Brexit, GFA Mark II & the DUP’s tricky situation

The deal is done, the Conservative Party cabinet members have parted ways and the identity of the Leave campaign leadership in Britain has become clear (Boris apart.)

But, locally, the political breakdown of the differing factions has been known for quite some time, and bears an uncanny resemblance to how things panned out in the Spring of 1998.

Then, for the Good Friday Agreement referendum, the DUP stood alone in leading the No campaign, albeit with the sympathies of many in the Ulster Unionist Party who would later go on to defect (and lead) the DUP.

Standing against the DUP was the combined leadership of northern nationalism in the form of Sinn Fein and the SDLP, as well as the ‘centre’ ground -including the Alliance Party- with the larger faction of the Ulster Unionist Party and the voices of loyalist paramilitarism, all cheered on and supported by the southern Irish political establishment, British government and indeed American government.

How things change, er, stay the same…..

It is clear that the Leave campaign will be championed in the north by the DUP and Jim Allister (and Theresa Villiers no less), whilst the position of both nationalist parties has been clear throughout- and, indeed, that of the Irish Government.…and a significant figure in the American political sphere. Even Billy Hutchinson has been out to proclaim his support for the Stay campaign.

Another point of interest during the past few months has been the almost indecent haste with which the DUP MPs have moved to position the party firmly in the Leave campaign when it appeared that Arlene Foster clearly preferred a more nuanced approach, seeking to buy more time to see what David Cameron’s final package of reforms would look like before declaring for the Leave campaign. In that, there is an indication as to where fault lines lie within the DUP which, in the event of electoral or political difficulties for the new leader arising in the future, will become more obvious and pronounced.

Intriguingly, the one-time significant DUP figure and now Chief Executive of Invest NI, Alastair Hamilton, certainly gave the impression in a rare BBC interview on The View this week that the task of attracting business interests into Northern Ireland was an easier one if the campaign to leave the EU was unsuccessful. Taken together with opinions expressed by senior figures in the Ulster Farmers Union (UFU) and Confederation of British Industry (CBI) in Northern Ireland, this suggests that the DUP may find itself vulnerable to the charge of taking risks with the interests of local businesses and the agriculture community.

Perhaps that was playing on Arlene’s mind when she – unconvincingly – declared the party’s support for the Leave campaign today.

Alas, her fellow DUP MLA, Paul Givan, showed no such signs of hesitation when he tweeted “It’s time to take back our country” while linking the tweet to the DUP announcement, a tweet he clearly later regretted because he subsequently deleted it.

Months of campaigning will follow, but it’s hard to see any outcome locally that doesn’t reflect the decisive result returned in 1998.

Stay will be the clear winner in the north, claiming a landslide victory within nationalism and the ‘middle ground,’ as well as a sizeable section of the unionist vote.

Indeed it will be interesting to see if the final percentage breakdown exceeds the 71% figure obtained by the Yes campaign in 1998. Anything less than 29-30% for the DUP-led Brexit campaign could be interpreted as the DUP losing ground within unionism, and it is this which may have convinced Ulster Unionist Party leader, Mike Nesbitt, to clearly infer in recent weeks that his party may opt to oppose Brexit, hoping to capitalise and build on any momentum developed in the Assembly elections which will precede the poll by only a matter of weeks.


  • mickfealty

    They will run that risk, if the UK actually leaves. I personally don’t see that as a significant risk myself.

  • Nevin

    How, er, things change:

    Control of our affairs in all of Ireland lies more than ever since 1921 outside the hands of the Irish people.

    The logical outcome of all this was the full immersion in the E.E.C. in the 1970’s. The Republican Movement opposed this North and South in 1972 and 1975 and continues to do so. It is against such political economic power blocks East and West and military alliances such as NATO and the Warsaw Pact. .. IRA Green Book

  • Jimmyz


  • Heather Richardson

    I wonder how much the DUP’s stance is influenced by the ‘end of days’ type of Christianity that sees the EU as paving the way for the apocalypse? Paisley, back at the time of the 1975 referendum, said the the EC (or was it called the Common Market then?) was ‘nothing less than the kingdom of the Anti-Christ.’ Maybe Arlene and co reckon their pro-Brexit approach will win over some Free P waverers – with an eye to the May election rather than June 23rd.

  • Gopher

    Save you the bother Chis.Being part of the UK just got us most favoured nation status. Try that trick with the Republic. Unionists are laughing their B****’S off. True we have to vote and I will vote against. Unionism has never been across the board stronger

  • Ryan

    “Being part of the UK just got us most favoured nation status”
    whatever your sniffing, stop…..Gopher…..please stop…..

