Editorial from Irish Political Review, July 2008
DUP Home Rulers?
Is the DUP the new Home Rule Party, exploiting the conflict between the parties of the State for the purpose of increasing its power in the Six County annex of the United Kingdom, which is in the State but not of it?
That seems to be how its first effective intervention in British politics was seen by British politicians. It tipped the balance in favour of the extension of detention without charge from four weeks to six weeks. It was rewarded with money by the Government, but drew attention to itself as an intruder which, in a balance-of-power situation it might be necessary to do a deal with, but which all parties would much rather ignore. It is a marginal trace element in the life of the State which the real parties all hope to be able to ignore, but which it may occasionally be necessary to take account of.
The illusion of a Northern Ireland state has been restored. At the point of restoration the Official Unionist Party and the SDLP expected to be its parties. The SDLP ceased to be an anti-Partition party and remade itself into an Ulster Home Rule Party for that purpose. But the Six Country nationalist community, which held to Home Rule ninety years ago when the rest of nationalist Ireland became Sinn Fein, abandoned the SDLP in favour of Sinn Fein. Irish Home Rule was one thing. Ulster Home Rule, in only a part of the province, is quite a different thing.
The nationalist Home Rule voice at Westminster is scarcely noticed, being reduced to one. Mark Durkan voted against his "sister party", but nothing was made of it. Sinn Fein has made Irish nationalism more acceptable than it has ever been at Westminster by withdrawing itself from Westminster.
Historically, 'constitutional nationalism' at Westminster has been futile at best, and in the moment of truth in the years after 1912 it was much worse than futile.
"Constitutional nationalism" was never constitutional. Its aim was never to take part in governing the State, and the purpose of the Constitution was to provide for the governing of the State. Redmondism, holding the balance-of-power between the parties of state, attempted to exploit the conflict of the parties. With its 80 seats it put the Liberal Party in office from the back benches on condition of getting an Irish Home Rule Act. It failed to get Home Rule, but brought British politics to the brink of chaos in the course of attempting it, and aggravated Catholic-Protestant relations in Ireland to the point where two Volunteer Armies confronted one another in the first half of 1914.
The disruption of the norms of British politics by Home Rule manipulation of the balance of power was probably a factor in the decision of the Government to use the European crisis of July-August 1914 as an opportunity to make war on Germany, and it was certainly an influence on the way that the state went to war. At the critical moment in late July/early August, as a consequence of the Curragh Mutiny in March, it was without a War Minister.
The Liberal Party put itself in an unsustainable position by making itself an instrument of the Home Rule Party. That was the (British) Unionist case against it, and it was a case that the Unionists made good both during the Home Rule conflict and in the Great War. And in 1915 the Home Rule Party left the Liberals in the lurch when it refused to join the War Coalition, making the Liberals dependent on the Unionists.
A party which calls itself constitutional but refuses to join a general Coalition when the state is judged to be in jeopardy is not constitutional. It is humbug.
Constitutional Nationalism is dead. But in its place we have the strange phenomenon of Constitutional Unionism.
"Ulster is British!" we were told. We saw that it wasn't. But in the mid-eighties we provided it with the opportunity of becoming British, through participation in the system of party-politics through which the British State functions, and outside which everything becomes incomprehensible to the British. Ulster Unionism considered that project for a moment, and then rejected it. And now it is the odd fish in the Westminster pool—the intruder which can generally be ignored, and which is resented when it cannot be ignored.
The DUP got its pieces of silver for voting against its own precedents in the matter of detention without trial and enabling the Government to win. And the parties it defeated made reference to pieces of silver.
At home, in 'the Northern Ireland state', it was given a sharp lesson about the fragile nature of this 'state'.
Paisley was resented for having done a deal with Sinn Fein, and still more for operating the deal with a degree of grace and charm. So he was ousted by his lieutenants, who thought that, the deal having been done, they were free to regress.
But the ousting of Paisley made it necessary to recreate the whole Government under the bi-communal method. The DUP had to act jointly with Sinn Fein for that purpose. When Peter Robinson replaced Paisley as leader of the DUP, he began acting as First Minister—but then found that he wasn't. The First and Deputy First Minister were Siamese Twins which fell together and could only rise together. If Sinn Fein did not nominate, Peter Robinson would not be First Minister. When Sinn Fein delayed with its nomination, the devilish nature of the system began to bite.
The Northern Ireland 'state' was only restored after emergency meetings of its participants with the Prime Minister of the real State, at which some deals were done that Peter Robinson did not wish to do.
Sinn Fein has not yet become the SDLP under another name. There is still some spirit left in it. It still has a purpose beyond the 'Northern Ireland state', and for that 'state', which Unionism can never have, and this gives it an edge.
Lisbon: The People Have Spoken.
DUP Home Rulers?
Thank You, Madam (re Lisbon Referendum).
'Follow Me Up To Carlow' .
Victory To The Raytheon 9.
The Raytheon Case—Eamon McCann.
Israel Said No To UN Resolution.
The OECD Report.
Shorts from the Long Fellow
Mad Dogs Are Limerickmen? (Part Two)
Haughey In The Service Of The Nazis?
Lisbon Treaty Debate.
Luck & Roy Foster.
Lord Professor Bew & The Forging Of A Shared
Past (Part Four)
Does It Stack Up?
Coleman: Jacobite Economics?
The English In Ireland.
Impressions Of The Debate.
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