By Brian Feeney (for Irish News)
There’s one aspect of the chronically defective unionist leadership through the decades that you have to admit: consistency.
They oppose everything as a fundamentally fatal threat to the foetid little political slum they set up here.
They opposed civil rights, organised protests, beat up marchers, killed some Catholics as tradition requires, but civil rights came. They opposed the Sunningdale agreement in 1974, despite being told they would never again have an administration without sharing power with Fenians. They opposed the Anglo-Irish agreement in 1985; no, no, navaar. The Irish and British governments carried on with it. The DUP opposed the Good Friday agreement in 1998 and continued to do so despite it winning 72 per cent support in the north’s referendum.
They opposed the parades legislation and engaged in huge medieval style battles with the parachute regiment in mud outside Portadown. The legislation was enforced. In between, the DUP opposed homosexual law reform in Paisley’s ludicrously disgraceful ‘Save Ulster from Sodomy’ campaign (though not ludicrous for his victims). They opposed same sex marriage – still do. They oppose abortion. Do you notice anything? They never succeeded once in doing other than delaying the implementation of anything they opposed. Of course they also succeeded in making eejits of themselves and disgracing unionists who don’t agree with their antics. Those people shook their heads in disgust as they watched the scenes at Drumcree on Sky TV in bars in the south of Spain.
Now of course, being consistent, they have to oppose the Irish protocol. As Emerson (Ralph, not Newton) said, “A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds, adored by little statesmen, philosophers and divines.” Remind you of anyone? Unionism’s current ideas and opinions have always been dictated by outdated beliefs and past practice.
As a result of their antediluvian world view unionists never believe they have to propose any alternative to a new development, policy, or, as they see it, a threat to change what they’re accustomed to. It seems the motto is, never negotiate, it’s a sign of weakness. The result, as you see from their record of failure and defeat, is instead of ending up with fifty per cent of something they end up with a hundred per cent of nothing.
There’s something else you might notice: the decline of unionists’ power to influence events or policies. In 1974, unhindered by the RUC, their armed militia the UDR, and the British army, they brought the north to a standstill.
In 1985 they brought over 100,000 to Belfast City Hall to demonstrate against the Anglo-Irish Agreement; to no avail. A decade later the Drumcree protests failed. In 2013 the flag protests wrecked unionist districts only. Some say shopping in east Belfast’s main thoroughfares never recovered. The recent attacks on police that the stupid rhetoric of unionist politicians incited were carried out by teenagers who caused depredation to their own districts.
All the unionist weeping and wailing and gnashing of teeth about the protocol come down to the familiar, consistent unionist position: opposition, but no proposal, no alternative. Look, let’s say it again. If you leave the EU single market and customs union there has to be a trade border. The UK and EU agreed in 2017 and the USA reiterated in 2021, that it couldn’t be on the island of Ireland which the DUP secretly desired. They opposed Theresa May’s every effort to devise an alternative to one in the Irish Sea. It’s no good blaming the Irish government and the EU for what happened. It’s no use complaining about checks on sliced ham and sausages since the hard Brexit the DUP supported requires no alignment with the EU’s phyto-sanitary regulations.
Maybe the current meetings between Lord Frost and Maros Sefcovic can come up with some form of alignment, but instead of mendaciously suggesting opposition on the streets can overturn it, the DUP needs to own the Brexit they promoted.