Can SF leave the DUP completely unpoliced over any settlement it brings back from Westminster?

The only thing that is certain is that everything is uncertain. Six months ago Arlene Foster and the DUP were on the ropes and friendless. Sinn Fein moved in for the killer blow, and only just missed eclipsing them in the March election.

Round two began shortly afterwards, in which the DUP bagged almost all the prizes left that hadn’t been taken, including a set of ongoing negotiations for a package of measures for Northern Ireland.

As David put it on BBC Radio Wales last week the DUP seem to have promised to provide confidence for the Queen’s Speech [imagine dragging the poor old Queen away to Parliament in the middle of Ascot Week – Ed], whilst specific negotiations continue around what supply means.

Speculations have been rife about what Sinn Fein plans to do, now that their long promised agitprop drama at Leinster House has passed off without incident or indeed any of the serious press coverage they expected for their successful abstentionist campaign.

Now only one of SF’s public representatives in Northern Ireland above the grade of councillor is actually working, leaving the DUP completely unpoliced over any settlement it brings back from Westminster and its lobbying the British government over Brexit.

Sinn Fein like many of the DUP’s critics – including, according to Stephen Bush, the current Tory party – have underestimated the bounce-back-ability of what remains of the old Paisleyite party, which claimed some 36% of the popular vote earlier this month:

…there’s a reason why the DUP had such a good night on 8 June and it’s because they’re effective political operators with a good grasp of what their electorate wants. Unlike the Conservative government, they know how to negotiate.

The important thing to remember is that the Conservatives have just one card to play against the DUP: that is, the aversion of their voters to an arrangement which allows Jeremy Corbyn into Downing Street.

But once the Queen’s Speech is passed, that card ceases to be in play until the next Queen’s Speech or a formal vote of no confidence. Thanks to the Fixed Term Parliaments Act, what constitutes a confidence vote has been narrowly defined.

The government can lose any number of votes – over the legislative timetable, over Brexit, over its core programme as set out in the Queen’s Speech – and it won’t fall.

That means that once the government is “home and dry” thanks to the passage of the Queen’s Speech, the Conservatives’ leverage over the DUP will be greatly diminished while, day-to-day and week-to-week, the DUP will have the whip hand.

They will be able to hold the government up by voting with it on the Queen’s Speech and the Budget – but they will be free to let them down any time on anything else.

How defensible a DUP MP thinks even a passive approval of a consistent breach of litter laws by a paramilitary organisation, or what it says to their putative partners in the UK parliament, I’m not entirely sure.

It’s not a widely acceptable British tradition elsewhere in the UK, to so casually ignore the principle of equality before the law. But the widespread demonisation of the DUP says something about the blind spots of their critics too.

Not least about exactly who’s responsible for the latest crushing of democracy in Northern Ireland. This time it wasn’t the British. As Eoghan Harris noted on Sunday too many folks in Dublin are buying into what they hope is true rather than what’s more likely to be true:

Last Wednesday, writing in The Irish Times, Ray Bassett, a former Irish ambassador and joint secretary of the British-Irish Secretariat in Belfast, gave us a glimpse of the mellow mindset of the DFA in dealing with Sinn Fein.

Bassett began by totally misreading the current situation in Northern Ireland. “The DUP will be the more anxious of the two big parties to get into government.”

Actually the reverse is true. Sinn Fein has nowhere else to go and cannot stand by while Arlene Foster doles out the May dosh under Direct Rule. [Emphasis added]

Sure, the DUP do look misshapen by the standards of mainland UK politics (and, by their tolerance of paramilitary self-indulgences, they are). But they’re also the beneficiaries of a very Irish reflex, which is that the more we are despised the more our voters love us.

During this phase of the general uncertainty, for once the only NI party being talked about in England is the DUP and not Sinn Fein. Sinn Fein’s decision to make itself absent from any position in which it could be retrospectively be held responsible for what comes next.

