Thanks to Gary who drew to my attention this nasty little editorial from Irish American interest newspaper ‘Irish Voice’. Lauding the DUP / SF carve-up, Niall O’Dowd refers to the accord between Conservatives and Ulster Unionists, preposterously, as a ‘potentially sinister development’. It is an article which revisits a series of common nationalist misapprehensions as to the nature of the Belfast Agreement already examined on Three Thousand Versts. Additionally, it highlights a phenomenon which has always been observable but has become increasingly apparent since the Conservative / UUP accord. The most conventional nationalists are much more comfortable, much less disorientated, by the DUP’s little Ulster sectional ‘unionism’ than the inclusive pan-UK vision which will be advanced by the new political force.
There is little point in reprising arguments which I have made exhaustively in previous pieces. The crux is that the British government is not required to maintain neutrality on the question of Northern Ireland’s constitutional position. Ironically, for many years nationalists urged governments in Westminster to become ‘persuaders’ for a united Ireland. Indeed the Labour party’s stated position until the mid 1990s was ‘unity by consent’. Now we are told that neutrality is a cardinal virtue (although evidently not for the Republic’s government). The British government must simply uphold the principle of consent and accept the decision of the people of Northern Ireland as to what the province’s constitutional status should be.
Peter Brooke’s ‘selfish strategic or economic interest’ remark, which it turns out nationalism so prized, was self-evidently nonsense from the moment it was conceived. At the time it served a purpose, stilling apprehension amongst nationalists, but it was always based on an insoluble paradox. There is a clear framework now by which Northern Ireland’s governance and constitutional status will be guided. Nonsensical comfort blankets should no longer be needed, much less when they cause sharp offence to one side of the constitutional argument.
This morning O’Neill highlights virulent DUP rhetoric aimed at Westminster. With Sinn Féin and the greener elements of the SDLP, Weir’s party represents Northern Ireland adrift from London, adamantly opposed to its interest. Therefore nationalism finds it is increasingly comfortable with the DUP and strongly suspicious of an alliance which offers people here direct participation in the government of the United Kingdom.