According to the Times: “Sweeteners for Northern Ireland and a peerage for the Rev Ian Paisley, dropping sanctions on Cuba and the governorship of Bermuda were among the offers the Government is thought to have used to secure Gordon Browns victory in yesterdays vote.” Not only that, but also:
…it emerged that the DUP had been given an assurance that backbench MPs seeking to use the embryology Bill to remove the bar on abortion in Northern Ireland would be stopped.
Also on the DUP wish list were the profits from the sale of redundant Ministry of Defence sites and a £200 million water bill to be funded by London while the Province introduces its own water charges. Third on the list was a financial shortfall identified for the transfer of policing and justice powers to Stormont as part of the devolution measures.
It may not be not pretty, but in the wider world it is called exerting maximal political leverage. A point not lost on MP and new Environment Minister Sammy Wilson:
“The good thing for us is that it proves now beyond doubt that the DUP MPs are crucial and we will be reminding them of that on each and every occasion that that comes into play, which will probably be more and more often now.”
Ever ‘Kings of the Message, it was left to Willie McCrea to keep the party’s options open to a likely future Tory government:
“Our natural home would have been with the Conservatives … but Northern Ireland has faced 35 years of terrorism. Many of our members know personally what it’s like to face terrorism. It’s not a matter of playing a political game.”
This move was not exactly decisive in terms of the provenance of Northern Irish influence at Westminster. But it flags to those previously complacent elements within the Republican movement that the easy gains amongst the liberal London establishment of the Blair years are now over. With Powell and Blair gone from Number 10, the DUP have shown themselves more than capable of playing hard ball where and when it counts.
Game and set perhaps. But the Northern Irish match for dominant influence over hearts and minds has still has some way to run.