A Con-DUP deal doesn’t have to scupper the Executive talks

The DUP is “a party of devolution” according to every unionist commentator gracing the airwaves over the last few days. The party has a chance to prove it over the next 48 hours as they conclude their ‘confidence and supply’ negotiations with the Tory Conservative and Unionist Party.

There’s a suspicion that while the ‘asks’ will be “in the interest of the UK as a whole”, the wish list may be culturally slanted towards unionism (as well being of financial benefit to NI government departments).

Popular perception is building that DUP cooperation with the Conservatives jeopardises the UK government’s supposed neutrality in NI negotiations and protection of the Good Friday Agreement. (Though it’s easy to counter-argue that Sinn Féin willingness to enter a coalition to be a junior partner in a future Irish Government would be even more problematic. And elsewhere on Slugger we’re reminded that Labour reached out to the DUP.)

This could easily pull up the handbrake on the NI political talks that resume today, and could leave a power-grabbing DUP being blamed for collapsing devolution at future elections.

Given that the next elections are likely to be only around the corner rather than in a few years time, the DUP need to manage short and longer term perceptions.

So we should watch out for a more intelligent approach in this cunning game of political poker.

The DUP’s 2015 General Election manifesto and Northern Ireland Plan offer an insight into their priorities from the last Westminster election when a hung parliament was predicted but ultimately did not come to pass.

Infrastructure spending for roads across Northern Ireland can be argued as necessary to make the region as efficient as possible in a post-Brexit Europe. Funding for the A6 and even the A5, as well as money to restart the York Street Interchange work would spread the political jam across the six counties.

Holding out for local extensions to NI’s welfare reform mitigations, as well as defending the triple lock on pensions and the winter fuel allowance – or calling for a UK-wide removal of the bedroom tax – will be appreciated by their devolved government partners. Who could criticise fighting austerity?

A boost of money to speed the much-reported but oft-delayed health service reforms would meet the DUP’s 2015 demand for a budget settlement to protect health and avoid decimating other services. As the former health minister, Michelle O’Neill is all too aware of the need and impact of this work. The DUP and Sinn Féin had previously both agreed on the sum required to fund the NHS over new Assembly term.

Steering away from moral issues is a no-brainer if the party want to be taken seriously in GB. Not mentioning flags and parades will avoid playing into the hands of their local partners and partners.

Back bench Conservative MPs were already pursuing a statute of limitations for soldiers and police officers who face the prospect of prosecution in relation to killings and deaths that occurred before 1998. So that need not be explicitly part of the DUP’s agreement – though it doesn’t help the awkward legacy negotiations that will follow.

Some back room consultation with Sinn Féin, a generosity of spirit and careful wording, the DUP’s pragmatic support for the mortally wounded Theresa May premiership need not delay the restoration of the Executive and would go some way to counter Sinn Féin’s claims of DUP arrogance.

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  • Jane

    This all sounds very sensible, and tactically clever. We English aren’t used to this sort of high quality discussion, as it has been absent for some time, in our political debate.

    Getting rid of the bedroom tax would be a very good move. I think there is also a recognition in the Tory party that austerity has gone too far, but they aren’t connected enough to these issues on the ground to know how to deal with it, I think. So rather intriguingly the DUP might also help their “coalition” partners in the UK parliament too. Of course it’s not really a coalition but……….

  • Sharpie

    I agree. The DUP could do a lot to get some favour across Northern Ireland – but the danger is there is no space to be collegiate (as well as little history on that score). The narrative being set and driven in the UK is TM under siege and the response is secrecy and defensiveness. In that light there is little the DUP can do except make a decision to get some sweeties for the whole country and hope that they get some credit (and breathing space) or secondly to pursue a narrow sectional agenda that garners the “how typical of them” response.

    The hysteria is only as a result of the overall excitement and agitation in all politics today – the Union is genuinely in turmoil and wild swings of aspiration, economics, fortunes are all to be expected. Perceptions are everything, followed a long way after by fact. The ability to set the tone and manage the story is now firmly in the hands of the media.

    Jeremy Corbyn’s genius will be recognised as being because despite the media demonisation he attached to people on the ground and wore out the soles of his shoes and went and met people where they are and genuinely change the story from negative to to positive – all the while ignoring the media.

    People can learn from this. Brexit needs to be inclusive and collegiate and a huddle with the DUP – even if their intentions are good – will do nothing to change the narrative that is at large. As well I don’t think it is in the dna of DUP to be open and inclusive. Pity.

