By Brian Feeney (for Irish News)
‘What a fool I was. I was only a puppet, and so was Ulster, and so was Ireland, in the political game that was to get the Conservative Party into power... these terms were not passed on their merits. Not at all. They were passed with a revolver pointed at your heads. And you know it... ask your Lordships, ought unionist leaders to have been a party to that unionist leaders who had undertaken to defend unionist policy? Of all the men in my experience that I think the most loathsome it is those who will sell their friends for the purpose of conciliating their enemies.’
That is part of Carson’s maiden speech in the House of Lords a week after the Anglo-lrish treaty was signed in 1921. As a Lord justice of appeal he broke with convention to make a political speech in the Lords but he was so furious about the Treaty and the wee Home Rule toy shop in the north, he said, “What do I care?”
Unionists never learn do they? Carson was outraged that every so-called Conservative and Unionist in Westminster (with the exception of Bonar Law) had joined with the Liberals to vote for the Treaty after spending the previous decade resisting Home Rule and had certainly never contemplated what was in effect an independent Irish Free State. They sold the Irish unionists down the Swanee.
Is it so long since 1985 that unionists forget Lady Hacksaw, the most pro-union prime minister since Boner Law, signed the Anglo-Irish agreement enshrining a role for the Republic in the north’s affairs? Do they forget that after keeping John Major in office in the 1990s Major developed an ever-growing relationship with the taoiseach Albert Reynolds and pushed on with the Downing Street Declaration and the Framework document that laid the foundations for the Good Friday Agreement?
Yes, over the years unionist MPs did get some grubby crumbs like the odd new road or roundabout in their constituency or some dodgy planning permission but they never once managed to change British government policy. Maybe slow it down a bit, stall it but never stop its inexorable movement towards disengagement. It was Dessie Boal QC, Paisley’s old side kick, who warned unionists in the 1970s that every time they walked away from the negotiating table there was less on it the next time they returned. The reality is that the DUP had no intention of doing a deal on policing and justice before the British general election. You read that here more than a year ago. Their position in talks has been one of fraud, duplicity, deceit and delay.
The party never acted in good faith since 2007. Now they hope to receive their reward for prevarication. The Conservatives think they might need every vote they can muster if there’s a hung parliament after May’s election and there might be. Remember Cameron needs one of the biggest swings in British electoral history to win a working majority. So he will hold his nose and court even the nauseating DUP.
It’s no use attacking the DUP for grabbing at any hint of a deal. Why wouldn’t they? They’ve never shown any forward thinking or any grasp of the big picture. Once again to quote Seamus Mallon, ‘If you can be bought you can be sold’ but unionists never seem to remember that fate has always befallen them after trusting a British party.
Sit back now and watch the political equivalent of Oscar Wilde’s description of fox-hunting, ‘the unspeakable in pursuit of the uneatable’. In their headlong gallop to gain the potential support of the DUP the Conservatives have knocked poor bewildered Sir Reg never-to-be-MP Empey sideways, destroyed his daft UCUNF non-party at a stroke and scattered any eejits daft enough to join the local Conservatives in the forlorn belief they could be a non-sectarian party. In Carson’s words, all puppets in a political game to get the Conservatives into power.
What’s most entertaining is that unionists are so cheap to buy. They’re prepared to jettison any pretence at being a modern political phenomenon and reveal their essential sectarianism for what? If Cameron wins an overall majority it’s all for nothing.