Ignorance of the progressive voices in Northern Ireland, and shutting ears to the cries of minorities in the province has allowed politics to fester.
Following the announcement of a potential Tory alliance with the DUP, I was livid. Those of you who know me personally will have seen an angry, sweary side of me that I reserve for Northern Irish politics. I was not pleased to learn that I would once again live in a country where the DUP hold power. I am even more dismayed to foresee a future where the House of Commons turns into a UDA/IRA accusation battle. I really thought I’d escaped that.
Before I continue (I wish I didn’t have to clarify this, but some bile slung at me recently suggests I do), I think BOTH paramilitary sides of the conflict are bad. So, moving on…
I am on my way to calming down but I have kept a level of justified anger. And it’s not just because of who the DUP are – homophobic, climate change deniers, misogynistic, backwards, terrorist linked general awful people (I could go on). No, as David Schneider aptly put on Twitter, “Even if DUP was Judi Dench, David Attenborough, 6 kittens & a guide dog, May shouldn't do a deal. She must be neutral for NI peace process”.
Many people have been asking me “who are the DUP?” and I’ve seen many friends enraged by their views and supporters. However, frustratingly few people are noting the real point. The Good Friday Agreement states in strong words that there must be equality of political rights between the communities.
Even without that wording, it would be difficult to deny that the Government placing political reliance on one part from Northern Ireland violates the spirit of the Good Friday Agreement. This is particularly so when the Northern Ireland Assembly is currently unable to form a government, and the balance of power hangs very delicately.
I have never believed that the Conservatives were truly impartial power brokers in Northern Ireland, but this potential alliance with the DUP spits on even the pretence.
It is a further example of how Theresa May is unfit to govern. She does not understand principles, policy or politics in any real sense. She simply sees numbers and power. To her, the DUP are 10 votes, and she will not listen to anyone who tries to point out the substance of those votes, or what she may have to sacrifice.
In the meantime, it is Northern Ireland who will suffer. Again. I have been horrified by the amount of my friends who are surprised when they google the DUP. Minorities in Northern Ireland have been begging for decades for the mainland to pay attention.
Discussion of standing candidates in Northern Ireland by the main UK parties is a topic for another article, but I will say this to anyone who says that a party should not stand candidates because “we couldn’t win” or “Northern Irish politics is just different – let them get on with it”: you are complicit in what is happening. Ignorance of the progressive voices in Northern Ireland, and shutting ears to the cries of minorities in the province has allowed politics to fester.
I’m happy you’re paying attention now. I hope it’s not too late.
Charlotte Norton is a Young Fabian and editor of Anticipations.