  • Ryan

    “Intriguingly, the one-time significant DUP figure and now Chief Executive of Invest NI, Alastair Hamilton”
    Has Alastair had any influence on the allocation of investment from Invest NI? Stupid question. The Andersonstown News has for the past number of years pointed out the MASSIVE difference in investment in East/South Belfast (Protestant majority) compared to poverty stricken areas like West/North Belfast (Catholic majority). The vast bulk of investment has gone to E/S Belfast while W/N Belfast has got very little in comparison (West Belfast being 2nd in the UK for Worst Child Poverty), why is this happening? I wouldn’t trust the DUP or UUP to run this state for both communities any more than I would trust Jim Allister to run the commemorations for the Easter Rising. I’m making no accusations against Mr Hamilton but an ex DUP man being Chief Executive? Invest NI’s needs to explain why there’s massive differences between allocation of investment in Belfast. The figures over the past number of years is like something out of 1960’s Stormont. And anyone who knows Unionism couldn’t blame me, and many others, for our valid suspicions.

  • T.E.Lawrence

    Big Call 70 – 30 in NI. I go more for 60 – 40

  • Karl

    I wonder will the referendum revitalise voter turnout and given the latest trends, the nationalist vote in particular.

  • ranger1640

    Let’s see how republicans and socialists deal with ever greater union with the EU when according to Tommy McKearney of the socialist voice.

    ” The forthcoming referendum promised by David Cameron provides the serious left with a challenge that cannot be avoided. With heightened interest in the debate, it is important to avail of an opportunity to make people throughout Ireland aware of the nature and purpose of the EU and simultaneously to offer a realistic socialist alternative”.

    “A century after the 1916 Rising it would be timely and important to remind Irish people that control by the EU of monetary and fiscal policy, and a growing military commitment, are incompatible with the existence of a “sovereign, independent state” capable of defending the well-being of its citizens.

    It might also be timely to rework an old adage from that revolutionary era and point out that the EU’s difficulties could and should become an opportunity for the working class in Ireland and abroad. As a first step we need to engage energetically in the debate, providing a left critique of the EU that emphasises its core function and worrying future developments. As always, any critique also requires the outline of the realistic alternative offered by socialism”.

  • notimetoshine

    At the end of the day, the businesses go where they want to go, invest NI just facilitates.

  • Graham Parsons

    No, the DUP are simple folk, their stance is down to their dislike of foreigners.

  • the rich get richer

    I Suggest : Keep your politicians close ! There might be some chance of accountability then. If they are over the hills and Far away…………forgetaboutit ! !

    Ditto for Your Bankers ! Even More important in these Times when they are the Real Power at the Controls.

  • Turgon

    Quite simply that is utter nonsense and demonstrates both a lack of understanding of such views and a lack of knowledge of the topic.

    The idea of the EU being the source of anti Christ was popular when pre tribulation rapture was posited – this was a position held to by large numbers initially many Brethren and popularised in the USA from whence it came to other NI churches. Post tribulation rapture is now the more mainstream position (as it has been throughout most of post reformation Christian thought).

    However, whether one believes in pre or post tribulation rapture one could still identify the EU as variously the Whore of Babylon, the vehicle of anti Christ or none of the above. One could also read the parts where horns on the beast die as implying a country leaving the EU. As indeed one could identify Jesus’s comments in the Gospels about nation rising against nation and kingdom against kingdom.

    The reality is one could fit any outcome on Europe into Biblical Prophecy if one tried hard enough (indeed some do). However, just because people are Bible Believing Christians does not make them politically wholly inept. The decision on Europe will not be researched by looking to the Scriptures in that sense.

    Those who spend their time childishly bashing the DUP on the other hand might well try to concoct such a ludicrous pseudo explanation.

  • Nevin

    “Perhaps that was playing on Arlene’s mind when she –unconvincingly- declared the party’s support for the Leave campaign today.”

    Here’s some of what the Norn Iron Lady did say in that post:

    “As every voter has the opportunity to express a view we fully expect that DUP members and voters will hold a range of differing personal views as to what is in the best interests of the United Kingdom. They are fully entitled to do so during what will be a momentous political debate about the direction of travel our nation chooses. ..

    There have been far too many scare stories already in this debate. People want clarity. They want facts not spin. I hope that, on both sides, the scare stories will now stop as we get down to the serious business of debating our future relationship with Europe. ..

