By Brian Feeney (for Irish News)
The 20 million pounds that’s going to be shovelled into the families of the former part-time RUC reserve is a profoundly dishonourable deal and not just because it’s so obviously a bribe.
To a British government that is 175 billion pounds in the red it’s chickenfeed, so if they believed in the merits of the case they could have paid out years ago.
It’s dishonourable because both the DUP and the Northern Ireland Office have tied the payment into the wheeling and dealing to drag Peter Robinson and his dirty dozen dissidents over the line into a deal on policing and justice.
The NIO of course does not believe in the merits of the RUCR case. Our silent invisible proconsul knows full well that the millions will benefit exclusively the unionist community who made up 99 per cent of the reserve, that pouring the money into one community is a wholly sectarian decision which contravenes all the principles about equality the NIO mouths.
Anyone done an equality impact assessment on giving a boost solely to the economy of loyalist districts? Thought not.
Why would they? The NIO officials don’t care and no proconsul has ever provided any evidence that he cared what nationalists thought.
At least the proconsul is consistent in following the practice of his predecessors by advising Gordon Brown to bribe the DUP.
It has to be said so is the DUP in following an age-old unionist tradition of selling out principles at the sight of the queen’s head. Think back 30 years to the dirty deal the UUP made with the Labour Party in the late 1970s to get extra seats for the north.
They took the advice of Enoch Powell, an entirely appropriate accomplice for the Ulster Unionists, a racist, reviled and ostracised by the majority of his own party, an empire loyalist like the unionists, a man living far in the past who dreamed of being the last viceroy of India.
Naturally the UUP took him to their bosom and were only delighted to offer him a safe seat in South Down.
Alas in that scheme, as with all other unionist ploys, the law of unintended consequences immediately came into play.
The Labour government enjoyed being shored up by the UUP for a few months and then, thank you and goodbye. Within three years the extra seats had propelled John Hume into the House of Commons and Gerry Adams into the West Belfast seat.
There was a similar exercise in the 1980s after the Anglo-Irish Agreement of 1985. Although unionist MPs publicly boycotted British ministers, in fact they accepted all kinds of goodies for their constituencies but by 1987 Seamus Mallon and Eddie McGrady had joined John Hume in Westminster.
There’s no need to narrate all the other deals that duped unionists like the invention of the RIR which by sleight of hand led directly to the abolition of that last native regiment of foot in the empire, the UDR. Oh, how delighted unionists were that the RIR would be fully integrated into the British army and it was - just in time for the so-called home service battalions to be disbanded.
They never learnt the lesson Seamus Mallon taught them in the House of Commons after one of their ‘deals’. Mallon put it succinctly and prophetically when he told them, “If you can be bought, you can be sold”.
The last few years have demonstrated conclusively that no-one has been more successful in selling himself than Peter Robinson.
Every single detail of DUP policy has been turned on its head since the party trounced the UUP in the 2005 British general election. Each time a principle has been jettisoned Robinson has been able to dangle some bright bauble in front of his backwoodsmen.
The DUP can’t protest to Gordon Brown, ‘Do you think we have no political principles?’ because Brown will reply, ‘I thought we had already established that. All we’re doing now is negotiating your latest price’.
Robinson has long ago agreed in principle to devolving policing and justice. What we’re witnessing now is the long, drawn-out tawdry process of buying him. It’s frustrating but in the end the British will deliver him, bought and paid for.