Paul Arthur in yesterday’s Irish Times notes that most analysis of recent political developments is largely overly focused on the short term (Subs needed) choreography of the two main parties. But looked at in the light of longer term trends, he argues, Unionism still lacks a proactive leadership, and Republicans are still in denial.
The current political and media pressure on the DUP masks the success of that party on a number of fronts:
Despite Ian Paisley’s posturing, the word “No” has been removed from the DUP lexicon. And despite his recent and prolonged return to rude good health, the Democratic Unionist leadership is more collective and (one might say) more ecumenical. It is now a sophisticated professional organisation that reads the political runes as well as the next.
One of their more successful slogans has been “no guns, no government”. Admittedly the success of that policy owes more to geopolitics and the playing out of 9/11. But the fact remains that all shades of unionism have stuck to it tenaciously.
The second has been the constant refrain of “Sinn Féin/IRA” (and/or vice versa). So successful has it been that it has picked up prominent cheerleaders in Dublin. Indeed it may be too successful, in that the IRA adapted and inverted its meaning in P. O’Neill’s statement of July 28th last when the movement sent out a message of defiance. . . and of continuity: “We believe there is now an alternative way to achieve this [ Irish unity]”. The IRA has now become the handmaiden to Sinn Féin.
But in spite of the undoubtedly powerful politics of decommissioning and the organisational strength and intelligence of the DUP, not everything augurs for a successful and peaceful outcome:
The Sinn Féin president has produced his wish-list and the DUP are preparing 50 pages of demands for the Blair government. As recent violence indicates, the broader unionist community is dysfunctional and there has been a sad absence of political leadership. Republicans are in denial. The governments are in flux and continuity cannot be guaranteed.