The DUP model of “Britishness” is a sad, downsized relic
Loyalist and British values are no longer the same. Northern Ireland is likely to have a nationalist First Minister for the first time since its inception. Changing demographics only tells part of the story.
The Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) — the state’s largest party for almost two decades — has alienated moderates with regressive policies and an unconvincing vision for the future. They are the lost tribe of the British Empire, their beliefs a capsule of a less enlightened age.
There are superficial similarities between the DUP and the Brexiteers across the Irish Sea, but it doesn’t go much deeper than flag-waving. With the possible exception of Jacob Rees-Mogg – who, paradoxically, is both a devout Catholic and what most Catholics imagine when they think of an absentee Protestant landowner in the 18th century – given the DUP’s record, most Tories would agree Abortion and gay marriage cringe.
Despite the regressive tendencies and perverse self-flagellation of Boris Johnson’s government, Britain remains a pluralistic, secular society. There’s a lot to like about living here.
Those of us who have grown up during the banking crisis or the global pandemic will understand Ireland’s difficult relationship with its young people and the unequal burdens we all too often have to bear when times are tough.
The UK isn’t without its problems, but there’s a reason so many of us have migrated here for generations. London is one of the world’s greatest cities, its artists remain at the cutting edge of Western culture, while the NHS and BBC, though imperfect, are still world-beating examples of what can be achieved through socialized medicine and public broadcasting.
None of what makes the UK a great place to live can be articulated by the DUP because its model of ‘Britishness’ is a sad, diminished relic. The DUP leadership – with creationists in senior positions – no longer relates to their cousins across the water, and the feeling is mutual.
The average Brit I speak to here has little to no knowledge of the constitutional arrangement between Great Britain and Northern Ireland. It is certainly little known that the British taxpayer pays billions in subsidies every year to keep the lights on at Stormont.
It’s not that the English don’t like Northern Ireland; they’re just not that interested. A united Ireland does not pose the existential threat to the Union that an independent Scotland would pose.
Edinburgh and its institutions are embedded in British society in a way that Belfast is not. The relationship between Scotland and England itself was primarily one of voluntary union.
Ireland has always been different. It was one of England’s first conquests, a laboratory of colonialism in which it honed the oppressive techniques it would later use throughout the empire. Over three centuries since the Ulster Plantation, it is unclear what purpose the region still has to serve London.
However, support for a United Ireland remains relatively weak in the province. Sinn Féin didn’t make it an issue to go into this election. They have focused on important issues such as health care and cost of living. Under proportional representation, this shift could make them more transfer-friendly than in the past towards supporters of other parties.
The DUP’s address to voters, meanwhile, remains firmly rooted in the politics of panic and calls for a pan-unionist response to defeat the hated Northern Ireland Protocol.
Party leader Jeffrey Donaldson has appeared at rallies alongside Jim Allister, leader of the far-right Traditional Unionist Voice, and has urged Ulster Unionist Party leader Doug Beattie to do the same. After Beattie refused, fearing the demonstrations would increase tensions, his office window was smashed and a noose hung around one of his campaign posters.
This comes after Simon Coveney’s visit to Belfast in March to discuss peacebuilding was disrupted by a Loyalist bomb threat, not to mention last year’s Loyalist unrest. If bomb threats, street violence and creationism sound antiquated by Northern Irish standards, they are prehistoric by British standards.
The Britain to which uncompromising trade unionists are loyal no longer exists. They’re beginning to look like the Japanese soldiers still fighting on remote islands decades after World War II: aging and hysterical, their battle long lost.
https://www.independent.ie/opinion/comment/dups-model-of-britishness-is-a-sad-diminished-relic-41615607.html The DUP model of “Britishness” is a sad, downsized relic