Comment: The Tories are supporting the DUP’s agenda not Northern Ireland’s Peace Process

The DUP have received a £410 million allocation for Northern Ireland Assembly budget from the Conservative Party, despite Stormont not sat since snap local elections in March 2017.

Stormont’s debates chambers have been silent for over 12 months, the DUP are a party not in power at home but solely making decisions for Northern Ireland. It adds to a growing list of decisions and Brexit stance shifts by Theresa May’s Government, pointing to a willingness to do whatever necessary to keep the DUP content and themselves in power.

Peace Bridge: Derry. Credit: Aoibhinn O’Doherty

A hard border will be disastrous for Northern Ireland, The European Union is doing everything it can to stop a disintegration of the peace progress in Brexit negotiations whilst Britain does everything in its’ power to keep the DUP’s support. Allowing Northern Ireland to remain in the single market and customs union, having the hard border along the Irish sea is a huge conceit by the EU. It shows a desire to show leniency on Britain’s hard stance for the better of peace in Ireland. Theresa May and the rightwing press in Britain are outraged by Europe’s “demands,” misunderstanding who is really unrealistically demanding.

The disadvantages of a border are clear; trade, immigration and economic support will be brought to a standstill in Northern Ireland. Derry sits along the border, NI’s second city, every day hundreds commute to and from the city across the border. An economic blackspot, for decades it has benefited from European money and incentives for cross-community projects, local business, start-ups and trade. A ‘Peace Bridge’ links the still-segregated sides of Derry’s Foyle river, paid for and devised by the EU.

The Foyle Constituency voted overwhelmingly to stay in Europe, the advantages of having an elected member in the EU was clear to Foyle’s constituents, due to the work of the cities’ John Hume in spreading Europe’s peaceful philosophy.

It was on the morning of June’s General Election’s result and formation of a coalition government with the DUP, Hume came to mind. It was Hume’s fight for civil rights and ultimate vision of peace throughout the darkest days of the Troubles that saw an end to the bloodshed. The Good Friday Agreement and the design of Northern Ireland’s power-sharing Assembly was the result of secret negotiations between Sinn Fein, The DUP, Westminster and the Dáil. Forging relationships between Nationalism and Loyalism, Britain and Ireland, Hume’s lifelong commitment to equality and peace seen him receive the Noble Peace Prize in 1998.

It was not without outside support that peace was achieved. Hume was an MEP and sat in the EU’s Strasbourg Parliament. He addressed the Parliament following his Noble award, it was the speech I came across on the morning of June 26.

“The European Union is the best example in the history of the world of conflict resolution. The philosophy of the European Union and the peace of Europe is the philosophy of our [Good Friday] agreement.” Hume bellowed.

In no uncertain terms, Hume owes peace to Europe, every meticulous detail of NI’s new government was based on what followed the ashes and rubble of the Second World War. Hume understood The European Union and the philosophy it represented, respect for difference and sitting down together to work toward a common goal. 

With the threat of a no deal Brexit and a hard border, Theresa May is holding Northern Ireland’s peace process to ransom. The Good Friday Agreement brought an end to hundreds of years of intolerance to religion and culture. Britain, along with the Irish Republic, Europe and the two diametrically opposed parties of Republicanism and Unionism agreed to an equal footing. Britain accepted a responsibility to acknowledge and work with Nationalism in Ireland, for the first time Unionism had an opposition.

With the formation of a coalition with the DUP in June, Theresa May compromised Britain’s promise to Northern Ireland and have put peace in jeopardy. As we edge closer and closer to leaving Europe, with negotiations in existence but not progressing, it is becoming clear that May and her negotiator Michel Barnier are far more interested in supporting the DUP and its’ opposition to the North of Ireland remaining in the customs union and single market. It seems obvious to me, as it does Europe’s negotiators, the Conservatives are only intent on keeping their minority government in power through the DUP and not honouring their commitment to peace in Ireland.   

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