A potential breach of the Good Friday Agreement?: What the DUP-Tory arrangement could mean for Northern Irish politics

It is sufficing to say that I am no expert in Northern Irish politics, hell, I’m no expert in English politics. Like many British people who did not live through the height of the troubles in Ireland, my education on the issues began and ended in secondary school, only spending a couple months learning about it in history class. However, with the current deal between the Conservatives and the DUP on the horizon, it is important to consider what this means for Ireland, especially concerning the Black Friday Agreement. I have thus researched the topic; however, it is important to note that I am by no means well-versed in the politics of Northern Ireland.

The Belfast Agreement, most commonly known as the Black Friday Agreement, was reach on 10th April 1998, on Good Friday of that year, hence the given name. The contract, as it were, came into force in December 1998, and consisted of various laws that would keep the rule of Northern Ireland fair and impartial. The creation of a Northern Ireland Assembly with a power-sharing executive was extremely important in doing this. Both the Nationalists and the Unionists must work side by side in the assembly, with decisions made based on parallel consent. This, ultimately meant that, the running of the country was based on gaining endorsement from a majority of both nationalists and unionists. When this agreement was first drawn up, it was opposed by the DUP, along with the UKUP, a small unionist party of which is no longer an active party. However, when the referendum was held on 22nd May 1998, the support for the Agreement was overwhelming. Voting was not compulsory, nevertheless, the turnout was extremely high at 81.1% in Northern Ireland. Of those who voted here, a staggering 71.12% favoured of the settlement. In the Republic of Ireland support was even more potent, with just over 94% backing the political agreement.

There are various other aspects of the agreement that are paramount to the continuing peace and stability in Ireland, such as the decommissioning of paramilitary weapons and new cross-border institutions with the Republic of Ireland Assembly. However, in terms of the newly proposed ‘confidence and supply’ deal, the most crucial issue that challenges the Good Friday Agreement here, is the issue of impartiality that both the UK and Irish governments are supposed to demonstrate. The agreement clearly points out that the governments must not align with either of the differing political traditions, whether that be Unionist, the DUP, or nationalist, most prominently at this moment Sinn Fein. However, with Theresa May in talks to use the DUP to prop her up in government, questions must be raised as to whether this challenges the rules set out in the Belfast Agreement. This is especially an issue as Sinn Fein abstain from taking their seats in Westminster. Moreover, whereas previously the SDLP, another nationalist party, did indeed take up their 3 seats in UK parliament, they have lost them. All this means is that nationalists will no longer have a presence in Westminster which is worrying enough in itself in terms of impartiality of the two political stances. What is even more worrying, however, is the fact that as it stands the British Prime Minister is in reliance of one of these parties.

Sinn Fein themselves have stated that this unofficial ‘coalition’, as it were, “betrayed the interests of the people” and would only “end in tears”. Indeed, it appears that if the deal made by the Conservative party and the DUP allows for a great deal of power to be put into the hands of the Unionist party, then a betrayal of the treaty would have occurred. Although the DUP have stated that they would not raise their opinions and stances on social issues in the talks of the deal with May, the issue of the power they would then have is worrying for the agreement as it stands. Indeed, as I detailed in my previous blog post on what the ‘coalition’ would mean for the Conservatives, May’s speech outside Downing Street on Friday may cause great issues. In the speech, she outlined the power that the DUP could truly have over her. It is now clear that without the DUP, May and the Conservatives would no longer possess the power to rule over Parliament. By explicitly expressing that, May has put herself in a weakened position, once again, concerning talks. The DUP know what is at stake, and although they may argue that they won’t use that to their advantage right now, it seems rather unlikely that they would never attempt to in the future. This is especially likely as there are various issues that the DUP and Conservatives do not agree with, and therefore, in order to keep their majority, the Tories may have to resort to appeasement as to not jeopardise their claim to power. It is important to note, moreover, that this ‘coalition’ is no official coalition at all, instead it relies on ‘confidence and supply’, meaning that the DUP are able to remove themselves from it at any time, making the Conservatives, ultimately at their feet. Despite being such a small party, the DUP are at this moment in time, one of the most important in regards to who has power.