It could backfire on the DUP, of course. Clearly, the SF strategy is to let the DUP shoulder all the risk and then hope that it goes wrong. Besides being an odd use of a strong mandate, it’s reduced them to observers rather than participants in and shapers of NI’s future.

Meanwhile, despite the industrial quantities of weapons grade opprobrium being thrown at the DUP, what they come back with will matter at least to their voters. It may even constitute an offer even SF may not be able to refuse (whom, tellingly, they continue to privately brief):

Mr Adams, who’s brainchild bringing down Stormont was, continues to swing both ways on future re-engagement with Northern Ireland’s democratic institutions. As Patrick Murphy memorably noted last Saturday:

…while Stormont was “bad” during the long war, “good” for the past ten years and then “bad” again since Christmas, it might be “good” again soon. (You may remember that the EU used to be “bad”, but the same EU is now “good”.)

SF’s fascinating and flexible use of language allows it to heavily influence the thought process of constitutional nationalists, as evidenced by the recent election results.

It is tempting to examine it alongside George Orwell’s fictional Newspeak, an altered form of regular English designed to determine public opinion by restricting independent thought.

The party’s return to Stormont will be easy. It will just claim victory in overcoming its hitherto ill-defined concepts of corruption and inequality. The nationalist electorate will cheer.

The party’s MLAs will return to eating assembly food, which is subsidised by the taxpayer, while 23 per cent of children here remain in poverty. Another victory for old Ireland.


  • Skibo

    I trust you have some element of proof to confirm what you have written. Even MU agreed that Unionism brought Sunningdale down, but rather than blame the sharing of power with Nationalists, he blamed the Council of Ireland and the Dublin strand.

  • Skibo

    I would tend to agree. The issue of by-elections would raise it’s head. That is unless the Tory government can convince the Lib Dems that they will give Westminster a vote on the final agreement of Brexit.
    You could have a further possibility with labour giving the tories cover to get through Brexit but controlling what they could or couldn’t do in government.
    A prime example is where FF are controlling the direction of the Dail while sitting in opposition.
    Labour need to consider if they want to fight another election so soon or could they allow the coalition of chaos rack up some more self inflicted car crashes.

  • Martin Warne

    Interesting times for Westminster.
    Makes our problems in Stormont look like a walk in the park– DUP and Sinn Fein are actually quite good at it most of time.

  • mac tire

    Interesting. So you contend that if SF had not have opposed Sunningdale, it would have succeeded? This is going to be good…

  • Paddy Reilly

    As far as I understand it SF is not pressing for the abolition of the oath of allegiance and will not take its seats even if it is abolished. The objection is geographical: why fly all the way to Westminster when you could drive down to the Oireachtas?

  • mac tire

    They might to face up to it when the spotlight falls off the DUP’s fluke position, as it inevitably will.
    But, I suppose fair is fair; if Unionism, as a whole, turned its back on a legislature there would not be one thread about it on here. No, siree.

    There would be reams of them. Daily.

    Think what would be written, if the shoe were on the other foot where SF were attempting to do a deal with Labour and Unionism had just turned its back on Westminster.
    There would be no wringing of hands about the poor DUP’s feelings, and all this revulsion about who they are and perceived to be. (Who knew that they and others on here are such snowflakes – it’s politics, guys, a blood sport, so get used to it as you take part in it yourselves when it suits).

    It is why we take this hand wringing with the pinch of salt it deserves.

  • MainlandUlsterman

    to engage with the reality of the world of today as it is, not just fantasize about your ideal future

  • MainlandUlsterman

    Bear in mind I think Paisley was an idiot

  • MainlandUlsterman

    I know what you mean – Tories have often sent really jokes over like Patterson, Villiers, Brokenshire – but you don’t think being a credible facilitator of talks etc is helpful? I think Smith would be great in NI and could make a real difference. I wish he were leader tbh, he’s great.