  • ted hagan

    i listened to Nelson McCausland on the Nolan Show this morning defending the DUP. I have read Daithi McKay on a number of occasions. The media in Nothern Ireland likes to give these two gentleman, and others, the grand title of ‘commentators’ and allows them to fill airtime and newsprint with their pearls of wisdom.
    Instead, can they not call them for what they are; failed politicians and party propagandists?

  • Croiteir

    All very well and good – but how will it play to the ordinary English taxpayer? Do you think there will be no tension?

  • Madamarcati

    Looking at the three comments so far I assume, perhaps wrongly, that the commentators are employed, white, middle class and male living and working in or near Belfast/London or other urban centres.

    Over these past ten years the local DUP paramilitary henchmen, elected councillors and local well known untouchable ( peace agreement protocol ) have run roughshod over their rural constituents for personal financial gain. Playing on their lack of higher education and computer skills in order to flout planning regulations and basic legal human rights in a shocking DUP backed Free For All of predation upon their most vulnerable constituents.

    If any have tried to protest, they have been easily blocked by aforementioned DUP henchmen. No one who is embedded and not university educated goes to the PSNI in the countryside unless they are masons or have family connections, the local memories of RUC paramilitary collusion and abuse are still too raw. So their options for legal redress are limited. And the local DUP thugs know this full well.

    This abuse of power by local DUP is province wide and has become ever more extreme and triumphalist as the decade of their Stormont tyranny has worn on.
    No one here in the progressivist classes wants to know as hatred of the peasant class from which we all originate is a forgotten philosophical marxist dynamo driving the origins of the republican political parties of the DUP and Sinn Fein.

    But be assured, a lot of people in the loyalist communities have been abused and badly by ‘their own’ during this so called Peace. I cannot speak for the people in the rural hinterlands of Sinn Fein as I do not live in any of those areas but I can make an educated guess that the vulnerable inhabitants have been forced to silently endure similar abuses of political power.

    Thanks a lot Tony Blair et al for imposing an ill fitting ideological political structure upon Northern Ireland and then running away with your Peace prizes and handouts. Leaving us to subsist in a fatally flawed structure that has effectively radicalised the countryside and created even deeper sectarian and political divisions here than ever but rewarded the most criminal, ignorant and venal.

    Although all of us, outside the charmed echo chamber of QUB/Hollywood and
    Birdcage Walk, are rejoicing in the knowledge that the ludicrously expensive ( both financially and in collateral human damage ) ill thought out Belfast Peace Agreement has been effectively destroyed whenever Theresa May chose to invite the duplicitous and corrupt DUP to be her Westminster political henchmen, it is a cold comfort for we are now effectively political hostages in our own homes.

    Worsening times ahead for the law abiding, the empath and the visionary.

  • BonaparteOCoonassa

    This ‘generosity of spirit’ the the DUP are supposed to show – I’d like to hear of a few previous examples.

  • Redstar

    I understand what you’re saying but every commentator here has their own agenda

  • T.E.Lawrence

    “this cunning game of political poker” Fair play to the DUP for holding onto their pair of aces not like SF who packed theirs through the loony policy of abstention !

  • This style of negotiation is definitely off the table …

  • LiamÓhÉ

    What would resemble changes for the better and how realistic are they? In my opinion, ending partition itself would be a basic first step, but this is now going to be shelved for as many days, weeks, or years as this coalition of British nationalists survives in the face of economic and geopolitical disaster. I agree that things will get a lot worse before, I speculate, ultimately the whole Irish dimension results in popular agitation and a border poll with a marginal result one way or the other. It also seems likely that UK-Ireland relations are going to sink definitively.

