Let’s face it, the DUP pulled off a master stroke. Such was the way in which the numbers fell after the British general election that it gave them the opportunity to do as any political party would do. Extract a big price for supporting the Tories.
And what was that price? Financially it means £300 million for the northern Ireland health service; £400 million for infrastructural investment including rural broadband; and £100 million to address urban deprivation. There are also provisions to allow Stormont to have more control over local taxation, including the lowering of the corporation tax rate.
Now, most minority left wing parties would consider having extracted such a deal from a right wing government to be a massive coup. Of course the DUP is not a left wing party, at least not in the traditional sense of the word. It does, however, have a mainly working class Protestant electoral base, and they are not stupid.
There are undoubtedly other aspects of the deal that will only become apparent if and when Stormont is revived. If it is then the DUP will not only have the First Ministership but will hold the whip hand. The whipped pups shall be Sinn Féin. Arlene is not going to be resigning any time soon and the demand for cultural concessions is considerably weakened.
My first thought was that the nature of the deal would persuade the DUP to perhaps not push for the revival of Stormont. However, some of the clauses to the agreement, such as the power to set taxation rates, would indicate that they do want the Executive and Assembly back in place. It is also the case that a party with so many MLAs and staff needs to have a financial income to sustain itself.
So too do Sinn Féin. All the indications since the election, despite their having done well, is that they are as sick as pigs. All of the hagiography of McGuinness and the delusional nonsense about being on the verge of a united Ireland has disappeared. They are arguably in a weaker position politically now than at anytime since the Good Friday Agreement 20 years ago.
To the extent that they are claiming that the DUP/Tory deal is a “threat to the peace process.” Which of course is nonsense. There is never going to be a return to armed conflict on any significant scale. What the deal is a threat to is their entire myth that the GFA was some inevitable pathway to a united Ireland.
Worst of all the DUP has even managed to outflank the shinners on the left. Having spent ten years in the Executive with the DUP, implementing all manner of austerity measures and presiding over some of the most socially crippled areas of the entire United Kingdom like West Belfast, the shinners are now absurdly complaining over a massive boost to public spending. In their Orwellian world, increasing public spending is part of “Tory austerity.” Presumably the only thing they do support is the DUP plan to reduce corporation tax. Which will go down well with the shinner friends on Wall Street.
So there we are. Republicans for Partition; nationalists for the surrender of sovereignty to Brussels. Socialists against public spending. We live in strange times.