Theresa May’s flying visit will not halt the strange ebbing of British authority in Northern Ireland

At least Mrs May kept her word to visit every part of the UK during the election campaign even though no candidate elected will be in her government.   On a flying visit to the Balmoral Show the prime minister was asked about criticism that she had not been involved enough in resolving the deadlock..

I have been personally engaged. I have had contact with both Michelle and Arlene,” she said.  But what is important if we are going to see what we all want, which is a return to a strong and stable devolved administration here in Northern Ireland, is that the parties here in Northern Ireland come together and agree to an agreement that can enable that devolved administration to be established.”

Not quite hands-on like Tony Blair then. Bumping into Arlene – by accident of course – and only Arlene – doesn’t quite cut it as an initiative, more a token of inclusion in  “our precious, precious  Union.” But then this no nonsense prime minister doesn’t seem to have the temperament for the hard and often thankless slog  of domestic diplomacy. She has bigger things on her mind. Talking of which, it’s equally hard to imagine her handling the Brexit negotiations personally and in detail.  Her skills lie in party management,   which she all too easily identifies with the national interest. As she has (virtually) no party to manage here, she has a tin ear for our poor affairs.

But one day – soon perhaps? – a British minister  will have to explain  the lack of close engagement, a role to dread perhaps, but you should see it from here.  It  has started to contrast glaringly with the pro-activity of the Irish government who more and more are taking over the role as the champions of Northern Ireland’s  interests .over Brexit, as British authority appears to recede.

At least she managed to avoid repeating Brokenshire’s calamitous statement that Troubles inquiries were focusing too much on the army. It would be hard to imagine anything less helpful to the restoration of the Assembly.

She was also asked about the potential prosecutions of soldiers over their involvement in Bloody Sunday.

She said prosecutors in such cases would “make those decisions independently”.

Legacy issues from the Troubles had to be dealt with in a “fair and proportionate way”, she added.

The prime minister was also asked how the border situation in Ireland would be resolved post-Brexit.

Mrs May reiterated that she wanted “no return to the borders of the past and no hard border”. and there was “goodwill on all sides” to resolve the issues.

“Brexit is an opportunity for the UK but of course we have got to make sure we resolve the issue of the border between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland,” she added.


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  • Cushy Glen

    There was a period of several years when the DUP were in government with Sinn Fein when not even the Shinners made much mention of a United Ireland. Now its flavour of the month – all because the DUP pissed of Sinn Fein with their crass mishandling of the RHI scandal.
    The Shinners were administering British rule in the north very nicely, but that didn’t satisfy the DUP.
    Almost every day now there is a piece in the British media about the prospect of a united Ireland plus Prince Charles always makes a point of visiting the republic when he visits Northern Ireland & when he does he finds a Shinner to shake hands with. Plus look at the fuss the Brits made over McGuiness’ death!
    This is what is called in the business as ‘mood music’. They are setting the mood for a major change in NI’s constitutional position.
    This has all happened since Brexit & particularly since the institutions were removed – caused by the RHI scandal – caused by the unrelenting publicity within the BBC.
    History will show that the DUP messed up their relations with Sinn Fein & as a result the institutions of the GFA, which guaranteed NIs position within the UK, were destroyed & with them devolved government & the union itself.
    Single-handedly the DUP have destroyed their precious union.

  • hugh mccloy

    Or another legal case that I am hearing about, Mid Ulster Council taking on the executive over rates, council must have deep pockets or else they are wasting rate payers money

  • Gavin Crowley

    When was any part of Ireland an integral part of the UK? It’s always been administered differently, under different laws.

  • Fear Éireannach

    The attitude of May and her gang can be show by comments yesterday by Davis
    How on earth do you resolve the issue of the border with Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland unless you know what our general borders policy is, what the customs agreement is, what our trade agreement is?”

    In order words, “how dare you annoy us talking about NI when we haven’t sorted out the important stuff about England”.

    We are being used by London as a pawn and the entire peace settlement comes secondary to the internal politics of the Tories.

  • Reader

    Obelisk: As for integrationism, ‘strongly object’ is putting it a bit too mildly in terms of how that would go down.
    Would you still be hostile to integrationism in a United Ireland; or would you at least be sympathetic to those who are hostile?
    Obelisk: We are not part of England and never will be. Geography alone dictates that.
    No-one mentioned England. You seem a little intense right now.

  • MainlandUlsterman

    Confusing though, when it’s two separate sovereign areas

  • MainlandUlsterman

    Hard to disagree with her

  • MainlandUlsterman

    I think that was Jillian Michaels

  • MainlandUlsterman

    And perhaps trying wean NI off the cycle of falling into crisis and demanding Westminster time and effort repeatedly to sort it out. Also classic Tory laissez-faire / non-interventionist stuff. New Labour got drawn too much post-1998 into Republican political blackmail and caved repeatedly, at times (it now appears) in secret side-deals. It was hugely corrosive to NI politics. Not such a bad thing to establish the principle you don’t jump to attention every time SF clicks its fingers.

  • Obelisk

    I mentioned England because I don’t know what configuration the United Kingdom will have in a few years. It may just be England and Wales in the near future. Besides, integrationists really have to work on integrating Scotland again before they can think of doing the same for Northern Ireland. In other words not this side of eternity.

    And yes, I support a unitary state within a United Ireland context, in words the dissolution of Northern Ireland at all levels. It makes the most sense to me and post reunification, Unionism would be a minority within a Northern Ireland context anyway.

    Alternatively I suppose a federal Ireland of some sort would be acceptable, so that devolved parliaments are the norm across the island and we don’t end up the freakshow exception…but I reckon we’d need to include the three other Ulster counties within our area to make it work.

  • Robert ian Wiliams

    Northern Ireland safe hands with Theresa May. A vote for Arlene is a vote for Theresa.