  • Jake Mac Siacais

    Election 2017: So where does this all leave us then?
    DUP are in bed with the Tories, (hetrosexual sharing only now Cedric and Sylia). Devolution talks look very shaky and the prospects look poor. Sinn Féin don’t need Stormont, at the moment. Nationalism and Republicanism needs it like a kick in the proverbials.
    Sinn Féin finally caught up with their base early last year and collapsed the place, at last retiring an increasingly infuriating Arlene Foster and leading to an election which saw the combined Unionist vote in the Wee Six sitting at 45.2% while the Nationalist share stood at 38%. 15 months on, following the Westminster election, we now have the combined Unionist vote at 46.7% (a very modest 1.5% increase) the Nationalist vote is now 41.03%. (a bigger increase at 3.3%).
    The Ulster Unionist demise will simply further consolidate the DUP as leaders of a minority Unionism. The SDLP demise and demographics, as more young voters come on the register, will on the other hand see North Belfast and possibly Upper Bann go to SF next time. South Belfast is also up for grabs. Nationalism generally understands the fatally flawed nature of the wee six and has its eye firmly on All-Ireland arrangements. Unionism, while just as capable at Math, simply cannot emotionally process the blatantly obvious.
    The DUP are also deluded if they think Nationalists have overplayed or are overplaying their hand post the AE2017 nationalist vote surge, as Ian Paisley Jnr claimed they were doing. The nationalist surge has continued albeit modestly with an increased nationalist turnout at Westminster. The DUP managed to reap the benefit of unionist shock after the assembly election and brought out a grand total of 29,268 extra unionist voters across the north over their combined AE2017 total. But this is way too little too late. Politics is in a confused state indeed, within this confused statelet. Unionism will inevitably and woefully overplay its sense of resurgence and power via their Tory deal. They will however, again face the underlying changed reality with even greater dismay in the next Assembly and next Westminster elections which may not be too far distant.
    In the interim the badly shaken Assembly experiment and DUP dalliance with perfidious Albion will have made new, and from unionism’s perspective, even more appalling vistas all too real.
    It is really high time for Unionism to get real. A shared Ireland which they can help to shape will be better than an inevitably reunited Ireland which still hasn’t managed to lance the sectarian boil.
    There is an inexorability about the demographic change so clearly contained in the 2011 census, which unionists held back for almost a year and a half and which led to the short-lived Peter Robinson overture to Catholics. King Canutism, however, has reasserted itself within Unionism and now the DUP is duped into a false sense of resurgence and power when even the most obtuse should be able to read the writing on the wall. The tide will keep coming.
    The Tories will also drop them as soon as is expedient, ala Thatcher and The Anglo Irish Agreement.

  • SeaanUiNeill

    “Uncharted territory”, let us hope the challenge inspires them (or not)….

  • SeaanUiNeill

    Two aces and a mess of other cards against Labours full flush, T.E. Even if they win this hand, the next hand will bring up May’s utter weakness politically. Pushing your partner’s wheelchair amid the shrapnel storm of an exit negotiation with Europe does not suggest the safest of situations politically, let alone the problem an Orange collarette at Westminster poses for someone used to the heavy camouflage of provincial politics .

  • ted hagan

    Hey England! The DUP may be full of zealots, bigots and nutjobs, but they’re OUR zealots, bigots and nutjobs!

  • Granni Trixie

    I think it’s harsh to call someone a failure because they were not elected. From another perspective they stepped up to the plate (honourable?) where the rest of us didn’t. Why should they not analyse, drawing on what they know or the political system? The question arises however as to if they now free to be commenting as independents. In theory I’m inclined to say yes – in practice I observe they imvarably Push party lines, which is a pity imo.

  • Madamarcati

    I agree with everything you have mapped here for our immediate future.
    Best of luck to you and yours surviving these coming brutal, cruel years and, perhaps, see you on the barricades…

  • JOHN TURLEY

    For me an outsider, it looks as if its Sinn Fein policy, they are just after increasing their MPs by 75%
    The S.D.L.P sit on the benches stll they were completely rejected by the electorate,.The wishes of the
    electorate deserve to be respected.

    Watching Mr Adams on the TV today showed with his calm and relaxed manner why he has outlasted
    so many politicians Sinn Fein still need a leader of such stature,he is better at gaining seats now
    than ever he.was.It is an opening for the Irish Foreign minister to move the process forward this evening..

  • Jake Mac Siacais

    Discussion on Slugger O’Toole 15 comments
    A Con-DUP deal doesn’t have to scupper the Executive talks

