Ireland: Devil’s deal

ireland devils deal

The £1bn Tory deal with the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) cast a sharp light on splits in the British ruling class and compelled those moving against the current administration to feign shock at the politics of a party with whom they have shared the Commons benches since 1971. To Labour’s Shaun Woodward the deal was simply ‘reprehensible’. We remember that at the time of Westminster’s last hung parliament in 2010, Woodward – then shadow Secretary of State for Northern Ireland – drew up Labour’s own ‘economic package’ to coax the DUP into coalition. This time around, as Labour politicians lined up to express their newfound outrage at aspects of the DUP’s politics, claims surfaced in the press that they themselves were in discussion with DUP negotiators – heaping further pressure on Theresa May’s ‘team’ to concede on key Unionist demands.

The DUP intends to play the space between government and opposition, sidling up to Labour as necessary to increase its leverage over government. Its alliance with May remains fruitful for as long as her government’s ability to win key votes in Parliament remains precarious. Of course, this suits Labour too, making closer ties with the DUP an attractive prospect. And so off went Labour’s Owen Smith to join in with Orange Order festivities in Belfast – the new shadow Secretary of State for Northern Ireland celebrating loyalist supremacy on the Twelfth. Truly reprehensible.

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The DUP and Ireland

DUP

A speech given by Nicki Jameson at a London RCG meeting on 28 June

After failing to secure an overall majority, the Conservatives have been negotiating with the DUP and have finally done a deal to secure the votes of its ten MPs on key questions. This deal will provide £1bn for state sector spending in the north of Ireland.

Everyone in Britain outside of Tory HQ is bristling with indignation of one sort or another. Regional governments in Scotland and Wales, which are already a poor relation, subsidy-wise compared to the north of Ireland, are incandescent; while Labour supporters point out that the DUP seems to have had no problem locating that magic money tree that Corbyn was ridiculed by Amber Rudd for relying on. Outraged commentators are asking if ‘cash for votes’ is legal (which it clearly is!) and, ever since the negotiations started, supporters of Corbyn have been going on about the hypocrisy of the government talking to the DUP - which has clear links to loyalist paramilitaries - while having made propaganda out of Corbyn’s earlier support for Sinn Fein, the IRA and Irish republicanism.

Much has been made in the press of the DUP’s reactionary politics – its stances against abortion and gay rights, and in favour of creationist education. But relatively little has been said about why the DUP exists at all. Why indeed the little statelet of ‘Northern Ireland’, which has been propped up by subsidies from Westminster for many a year, exists.

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Ireland: reaction north and south of the border

apple billions protest tax
The Irish government assisted Apple to appeal against a decision by the European Commission to order the company to pay €13bn in taxes to the Irish states.

Ireland: caught in the crossfire

On 17 May Enda Kenny announced his long-awaited retirement as leader of Fine Gael – the right-wing party that heads the ruling coalition in the Twenty-Six Counties. Having wanted to get rid of him from time immemorial, his party and the Irish media now praise his ‘extraordinary leadership’ in tackling ‘the Brexit issue’, elbowing his way into the great chambers of Brussels and securing his nation a prominent place at the negotiating table. Ireland has indeed found its way to the table – not as a ‘player’, but as a Brexit bargaining chip. Today’s ‘Irish question’ sits between the exit bill and citizens’ rights – ‘progress’ on all three being an EU precondition for commencing trade talks with Britain. As rivalry sharpens between the major imperialist powers, Ireland – chained to foreign capital – finds itself caught in the crossfire.

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Ireland: no return to the status quo?

2 March 2017 saw elections held to the Northern Ireland Assembly for the second time in ten months – this time around the result was quite different. Turnout overall was up almost 10% compared with May 2016 and was highest in Nationalist areas. The Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) was returned as the largest party – but only just. Sinn Fein’s total of first preference votes leapt by 34.5%. It finished with 27 seats to the DUP’s 28 – just over 1,000 votes separated the two. It has been hailed as the Nationalists’ greatest electoral performance in the history of the statelet – and the Unionists’ worst. Mike Nesbitt resigned as leader of the Ulster Unionist Party (UUP) before the full count was even in. DUP veterans Lord Morrow and Nelson McCausland lost their seats. Sinn Fein President Gerry Adams called it a ‘watershed election’; the notion of perpetual Unionist majority ‘demolished’. His party has since climbed in the opinion polls in the south, overtaking Fine Gael. Talk abounds of border polls, ‘joint authority’ over the North by London and Dublin and ‘special status’ in a post-Brexit European Union.

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Ireland ‘power-sharing’ executive collapses

March 2017 will see elections to the Northern Ireland Assembly held for the second time in ten months. On 9 January, amid the latest crisis to engulf Britain’s political institutions in the North of Ireland, Sinn Fein’s Martin McGuinness resigned as Deputy First Minister, thus collapsing Stormont’s ‘power-sharing’ Executive. His party had seven days to re-nominate for the post, or else trigger a return to the polls. First Minister and Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) leader Arlene Foster warned any election campaign would be ‘brutal’. Sinn Fein declined to nominate a replacement and, on 16 January, Secretary of State for Northern Ireland James Brokenshire called a snap election.

Cash-for-ash

Sinn Fein’s decision to force an election was precipitated by public reaction to the ‘cash-for-ash’ corruption scandal – a story that broke in February 2016 but erupted in December with further revelations. The First Minister was personally implicated. With the ensuing drip-drip of allegation and revelation, the sheer arrogance with which Foster and her cabal in the DUP passed the buck garnered widespread revulsion.

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Ireland: the key to the British revolution by David Reed