  • Casper

    Fair enough, but he was still the most vocal unionist voice (understatement of the day?).
    I don’t just mean you MU when I refer to unionists talking about SF taking their seats in Westminster, it’s been mentioned in various posts recently by unionist leaning posters. republicans don’t seem to talk or care about it as much as unionists appear to, or am I alone in thinking this?
    I get that tradition is a large part of Westminster affairs, but flexability is more important when governing 65m+ people.
    History shows us things that don’t/can’t evolve are eventually doomed.

  • Brendan Heading

    On Brexit, SF has four MEPs, 23 TDs, 7 senators all working *in office* to achieve special status for N Ireland.


    As you appear to be familiar with the matter would you mind outlining what form this “work” takes ? I can find no references to it anywhere except in SF press releases which don’t specify exactly what it is that SF are doing, or what influence they actually wield.

  • Brendan Heading

    The Tories lost a lot of votes following Maastrict; but they never found MPs from their own Parliamentary party to vote against their own government.

  • Brendan Heading

    The charade of the debates in the House is not what real politics is about.

    In that case, I look forward to Sinn Féin members withdrawing from all local councils, from the Dáil, from the Senate and from the EU Parliament.

  • Casper

    That would mean, even if only symbolically, that republican Irishmen were ruling in England while wanting an end to British rule in Ireland. I just can’t see it happening even without the oath. I’m a small r republican, perhaps someone else can clue us up further if they know more.


    The D U.P will not bring May down,but somone else will, probably her own clan.

  • Oggins

    How do you say whataboutery in Hebrew or Arabic?

  • Oggins

    Would it be a good bluff to call, if the British government removed the oath? Still believe SF wouldn’t stand.

  • Oggins

    I don’t think SF are in love with themselves, I do believe it’s purely down to their views that they should not have a say in the British government, and it’s ruling, being Irish Republicans. Not defending them, but they would lose serious cred with a lot of their supporters if they did. It makes sense. It is like a Unionist party engaging in UI talks. By default are they still Unionists? Ora party representative of Irish British people?

    On a lighter note,I think the knee dropping should be replaced by fist bumps 🙂

  • john millar

    I suggest you answer the item rather than hide behind rthoritic

  • DaptoDogs

    Or four times the size of the RHI budget.

  • Oggins

    So you don’t think they have a history of sectarianism? Awaiting your response… Still awaiting your response to the factless and boarder line sectarianism comment yesterday on shared housing.

    Yep, those books have loads of text in which do not apply to modern times. Much like the Bible.

    Anyway what relevance does your points have to the piece above? It’s just whataboutery….

  • MainlandUlsterman

    I’m not so keen on 21st C greetings I must say – I think people should just nod and say ‘Right there’

  • MainlandUlsterman

    Yes I don’t think it is really about the oath

  • Oggins

    I am sure we could do a fresh prince of Bel air hand shake ?

  • Oggins

    Based on what? The fact is they are an Irish republican party that says they don’t want to be involved in ‘British’ governance. When you look at it that way I don’t think it’s any clearer. The other side is what do you believe their agenda is, and why hide it?

  • MainlandUlsterman

    no I can’t see it happening either, they have tied their own hands really and ended up shafting a lot of citizens who deserve a working MP. I understand their logic but as with so many other SF ideas it’s based on a fundamental delusion about life.

  • MainlandUlsterman

    it needs to keep evolving for sure

  • whatif1984true

    Tories will be out of the frying pan into the fire ………..

  • Paddy Reilly

    There seems to be some words missing at the beginning of this comment.

    If “reality” places Tyrone in the North and Donegal in the South, then SF wants nothing to do with it, and weirdly enough, the people of Tyrone persist in electing them on this ticket.

    The fact is that this “reality” is just a ludicrous fiction devised to profit those who devised it and disenfranchise SF and its followers, so this is not surprising.

  • Am Ghobsmacht

    Short sighted;

    If Brexit leads to Irish border posts then it increases the chances of a UI which would ultimately lead Irish sea customs posts.

    At one point in NI you had to have your passport/ID crossing the Bann/going to Nutts Corner anyway and ferry traffic was subject to heavy searching, so what odds does it make to have similar enterprises re-imposed?