    Jake Mac Siacais 2 hours ago

    Election 2017: So where does this all leave us then?
    DUP are in bed with Devolution talks look very shaky and the prospects look poor. Sinn Féin don’t need Stormont, at the moment. Nationalism and Republicanism needs it like a kick in the proverbials.
    Sinn Féin finally caught up with their base early last year and collapsed the place, at last retiring an increasingly infuriating Arlene Foster and leading to an election which saw the combined Unionist vote in the Wee Six sitting at 45.2% while the Nationalist share stood at 38%. 15 months on, following the Westminster election, we now have the combined Unionist vote at 46.7% (a very modest 1.5% increase) the Nationalist vote is now 41.03%. (a bigger increase at 3.3%).
    The Ulster Unionist demise will simply further consolidate the DUP as leaders of a minority Unionism. The SDLP demise and demographics, as more young voters come on the register, will on the other hand see North Belfast and possibly Upper Bann go to SF next time. South Belfast is also up for grabs. Nationalism generally understands the fatally flawed nature of the wee six and has its eye firmly on All-Ireland arrangements. Unionism, while just as capable at Math, simply cannot emotionally process the blatantly obvious.
    The DUP are also deluded if they think Nationalists have overplayed or are overplaying their hand post the AE2017 nationalist vote surge, as Ian Paisley Jnr claimed they were doing. The nationalist surge has continued albeit modestly with an increased nationalist turnout at Westminster. The DUP managed to reap the benefit of unionist shock after the assembly election and brought out a grand total of 29,268 extra unionist voters across the north over their combined AE2017 total. But this is way too little too late. Politics is in a confused state indeed, within this confused statelet. Unionism will inevitably and woefully overplay its sense of resurgence and power via their Tory deal. They will however, again face the underlying changed reality with even greater dismay in the next Assembly and next Westminster elections which may not be too far distant.
    In the interim the badly shaken Assembly experiment and DUP dalliance with perfidious Albion will have made new, and from unionism’s perspective, even more appalling vistas all too real.
    It is really high time for Unionism to get real. A shared Ireland which they can help to shape will be better than an inevitably reunited Ireland which still hasn’t managed to lance the sectarian boil.
    There is an inexorability about the demographic change so clearly contained in the 2011 census, which unionists held back for almost a year and a half and which led to the short-lived Peter Robinson overture to Catholics. King Canutism, however, has reasserted itself within Unionism and now the DUP is duped into a false sense of resurgence and power when even the most obtuse should be able to read the writing on the wall. The tide will keep coming.
    The Tories will also drop them as soon as is expedient, ala Thatcher and The Anglo Irish Agreement.

  • The Irishman

    Hahaha, very funny sketch.

  • Jake Mac Siacais

    Election 2017: So where does this all leave us then?
    DUP are in bed with Devolution talks look very shaky and the prospects look poor. Sinn Féin don’t need Stormont, at the moment. Nationalism and Republicanism needs it like a kick in the proverbials.
    Sinn Féin finally caught up with their base early last year and collapsed the place, at last retiring an increasingly infuriating Arlene Foster and leading to an election which saw the combined Unionist vote in the Wee Six sitting at 45.2% while the Nationalist share stood at 38%. 15 months on, following the Westminster election, we now have the combined Unionist vote at 46.7% (a very modest 1.5% increase) the Nationalist vote is now 41.03%. (a bigger increase at 3.3%).
    The Ulster Unionist demise will simply further consolidate the DUP as leaders of a minority Unionism. The SDLP demise and demographics, as more young voters come on the register, will on the other hand see North Belfast and possibly Upper Bann go to SF next time. South Belfast is also up for grabs. Nationalism generally understands the fatally flawed nature of the wee six and has its eye firmly on All-Ireland arrangements. Unionism, while just as capable at Math, simply cannot emotionally process the blatantly obvious.
    The DUP are also deluded if they think Nationalists have overplayed or are overplaying their hand post the AE2017 nationalist vote surge, as Ian Paisley Jnr claimed they were doing. The nationalist surge has continued albeit modestly with an increased nationalist turnout at Westminster. The DUP managed to reap the benefit of unionist shock after the assembly election and brought out a grand total of 29,268 extra unionist voters across the north over their combined AE2017 total. But this is way too little too late. Politics is in a confused state indeed, within this confused statelet. Unionism will inevitably and woefully overplay its sense of resurgence and power via their Tory deal. They will however, again face the underlying changed reality with even greater dismay in the next Assembly and next Westminster elections which may not be too far distant.
    In the interim the badly shaken Assembly experiment and DUP dalliance with perfidious Albion will have made new, and from unionism’s perspective, even more appalling vistas all too real.
    It is really high time for Unionism to get real. A shared Ireland which they can help to shape will be better than an inevitably reunited Ireland which still hasn’t managed to lance the sectarian boil.
    There is an inexorability about the demographic change so clearly contained in the 2011 census, which unionists held back for almost a year and a half and which led to the short-lived Peter Robinson overture to Catholics. King Canutism, however, has reasserted itself within Unionism and now the DUP is duped into a false sense of resurgence and power when even the most obtuse should be able to read the writing on the wall. The tide will keep coming.
    The Tories will also drop them as soon as is expedient, ala Thatcher and The Anglo Irish Agreement.