    When we turn to the EU, we will be addressing its countless unresolved failures and the crises still to come.

    Regardless of the outcome of the referendum, it is clear that the problems involved in the very nature of the EU will continue.”

    The facts will be difficult to ascertain through the clouds of smoke billowing from the opposing camps of assorted bedfellows.

  • ranger1640

    Great to see republicans and shinners/provos now on the same side as Cameron and the British establishment and in opposition to their UK cheerleader in the shape of Galloway.

  • Pete

    Baffling that the DUP would support Brexit.

  • chrisjones2

    “Stay will be the clear winner in the north, ”

    Probably but the recent poll showed its a lot tighter than one might think

    I suspect nationally stay will win but by a small margin

  • Heather Richardson

    No need to take the strunce, Turgon. I am indeed lacking in understanding and knowledge of the topic. That’s why I asked the question. I’ve learned a lot from your answer.

  • babyface finlayson

    “Ulster Unionist Party leader, Mike Nesbitt, to clearly infer in recent weeks”
    Clearly imply.

  • Turgon

    A perfect passive aggressive reply when called on your narrow minded bigotry towards a faith community you so self evidently despise yet refuse even to admit despising lest that taint your liberal credentials.

    An impressive and fleet footed enemy: I salute you.

  • the rich get richer

    Its well worth leaving for 5 years. A Temporary Separation . Sure those lovely europeans would kiss and Make-up and let us back in !

    Could probably pass it off as a 5 Year gap(Year) kind of thingy . The europeans are not so uptight about this type of thing.

  • RS86

    Whilst it’s true that West / North Belfast has seen less investment than East / South (, that gives nothing away as to the make-up of those benefiting from job creation. Belfast is a small city and believe it or not people travel across it for work.

    Without doing a great deal of research, I suspect that South Belfast has benefited from the university and the obvious innovation and value-add activities it should be nurturing. The East probably includes the Titanic quarter which has seen a reasonable amount of investment (e.g. tv and film production, the science park etc).

    You’ve identified tha this is a DUP led organisation: to what extent has the elected representatives in say West Belfast tried to encourage investment in the area? Or held Invest NI to account (as they are entitled to do)? Sinn Fein have made noise to encourage investment in the West of NI but little on the West of the city…

  • Ernekid

    Do you remember the time Paisley got chucked out of the European Parliament for yelling at the Pope?

    The DUP have long harboured suspicions that the EU is a Papish plot.

  • Gopher

    Not sniffing anything old boy, just pointing out that being part of the UK has got Northern Ireland a better deal than a 32 county Ireland could ever achieve . You can argue the merits for and against the deal but that comes down to your choice to stay in or go. Interestingly that the UK has a choice mocks the concept of a no choice 32 county Irish Republic. That is self evident to Catholic Protestant and Dissenter which again mocks the rather idealogical driven opening poster. Unionism can hold the referendum up like Mary holding Jesus to the world. Win lose or draw the union looks a no brainer. As I have argued before I dont have a dog in the stay or leave fight anyone who argues that they do know one way or the other is a charlatan in my opinion. My vote to leave is simply a nihilistic vote against *the system* running parrallel with my boycott Belfast shopping protest that has so far in 2016 has cost Belfast City centre 6,000 pounds. Both are simply part of my personal activism.

  • Heather Richardson

    I am genuinely perplexed at how you can read all that into what I’ve said.

  • Neil

    Imagine the UK voted for Brexit. Nationalists would be on the same side as the UK govt., and overall in NI would be part of the majority voting to stay in, while Unionists would find themselves on the losing side on NI scale, but the winning side on UK scale.

    Scotland will demand a referendum if the majority vote to remain and England votes to leave; you can guarantee the same demands would be issued from NI in the exact same outcome, and would be hard to avoid, legislation would have to be passed for Scotland and NI/Wales would be tacked on. As usual, in my opinion, Unionists have grabbed the gun, took the safety off and is currently deciding which foot to shoot themselves in.

  • Turgon

    Ah Ms Richardson the great value of the Disqus memory allowing one to scroll back through a person’s previous comments.

    To be fair the old internal to slugger system was even better with cross referencing etc. but sadly it went with the new format (I believe it took vast amounts of memory or something). The old system allowed many people’s actual views to be exposed: the new one though a pale imitation by comparison still has its uses.