    Yet more strategic idiocy from the DUP.

  • hollandia

    In short – yes – they can leave the DUP unpoliced. Two things can happen (should the DUP bring home the bacon).
    1. The DUP strike a good deal and share out the sweeties in a fair and decent manner, and everyone wins. Why would anyone complain about that?
    2. The DUP get a deal and spend it on pet projects benefiting their electorate only. SF, SDLP and others say “Look, we told you this would happen”, this is an electoral win for nationalists, and non DUP unionists.
    As regards the border – if the Brexit is of the Hard variety – and I see less chance of this happening, given David Davies first capitulation in the negotiations – then the impact on the agri-sector will be huge, and the main victims of that will be the DUP in electoral terms as their farming vote will disappear, as the impact becomes apparent.

  • Casper

    To be clear I wouldn’t want anything drastically changed regarding traditions, just another option for those who don’t wish to take part. Surely this is not an unreasonable ask no matter anyones personal point of view?

  • Casper

    If it is logical then it can’t also be deluded. When dealing with Tories silence is good enough. That is one message they can’t fail to grasp.

  • John Collins

    Like Clinton and Trump in the USA, if their was a straight fight between May and Corbyn he could well beat her.

  • Skibo

    When reunification finally happens, Sinn Fein will sit in the councils, in the Dail and in Europe. I see no problem with attending any of those areas of democracy.
    They have sat in Stormont and for all I know may return to it. Westminster is a charade as regards NI policy as it is not set on the floor of the house but rather at the desk of the cabinet. We are mere fools if we believe SF can change policy in the North by attending Westminster. The fact of not attending is a much greater political statement.

  • Skibo

    The Tories and the DUP will be well matched. You couldn’t trust the word of either of them.

  • Casper

    Unionists don’t want to hear that version. It’s always Gerry Adams fault when anything goes squiffy in N.I.
    Arlene Fosters sheer arrogance is what forced MMG to bring down Stormont. If she had stood aside voluntarily and in a timely manner Stormont might well still be running today. Her ego wouldn’t let her do that, instead she made it into an issue of ‘SF are demanding this and that, bla bla bla’.
    Unionist are still repeating the line that SF wanted to pick the DUP leader, which couldn’t be further from the truth. It’s a blatant lie and a pathetic excuse for failure.

  • john millar

    “So you don’t think they have a history of sectarianism? Awaiting your response… Still awaiting your response to the factless and boarder line sectarianism comment yesterday on shared housing.”

    Pointing out that housing -particularly social housing – is largely segregated is hardly sectarian. The facts that “peace walls” continue to exist and large blocks of social housing have been segregated for decades -with little if any change- is simply expressing the facts on the ground.and suggests
    that the communities in NI are happier amongst their own.

    “Anyway what relevance does your points have to the piece above? It’s just whataboutery”

    Whataboutery is as Cardinal Daly pointed out is ” the commonest form of moral evasion in Ireland”

    Compare and contrast

    1 The DUP and presumably their supporters are criticised for the various ( allegedly religious based) opinions

    2 Other political representatives are members of “factions” which have opinions and practices which many find ahem regrettable (The Torah regards homosexuality as a sin and “halal” slaughter of sentient animals is unacceptable to many.)

    These practices and beliefs are sheltered because critics fear of being accused of being anti-semitic or anti- muslim No such fear holds when Christianity in whatever guise is involved

  • Oggins

    Again you dodgy the fact that you said, ‘There is no real appetite for it in society’. That is your opinion and the point I was raising that it was sectarian. The fact we have people applying for shared schemes, discredits your opinion, which I assume is tainted in sectarianism. Let’s keep society polarised.

    Again what point does Islam or the Jewish faith have in relation to the topic of this post?

    You are dodging the points by talking about something completely different. These religions are not part of the thread, and two wrongs don’t make a right as they say.

    I find it humourous that you use the quote about moral evasion when you don’t answer the questions put to you.

  • Oggins

    You have yet to provide evidence for no appetite for shared housing, so I do believe your opinion is blighted with sectarianism.