Therefore, it is not surprising to see why so many are so wary of this alliance between the two parties. As outlined in my previous post, the DUP possess various regressive ideas surrounding social issues. Now, as I just stated, the party have stated that these will not appear in the talks of a deal with the Conservatives, however, how long will it be until they are? Moreover, the longer and more the Tories rely on them, the more bias, it seems, the UK parliament will appear. With the DUP holding strings to the Tories, and no nationalists apparent in Westminster, it is easy to see why there is worry of an undermining of the agreement taking place. While I do not claim to know enough to predict what this will ultimately cause in Northern Ireland, what I do believe is that if the deal does not adhere to the rules of the agreement then chaos may also ensue in Northern Ireland once again. It is one thing to deplore unnecessary chaos in her own Parliament, but to potentially undermine the government of Northern Ireland also is an irresponsible and unjust move on Mrs. May’s part. While at this moment in time we do not have a clear understanding of what the Conservative-DUP deal consists of, what is extremely clear is that the power of the Conservative party relies on it. Therefore, if this deal is to go underway, it is difficult to see how it will not have a profound and damaging effect on the agreements made back in 1998. It seems rather likely, especially considering the extent of reliance that May has on the backing of the DUP, that impartiality and bias are bound to occur in Westminster. What this means in practical terms I do not know. Fundamentally, however, it appears that a breach may occur in accordance to the Black Friday Agreement, meaning that chaos would now not only be apparent in Westminster, but also have a dire extension into Northern Irish politics.


A Coalition of Cruelty: What the potential agreement between the Conservatives and the DUP means for the weakened party

‘Theresa May is a dead man walking,’ exclaims former Tory chancellor George Osbourne, ‘it’s just how long she’s going to remain on death row.’

Theresa May, in a bid to ‘strengthen her hand’ in Brexit negotiations, has if anything lost it. Her clear and ravenous attempt to claim personal power failed her and her party. Yet, far from learning from her mistakes, it appears that she is perhaps about to damage both her and her party’s reputability once again. As it currently stands, the Conservative party will attempt to still run the government with the propping up of the DUP. Such a proposed agreement, of which has not been officially accepted yet, has not only caused outrage from the British public, but also further suggests more instability within government, and indeed in the United Kingdom. Far from the strong and stable leadership she promised, May may have just created a ‘coalition of chaos’ of her own doing.

The DUP, or Democratic Unionist Party, was founded in 1971 by Ian Paisley. Of course, the very idea that the Conservative party would happily uphold an agreement with a party founded by Paisley is completely ludicrous when considering their constant attacks and smears directed at Jeremy Corbyn throughout the General Election campaigning. Dubbing the peace-seeker a terrorist sympathiser, it appears that the Tories, most notably May herself, had very little shame when it comes to being hypocrites. Indeed, not long ago in the aftermath of the devastating terror attacks that occurred just weeks ago, May advocated that there must be a crackdown on religious extremism. However, that clearly only applies to Islam in her eyes, as she cosies up with a party that is inherently linked to Protestant extremism and acts of terror in Northern Ireland. The party, of which is the largest in Northern Ireland at this time, have links with such groups as the UDA and LVF. In fact, terrorist organisations linked to the DUP have been said to have blackmailed many of the electorate, by doing a mail drop demanding their support for the party. Of course, it must be duly noted that the DUP itself is not a terrorist party, however, the party led by Arlene Foster is far from segregated from such acts and beliefs. The party is primarily founded, of course, on the idea of Unionism with Britain. This contrasts with Sinn Fein, the party advocating, rather, for a United Ireland away from Britain. While both have links to terrorist groups, it is the DUP that uphold the rather unsavoury views that, rightly, cause the British public to be extremely displeased and wary of a British government whose stability relies on them.

