The SKWAWKBOX understands that there are two key reasons why the Tories and the DUP have not yet reached a deal on their ‘confidence and supply’ arrangement, causing the Tories to announce today that Theresa May’s Queen’s Speech will be delayed from its expected date of 19 June.
One of those reasons may be more surprising than the other.
The bigger surprise is that the DUP have been genuinely taken aback by the scale and intensity of the backlash against them in England, Wales and Scotland. Living in the ‘bubble’ of Northern Irish politics, where entrenched views become normalised, there appears to be authentic surprise on the party of DUP leaders at how vehemently many people outside Northern Ireland object to their views and connections – and to the Tory direction of travel.
A petition against the deal, launched at the weekend, had reached almost 750,000 signatures at the time of writing:
This reaction has caused hesitation on the part of some in the DUP, with even some MPs said to prefer the idea of a deal with the usually-hated Labour Party, or none at all, to that of tethering themselves to a sinking Conservative ship.
Secondly, and not unconnected to the first, is that the DUP are squeezing Theresa May and her advisors ‘until the pips squeak’ – both because they recognise how weak the lame-duck Prime Minister has become and in order to compensate for the queasiness they feel about becoming figures of hate over here.
So demanding is the DUP’s approach to negotiations that the starting point for an agreement is already severe, and includes the resumption of the Drumcree march, which terrified Irish Catholics and was banned after what amounted to a siege of the Catholic parts of the town of Portadown in 1998:
And it is just a starting point. The Belfast newspaper the News Letter reports that the ‘deal’ will allow the DUP to make new demands and negotiate a fresh deal each time the Tories want DUP support in a Commons vote:
The newspaper is said to have close communication links with the DUP, so its reports on negotiations are considered extremely solid.
While the talks drag on, tensions are rising in Ireland, with stories of sectarian and racial trouble and provocation prominent on the website of the Belfast Telegraph and residents reporting the appearance of loyalist paramilitary flags on lamp-posts across even 100%-Catholic areas, in what seems clearly to be a taunt by emboldened hard-line unionists.
In one Telegraph story, a woman told a group of schoolchildren, “I’m a f***ing Prod’ [protestant] and screamed at them,
Give it about five to 10 f***ing months and you’ll be f***ing outta here!
Another article tells of a man who celebrated the election result with a photoshopped image of a paramilitary flag flying outside 10 Downing Street:
A vast majority of people of both faiths will, of course, be horrified at what is being triggered by the Tories’ desperate bid to hold onto power. But there seems little doubt that, while the DUP leadership may be horrified at the response in Britain, an emboldened unionist fringe is causing a great deal of fear in Northern Ireland.
One Catholic reader contacted the SKWAWKBOX to say,
The DUP demanding the right to basically trample on Catholics is scary stuff. English people need to know the full reality of this woman May’s desperation and it’s deadly consequences for the North of Ireland.
My wife and myself are reliving fearful times that we thought would largely pass our adult children by and definitely our grandchildren.
The thought of a coalition between the DUP and the Tories is frightening, especially because of what they have in common: selective memory, self-delusion and jingoistic triumphalism.
These are worrying times indeed for anyone concerned for peace and stability in Northern Ireland and especially moderate, peaceful people of both religions who are suddenly confronted by a resurgence of ‘jingoistic triumphalism’ on the part of a small number of loyalist hard-liners, encouraged by Theresa May’s weakness and desperation.
Worrying too for people in Britain, fearful of what Theresa May will concede to get a deal up and running – and how much more ground she (or her successor) will concede as the DUP exploit their ‘monopoly’ to ratchet the vice ever tighter to squeeze more out of an abject Prime Minister ready to cling to power no matter the cost to the rest of us.
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