  • MainlandUlsterman

    There is logic and there is Shinner logic, the latter being a kind of logic that works inside the little box they have built for themselves, but falls apart upon exposure to the outside.

  • john millar

    “I find it humourous that you use the quote about moral evasion when you don’t answer the questions put to you.”

    What question have I avoided ?
    In my opinion -based on tmy experience and he evidence of peace walls and largely sectarianised housing- there is no real appetite for major change. Provide the evidence to the contrary

    “Again what point does Islam or the Jewish faith have in relation to the topic of this post?”
    I suggest you re-read the post Compare and contrast?

  • Oggins

    The post is called ‘can you SF leave DUP completely unpoliced over any settlement it brings back from Westminster’ not compare and contrast religions…..

    So again, what does Judaism and Islam got to do with the post? It doesn’t, it is whataboutery. If you want to talk about religion and comparisons, write an article.

    Evidence to the contrary for shared housing, is the cross community housing schemes!!! Seriously are you actually reading what your typing? Your just grasping at straws. Can you expand on experience? Have you worked in the housing executive or housing schemes? What experience… Please expand, other wise it’s just rambling. You said there was no apps for it in society? Can you provided evidence of this? You still can’t.

    I am hooked now to see how you keep flogging a dead argument and points nothing to do with the article written. Stick to the script!!

  • Hugh Davison

    People in South Belfast deserve a working MP. Not happening.

  • Hugh Davison

    Why are we in Iraq, Afghanistan etc. and why is our Navy tooling around in Bahrain?

  • Hugh Davison

    ‘Farming vote’. Interesting. We’re always told that Unionists would rather eat grass than go into a United Ireland. I can believe that. There is ample history of people voting emotionally against their better interests. The question for the farmers is, when does loyalty to the the half-crown take precedence over loyalty to the crown.

  • hollandia

    To answer that, I think the answer is about a week before your business goes down the swannee.

  • Casper

    Shinner logic got rid of the army from our streets, ended the RUC totally and forever, and has put us in a position where a UI is nearer than any time before. All while promoting equality for everyone.

    What have unionist leaders delivered that they promised?

    They said they would smash Sinn Fein, nope that was a total and epic failure.
    They said a big no to the Anglo-Irish Agreement yet it went ahead with all the bells and whistles.
    They had the flag protests which achieved nothing at all. Absolutely dire ‘leadership’ on this, especially the leaflets.
    They came up with the Twaddell protest which achieved nothing.
    They rejected Dublin interference in N.I yet still Dublin has their say.
    They refused to sign the GFA yet were powerless to stop it.
    RHI, NAMA, RedSky… the list goes on.

    All things considered I’m sure United Irelanders are far more content with their leaders logic than unionists are. I know I am.

  • john millar

    “I am hooked now to see how you keep flogging a dead argument and points nothing to do with the article written. Stick to the script!!”

    I will attempt to explain it more carefully
    I refer to your post

    “So you don’t think they have a history of sectarianism? Awaiting your response… Still awaiting your response to the factless and boarder line sectarianism comment yesterday on shared housing.”

    1 Ni poliics IS sectarian the DUP is sectarian SF is sectarian the SDLP and the DUP marginally less so that leaves poor Alliance.

    2 The DUPERS are condemned ( in my view rightly ) for their policies based (allegedly) on their religious beliefs They are seen as fair game. I compared this with other religious based views which are unacceptable to many ( I gave examples) where they are given a “by ball” out of fear of allegations of bias. I suggest taht an element of balance is due.

    3 “Shared housing ” projects appears to have had limited effect

    As far as I am aware some 90% of social housing remains segregated. My opinions are based on observations during periods of living in Belfast Derry and Fermanagh an admittedly brief period as a HE tenant and a longer period where The HE was a “customer”

    I am currently awaiting reply from the HE on an FOI on the number of “shared housing” projects

    1 Started
    2 Completed
    3 Number of properties involved
    4 Relative percentage shared/ not shared

    It remains my opinion that Social housing in NI will remain largely segregated for the foreseeable future

  • john millar

    “Why are we in Iraq, Afghanistan etc. and why is our Navy tooling around in Bahrain?”