The DUP’s ideology can be described as regressive at best. This is a party that have consistently blocked the legalisation of same-sex marriage, completely disregarding the consensus of the Northern Irish people. This is a party who have stated that gay and lesbianism is wrong and repulsive, with Ian Paisley Jr going so far as saying that he ‘think[s] that those people harm themselves and – without caring about it – harm society’, following on to say, ‘that doesn’t mean that I hate them – I mean, I hate what they do.’.  Such a regressive stance on the rights of LGBT people and their community is undeniably disturbing, and it goes without question that such ideologies are strongly repressive and regressive. The party’s stance on various other social issues is far from any better. On women, their own leader has stated that her most important job is being a wife and mother, subservient to men. The party is strongly Anti-abortion, they are climate-change deniers, and even possess members who believe in the absurd notion of Young Earth Creationism. It is clear, then, to understand why the British people are in strong opposition to the idea that this party of regressive values, might have the opportunity to prop up the Conservative government, and thus have strings they can pull. Not only has may lost her following in grave proportions, but she is heavily losing the respect of both the British electorate, and her peers.

May has once again gone wrong here in numerous ways. The first being that, after losing her majority and mandate by colossal proportions, she took no time in waiting before jumping straight into bed with the only party that would allow her to cling to power. May showed, once again, that instead of working in the interest of her party and the people, she instead arrogantly looked to keep herself in power. Moreover, not only did she express selfish tendencies, her incompetence in gauging a good deal in negotiations shone through once again. Perhaps foreshadowing events in Brussels, may stood outside of Downing Street and proclaimed, rather explicitly, that she needs the DUP to keep the government running, only strengthening their hand in the negotiation process. The DUP now know that they have a strong power over the Conservatives, even with only 10 seats themselves, and this will have dire consequences for the Tories’ power and their following outside of Parliament.

But what does this really mean for the Tories and government? And how guaranteed is the decimation of the party? To that I’d say it is almost inevitable that the Conservatives will lose their power to rule in a very short time. Mrs. May is bound to be met with a vote of no confidence and a leadership challenge in the coming months, perhaps even weeks. The postulation, moreover, that this agreement between the Conservative party and the DUP will bring stability to the House of Commons is absolutely absurd. The arrangement between the two parties is not truly a coalition, working on the basis of ‘confidence and supply’. This is shaky to say the least, and almost definitely promises that the deal will not be in action for long. The DUP can pull out at any time concerning this deal, moreover, it is unlikely that they will agree with the Conservatives on many occasions. Furthermore, even if the DUP simply lose confidence in May, or their ability to get their own ideals through, they can easily just up sticks and leave. This Snap Election has, if anything, weakened Theresa May’s mandate for a hard Brexit, and at the rate that we are going at, it appears that, with a minority government headed by the Tories, it will be weakened still. That is why I believe that there will be another election very soon.

But, what about Jeremy Corbyn and the Labour party? What role do they have to play in the government in the aftermath of what was a great victory in the General Election? Well, as we know, Corbyn has advocated that he will put forth an alternative Queen’s Speech to the one that May proposed Friday lunch time. In this speech, the Labour leader has outlined that although he may not have the largest number of seats, his policies and leadership would hold strong popularity in Parliament. Therefore, Corbyn argues that a minority government under his leadership would in fact be the most stable option at this current time. Personally, I do agree with this, at a time where May’s leadership is contested, with an uncosted manifesto that was abhorrently disliked Corbyn’s policies would prove popular. Ultimately, for May to step aside and allow the Labour leader to take charge of the government at this moment in time would be the honourable thing to do. Not only for the stability of the government, but also for the best interest of the people. However, this seems unlikely to happen right now, and if plans go ahead, May may hold onto power for a little while longer. However, this is now a waiting game for the decimation of Tory rule. May is bound to be met with strong opposition in the house of common and her own party. Another General Election is looking more and more likely, something the Conservatives would rather not have considering the strong influx in Labour support. In my opinion, another election would see even more young voters, and perhaps less older voters. The young have been swept up in the socialist momentum that may very well see Jeremy Corbyn moving into 10 Downing Street, perhaps even before Christmas.

Mayhem and the resurrection of the Nasty Party: Why Corbyn, and the younger generation, are the real winners of the 2017 Snap Election.

There she stands, the combine harvester has made its rounds, and Theresa May is now alone in an empty field. I bet she wishes she’d ran out sooner.

