Fantasies of dominance are of no use in resolving Northern Ireland’s prisoner’s dilemma…

Say what you like about Brian Feeney, he is at least consistent.  Today, he futures on the options for Jeffrey Donaldson for bringing Stormont down (ie, triggering an election by doing exactly what Sinn Féin did and refusing to appoint an FM).

He has grounds for speculation largely given to him by the DUP’s own rhetoric (and the odd behaviour of the East and Mid Antrim Council in seeking to open their own negotiations with the Cabinet office over Larne port) of ending the Protocol.

In other words, it’s delusional. This bit of Brian’s piece is worth unionists reading, just to see where the trapdoor is in threatening to end the institutions…

…there will be an election, but so what? Our proconsul can stall an election for years: there’s plenty of precedent dating as far back as 2003. If and when an election is called it will be to what?

An executive won’t be formed because the protocol will still be operating and if the British government keeps its promise to Sinn Féin. On the other hand, if the British cave in to the DUP and renege on Acht na Gaelige SF won’t nominate.

Every time these power sharing institutions are threatened, out comes the dreaded ex officio SF negotiation with the Brits during which very little ever changes in fact but Stormont is put up on bricks at the convenience of the Army Council.

For any democratic party (and we see now that for the autocracy of the 37 years under its demagogic founder, the DUP is now democratic to a fault) without an army council of its own and a giant nest egg from its shady past, this is an unequal fight.

Indeed, in yesterday’s expansive interview on GMU the outgoing leader warned that it is long past time that the DUP learned to internalise some of the hard lessons of the past:

I stood outside here in 1985 and 1986 as a young loyalist. I went to all of the street protests around the Anglo Irish Agreement. And you know what, we didn’t make any difference whatsoever.

People who are saying “pull the assembly down and that will ensure that we can win on the protocol”, that has demonstrated failure in the past where I can see we’re making actual progress.

Despite this circus, life continues in Northern Ireland. If the Protocol is fixed, rather than killing Northern Ireland, the special status it confers viz a viz dual market access could ensure it gets the economic dividend it needs to fully regenerate.

Handing stuff back to London (SF’s reflex when stuff gets hard) won’t kill it. NI is an active demonstration of the iterated prisoner’s dilemma. Defaulting behaviour is borne on a fantasy of domination that has sustained both parties for years.

Every default (usually SF), and the rest of us get the sucker’s pay off. Western NI drifts deeper into poverty relative to the mixed (prosperous) bits of Belfast at the very moment connective tech promises to radically decentralise our economies.

Such default moments (if there is no democratic means for redress) only unlock the potential to breed even deeper hatreds. Brendan O’Neill argued here, such hatred is not natural; it arises from an habituation to those ‘poisonous foundations‘.

There is no alternative to Feeney’s dilemma other than  continuing with the hard grind of pressing legislative sausages into a shape that roughly corresponds to the needs of the ordinary folk who live beyond the democratic chambers.

Moreover, it is mostly likely the only way we’re headed (almost every other item of speculation is just fantasy, dangerous or otherwise). Just don’t expect to read such seemingly unwarranted optimism in a mainstream newspaper any time soon.

Starting a new book” by Let Ideas Compete is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND

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