiculous to blame any government in Ireland, regardless of its makeup, for the United Kingdom’s chaotic retreat from the European Union when the Brexit movement as a whole in the UK has displayed little interest in the political and socio-economic stability of this island. Or worse, has displayed a degree of malevolence when it has concluded that Irish concerns must bow to British ones. Instead of putting forward a mendacious argument along the lines of a plague on both your houses, blame those who hoped to benefit from the release of the plague in the first place.