  • William Kinmont

    Nationalists clearly do not want to be represented at Westminster anymore Sf have either recognised or driven this either way it shows them as being far from loonies. As long as they remain committed to peace they are also entitled to democratic representation . DUP in coalition at Westminster and lack of Nat votes for Westminster seats completely rules out legitimacy of direct rule. Choice to provide democracy for the rapidly approaching majority of our population is either devolution on favorable terms or joint authority. Maybe I am missing the DUP poker trick but signing up to government seems like signing away the ace of direct rule. I thought it was wist they played in orange halls here you had to have a good idea of your partners hand lest they dropped you in it.

  • MainlandUlsterman

    people don’t want it though

  • Martin Warne

    Most excellent stuff.
    Just what we saying earlier–there is no real reason why DUP’s dealing with Westminster Conservatives should have any adverse effect on restoring the Stormont Executive. Sinn Fein MLAs should welcome the opportunity to get back in partnership with DUP and open up shop again

  • Jake Mac Siacais

    Unsure why my post below has been thrice deleted? Explanation please!
    Election 2017: So where does this all leave us then?
    The DUP are in bed with the Tories, (hetrosexual sharing only now Cedric and Sylia). Devolution talks look very shaky and the prospects look poor. Sinn Féin don’t need Stormont, at the moment. Nationalism and Republicanism needs it like a kick in the proverbials.
    Sinn Féin finally caught up with their base early last year and collapsed the place, at last retiring an increasingly infuriating Arlene Foster and leading to an election which saw the combined Unionist vote in the Wee Six sitting at 45.2% while the Nationalist share stood at 38%. 15 months on, following the Westminster election, we now have the combined Unionist vote at 46.7% (a very modest 1.5% increase) the Nationalist vote is now 41.03%. (a bigger increase at 3.3%).
    The Ulster Unionist demise will simply further consolidate the DUP as leaders of a minority Unionism. The SDLP demise and demographics, as more young voters come on the register, will on the other hand see North Belfast and possibly Upper Bann go to SF next time. South Belfast is also up for grabs. Nationalism generally understands the fatally flawed nature of the wee six and has its eye firmly on All-Ireland arrangements. Unionism, while just as capable at Math, simply cannot emotionally process the blatantly obvious.
    The DUP are also deluded if they think Nationalists have overplayed or are overplaying their hand post the AE2017 nationalist vote surge, as Ian Paisley Jnr claimed they were doing. The nationalist surge has continued albeit modestly with an increased nationalist turnout at Westminster. The DUP managed to reap the benefit of unionist shock after the assembly election and brought out a grand total of 29,268 extra unionist voters across the north over their combined AE2017 total. But this is way too little too late. Politics is in a confused state indeed, within this confused statelet. Unionism will inevitably and woefully overplay its sense of resurgence and power via their Tory deal. They will however, again face the underlying changed reality with even greater dismay in the next Assembly and next Westminster elections which may not be too far distant.
    In the interim the badly shaken Assembly experiment and DUP dalliance with perfidious Albion will have made new, and from unionism’s perspective, even more appalling vistas all too real.
    It is really high time for Unionism to get real. A shared Ireland which they can help to shape will be better than an inevitably reunited Ireland which still hasn’t managed to lance the sectarian boil.
    There is an inexorability about the demographic change so clearly contained in the 2011 census, which unionists held back for almost a year and a half and which led to the short-lived Peter Robinson overture to Catholics. King Canutism, however, has reasserted itself within Unionism and now the DUP is duped into a false sense of resurgence and power when even the most obtuse should be able to read the writing on the wall. The tide will keep coming.
    The Tories will also drop them as soon as is expedient, ala Thatcher and The Anglo Irish Agreement.

  • Neonlights

    SF clearly have a policy of scuttling the Local Assembly. Whatever comes out of DU-C Party talks, it is unlikely to have anything other than a helpful hand towards SF.

  • BonaparteOCoonassa

    A majority of ‘people’ will though, quite soon. Brexit is a catalyst for all sorts of things, some good, some bad. Change is coming.

  • MainlandUlsterman

    change is always coming