Melanie McDonagh

More money for Northern Ireland? At least the DUP and Sinn Fein can agree on that

More money for Northern Ireland? At least the DUP and Sinn Fein can agree on that
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Well, Arlene and Theresa have met for negotiations about the DUP/Tory deal that a million people got so exercised about, they signed an online petition to have it stopped. And you know what? There is no indication, not a whisper, since those talks broke up, that abortion was so much as mentioned; nor indeed gay marriage.

Indeed, the whole notion that the DUP might be out to subvert gay marriage in mainland Britain, let alone do anything about the abortion laws (which undeniably need revisiting – tightening), was simply risible. So much for the scary talk from Ruth Davidson (who proclaimed that one of the things she put above party was LGBTI rights) and Owen Paterson; it was an opportunity for the most egregious grandstanding from Tories wanting to put their social liberalism on the record.

Sir John Major has surfaced today to say that the deal may compromise Britain’s position as honest broker in respect of the Good Friday agreement. He also suggested that other parts of the UK may get restive in the event that Northern Ireland gets a naked bribe in return for the DUP being so obliging on confidence and supply.

Instead, he’d prefer Mrs May to go it alone. But what’s not to like about all this for Sinn Fein, the other interested party in the Agreement? If there is one thing the two parties have in common it’s an interest in increased amounts of subsidy being shifted from the British taxpayer to Northern Ireland.

Their other common interest is in an open border with the Republic of Ireland – you know, the issue that Remainers go on about. So, as far as SF is concerned, there is in practice much to be said for a Tory/DUP deal, though you won’t catch them saying so. Of course it’s just about possible that Arlene will make the issue of flying Union flags over Belfast City Hall the deal breaker, but my bet is that she’s not that stupid.

As for Sir John’s suggestion that Scotland and Wales may take exception to Northern Ireland getting its barrel-load of pork from the mainland…is he serious? It’s the English taxpayers who subsidise the Celtic bits of the kingdom, Scotland and Wales included, and who are entitled, if anyone is, to complain… except they never do.

So, the sound, the fury, the moral grandstanding about the DUP was, it seems, all for nothing, at least from all the current indications. And all those people who sneer at them for being ghastly sectarians (they were; they’re better now) who want to teach creationism in schools are left looking a bit stupid, no? I am not, myself, from their side of the sectarian divide; au contraire. But given the way beating up the DUP has been an opportunity for people who should know better to bang on about abortion (quite properly devolved) and gay marriage, I find myself in sympathy with Arlene and Ian Paisley Jnr.

On Sunday, Radio 4’s lunchtime news was, extraordinarily, kicked off with an interview with a woman from the Northern Irish Abortion Rights campaign, a self-described Catholic who was invited to tell us that she never realised how oppressed she was until she came to England. She really objected to the DUP on the basis that one of their MPs had refused to shake her hand…because she was a Catholic and a woman. Really? Given a choice between Arlene and these idiots, I prefer Arlene.