  • Heather Richardson

    Yes, we have to assume everything we ‘say’ on the internet will be recorded for ever and a day. That’s why I try to choose my words carefully, and I can’t recall saying anything contemptuous of any faith community. It’s also why I post under my real name, as I find it makes me stop and think before posting.

  • babyface finlayson

    I think that theory was popular when there were 12 member states and a flag with 12 stars which clearly was referred to in revelations,and before that the Common Market clearly fulfilled something or other,7 horns maybe, or was that the Treaty of Rome?
    Each incarnation of the EU lends itself to fresh interpretation by the inventive!

  • Turgon

    Outstanding: what began as a simplistic laughing at religious weirdoes has, now when you were called on it, become passive aggressive man playing against those (like me) who use a pseudonym (in my case pretty involuntarily) asserting your moral superiority over us (not that such was ever in doubt). You are a worthy addition to slugger.

  • Greenflag 2

    “Control of our affairs in all of Ireland lies more than ever since 1921 outside the hands of the Irish people.”

    And the same can now be said of England , Germany, France , the USA and every other country in the developed world . Prior to 1921 the Irish people had very little control over their own economic affairs either with those powers lying at Westminster the seat of then Empire . Post 1922 it was not really that much different with the pound sterling being the new states currency backed by the Bank of England . Today it’s the Euro backed by the European Central Bank .

    People in North Korea have full control of their own affairs haven’t they and they apparently love their leader despite his odd maniacal and homocidal tendencies and his fondness for the best five star imported brandy distilled by Hennessy in Bordeaux ;

  • Heather Richardson

    Can you offer a quote from me where I have laughed at what you call ‘religious weirdos’? You’ve called me a narrow minded bigot who despises the faith community, but haven’t offered any evidence.

    I should have added to my post above that I completely understand why some people choose to post under a pseudonym, particularly given the history of Northern Ireland. It’s just that for me I find it a useful discipline to know I’ll have to stand over what I post.

    Anyway, got to go – lunch to cook, house to clean, aged parent to visit…

  • Greenflag 2

    ‘ is currently deciding which foot to shoot themselves in.’

    The positive in this is that the target is at the lower extremities so probably not fatal . Previous higher up shall we say head shots have left political unionism looking like a walking zombie with all the sense of direction of a legless octopus 😉

    Boris Johnson a keen whiffer of the public mood has opted for Brexit . I guess the stage is set now for British celebrities to come out nt with their heretofore closeted genders but with their political choice on EU . It may be a lot closer than people think . The British do not want (ever ) a European super State and I suspect they are not alone in that .

    Perhaps they should have had a referendum back in 1972 like Ireland .

  • Greenflag 2

    You make them sound like Jehovah’s Witnesses who I believe have predicted the end of the world and JC’s return on specific dates many times since the 1920’s. They apparently manage to convince their followers with some half baked gobshittery that there was a minor error in the calculation but that next time they’ll get it right and then the lion will lie down with the lamb peacefully in the field and not devour it as nature intends.

  • Turgon

    Ah is there any end to your moral superiority? I will remain here beating my wife and children, abusing my servants, checking on my pecuniary interest in the slave trade and ruminating on my gout. I might take in a bear baiting or cock fighting match as well.

    Have fun: I certainly will.

  • Mirrorballman

    Yeah but the price of a future re-entry would be the adoption of the Euro. It’s now or never….

  • Mirrorballman

    Think it will be a lot tighter than that but a clear no from NI.

  • Dominic Hendron

    You’re as good as a concert Turgon

  • eamoncorbett

    Didn’t they have a super state a good few decades ago , but it fell apart , I suppose they are nervous of the same thing happening again.

  • Sherdy

    Arlene has been press-ganged into supporting the Brexit as all her MPs are hung-ho advocates, so there would have been mutiny unless the leader followed her malcontents!
    Who would have thought the DUP would ever support a ‘Brits out’ campaign?

  • John Collins

    ‘Favoured Nation Status- Really ??,
    Well Nigel Farage and Boris do not seem to agree.

  • Greenflag 2

    Fears of a superstate Europe are exaggerated by those who favour Brexit . The EU is not the USA neither is it anywhere close to being a totalitarian superstate of WW2 era vintage -nor is it anything like modern China a corporate/capitalist/communist world power .
    The EU democratic deficit is real but truth to say even at the level of national states that deficit is just as real . Almost half of voters hardly bother to vote in most states .

    Some newspaper headlines are grasping at Boris’s decision in favour of Brexit as power grab to become PM if Cameron loses the referendum . I’m not so sure .Early days but Cameron is rattled .