    Because they are not taking my advice

  • Oggins

    Now now, stop changing your language in relation to the shared housing schemes. It was no appetite and now limited effect. The fact that morons want to go into these estates and plaster tribalism all over them show that A) they are working and B) they have an effect.

    You said there is no appetite?

    Now is limited affect? It is not a light switch, where you can switch on and off. It takes time.

    So again, you haven’t answered the question. You say there is no appetite, can your provided evidence for this? Evidence showing no appetite?

  • SDLP supporter

    Mac tire, Sinn Fein-which sat out the 1973 Assembly elections-were vociferously opposed to an ‘internal’ solution and power-sharing in NI just as they were opposed to a ‘reformist’ NICRA.
    The UWC strike certainly brought the Executive down and I see that Mainland Ulster is trying to perpetuate the myth that it wasn’t power-sharing that unionism was opposed to, but the Council of Ireland. That is nonsense and people like Ken Maginness were at least honest enough to fess up that they were opposed to the very principle of power-sharing.

    This opposition to the principle of power-sharing was stated repeatedly in manifestos of the ‘moderate’ UUP right into the 1980s.

    The failure of Sunningdale was tragic. I remember sitting down with ‘Lost Lives’ and computing the deaths from republican and loyalist paramilitaries (of all hues) from 1 January to 27 May 1974 and IIRC it was 125 loyalist versus 124 republican.

    Let’s put it this minimalist way: Sinn Fein didn’t have a scintilla of goodwill to Sunningdale, the IRA were not the primary cause and the bottom line is that a further 2,500 people died before we had the Good Friday Agreement.

  • john millar

    “You have yet to provide evidence for no appetite for shared housing, so I do believe your opinion is blighted with sectarianism.”

    I gave you MY opinion based on my knowledge and experience.

    I have examined the situation further and I currently await FOI figures. I note that there are efforts to enhance shared housing systems. I wish them well The proof of the success of these will be measured over time. I confidently expect (apart from a few brave attempts) that Social housing will remain largely segregated.

  • Oggins

    You said there was no appetite? Baseless, baring your opinion.

    You actually called it nonsense… Which is your opinion.

    Then it was limited effect, baseless, baring your opinion.

    So in general it’s factless and opinionated. So no real substance then. Glad we finally got here.

    I would actually look at myself if I had the opinion that a cross community housing scheme was nonsense. Either your happy to have a pollarised NI, which is questionable and sectarian hints to it, or you have very little faith in a section of the community trying to build bridges and hopefully expand and remove such narrow mindedness as seen here, which itself is depressing as both are admitting defeat to sectarianism and a shared society.

  • MainlandUlsterman

    “Shinner logic got rid of the army from our streets …”
    No Shinner logic was the main reason the army was still on the streets in the 1990s.
    “… ended the RUC totally and forever”
    Oh really? Not more of a name change then?
    “… and has put us in a position where a UI is nearer than any time before”
    Have you seen the polls on Irish unity?
    “… all while promoting equality for everyone.”
    Because SF has been at the forefront of promoting parity of esteem for the two main cultural traditions in N Ireland and not at all negative about people of British identity in N Ireland.
    I’m not going to big up the following things as unionist achievements, because unionists are generally sidelined by Westminster and Dublin, so get little. But the following are satisfying:
    The IRA are in the dustbin of history
    The AIA was acknowledged to be a failure and was replaced by the GFA
    Flag protests did make a point and led to a constructive report with a way forward on flags
    Dublin has no locus to interfere in internal NI affairs now – that ended with the GFA.

  • Casper

    As I already said, United Irelanders will be far more content with where their leaders have taken them than unionists will be with their leaders. Nothing you have said here changes my opinion of that. The fact that Dublin still has any say at all should worry unionists because it delights me.