The intransigence and pettiness of the DUP is spurring increased interest in a united Ireland among unionists, according to one unionist leader.
UUP leader Doug Beattie (pictured) has said he has been contacted by people who are “united Ireland curious” because of the DUP’s long-running boycott which has paralysed the North’s political institutions.
“The longer this goes on, the more people are going to look for alternatives,” he said, speaking to local radio. “There is a real risk that Northern Ireland becomes a failed part of the United Kingdom.”
The DUP, led by Jeffrey Donaldson, walked out of the Six-County devolved government at Stormont in early 2022 in a protest against post-Brexit trade arrangements. That has continued, despite successive negotiations and agreements designed to appease their demands.
Unionist hardliners have been denouncing imagined and exaggerated outcomes of the Brexit deal, and there was anger this week when a small number of food items in stores in the North bore the words ‘Not for EU’. The lettering has appeared on labels as part of new regulations for trade across what unionists describe as the ‘Irish Sea Border’.
But after months of stalemate, there is a growing consensus that the DUP, the largest unionist party, has lost interest in sharing power. Unionists no longer outnumber nationalists in the Six Counties and polls have shown a declining support for hardline unionism.
Despite this, unionists continue to throw up other controversies, such as their attempt to bill the British Exchequer for £12,000 for a monument to commemorate the partition of Ireland in 1922.
Tory minister Steve Baker admitted some DUP figures with the “hardest lines of opinion” would reject any deal.
“One of the things I have said, and I may regret saying this, is one of things I’ve noticed is some of the people opposed to the Windsor Framework were also opposed to Belfast-Good Friday Agreement, and to some of them it’s going to be very difficult to sell anything,” he said.
DUP MPs Sammy Wilson and Ian Paisley Jr and former leaders Edwin Poots, Nigel Dodds and Arlene Foster are seen as the biggest sources of potential conflict within the DUP.
Meanwhile, the co-chair of a large group of US politicians visiting Ireland has said his country wants to be active partners in finding solutions to the Stormont deadlock.
More than 200 delegates from the American Irish State Legislators Caucus have been visiting Stormont where they were taking part in a number of events.
The group includes current and former Democrat and Republican senators and members of Congress from across 44 states. They held a panel discussion with representatives of the North’s five largest parties and also met business leaders during their visit.
Stormont speaker Alex Maskey said the size of the US visit was a vote of confidence in the devolved institutions.
Responding to a question around whether parties felt embarrassed meeting the delegation in Parliament Buildings that were not functioning politically, Mr Murphy said if there was embarrassment it should belong to the DUP.
He said his party has had meetings with the London government over the summer, and detected “no urgency” to get Stormont functioning again. He said his party raised that with Irish premier Leo Varadkar when he visited Belfast earlier this month.
“The penny seems to be dropping in Dublin at least,” he said.
“It is not a tenable situation to allow this to drift on. We’re moving now into the implementation phase of the (Brexit) protocol arrangements and the DUP are still holding out in terms of negotiations.
“The two governments are co-guarantors of the Good Friday Agreement, they have a responsibility for taking action, for working together in the first instance, which would be a welcome development, and taking action to ensure that these institutions are put back in place.
“It shouldn’t continue one day longer. It wasn’t tenable when the DUP brought down the institutions, and it’s certainly not tenable now.”