On June 8th, 2017, less than two months after it was called, the people of Britain set off to the polling stations to vote for their next Prime Minister. The polls said Conservatives, the papers said Conservatives, the result said change. But where did the ‘strong and stable’ leader go wrong, how did the woman who led the polls by 24 points ahead of calling the snap election, end up losing a net of 13 seats? And why is this result such great news for Labour under Jeremy Corbyn?

Theresa May called a snap election on 18th April, a whole two years before it was due. Why? She asked for her hand to be strengthened in order for her to be able to negotiate with more success in Brussels, concerning the very issue that got her former leader to resign. This ignorance was the first indication that May may have been in for a shock. Mrs. May, and unelected Prime Minister, stood before 10 Downing Street, and told the British public rather explicitly, that this snap election was merely her own personal power play. The election that was going to cost the tax payer, a figure has now been argued to be around £120-30 million, and actually disrupt Brexit preparation for whoever would be in charge, was clearly just for the Conservatives to gain a few more seats while they were ahead. Well, I bet Mrs May is wishing she stayed at home on that historic day.

This wasn’t the first thing that May did wrong, however, that was believing that Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour party would not be a challenge to this scrap for more power. But, this was not only believed on the part of the Conservatives, but also Labour members themselves. Such a miscalculation comes down, primarily, to a lack of understanding of Corbyn’s support, especially the demographic they most commonly come from, and they are the very thing that has ousted the Tory majority. I have been a profound fan of Jeremy Corbyn since his leadership win back in 2015, becoming myself a member of the Labour party due to his influence in May of 2016. My support for him only grew, and even into the announcement of the snap election in April, as anyone who knows me will know, I was still strongly proposing that he would have a strong victory, not win, but truly reignite the Labour party. Although Corbyn isn’t, as of yet, the Prime minister, that prospect no longer looks all that unlikely, something I and other Corbyn supporters have been predicting for some time now, usually to responses of laughter, even from his own fans. What we saw, that most people didn’t, was the sheer number of the public who voted for his leadership in the first place. Even after his vote of no confidence, his MPs begged him to leave, yet thousands of new members flooded in to support the leader, and ultimately secure him the biggest leadership contest win in the history of Labour, with round 300,000 votes. Yet, here May stood, an unelected leader, totally discounting a leader who had shown he could get the public behind him, and most crucially the youths.

Jeremy Corbyn offers hope in the face of the horrific state that the Tories have created in this country. With the national debt raised by £555 billion in 7 years of Conservative rule, yet the deeply disturbing lack of funding and closure of areas of the NHS, and Schools, cuts to the disabled and raises in university fees, much of the country could see the rise of the nasty party once again, giving tax cuts to their rich colleagues in the process. Yet, May thought her ‘Brexit means Brexit’ catchphrase would cause an amnesia effect, calling for us to simply vote on the idea that this election was merely an election for the chair of Brussels. She may have also forgotten that, while yes, our county voted to leave ultimately, just over 48% did indeed vote to remain, her in fact being one of them, and therefore this prospect of a hard Brexit may have caused a lot more damage to her campaign than she once thought. Corbyn did of course also advocate for Brexit carrying its course, however, he told the public what that meant, and promised a friendly process. This was much more ‘strong and stable’ than the soundbites May provided, made even worse by the fact that she stood at Downing Street and tried to call wolf on Juncker, arguing that he was intentionally sabotaging her campaign. This petty act further instated the belief that Theresa May truly was making this election about her, not her party, and was hell-bent on sabotaging relations with Europe because of it, losing yet more of their respect.

But the polls still placed May as favourite, despite May’s abominable campaign of unanswered questions, soundbites that had no meaning and lack of debating with Corbyn, the weak leader was still predicted by almost all polling companies to win a majority, some by even 100 seats. This massive miscalculation was made up of downright ignorance. Ignorance about the younger voters. To be fair, the number of young people that have turned out to cast their vote has dwindled for decades, and so the projection that they would continue to do the same was an almost fair one to make, until you looked at the phenomenon that is the Labour party under Corbyn’s leadership. Far from the centre based parties that we met in 2015, of which were so similar that which colour seemed to be one of the stark decisions that could really swing the voter, these parties gave you a clear choice. This was another one of May’s repetitive statements that I’m sure she now regrets stating so blatantly. The youth saw their choice. On one hand, they saw a leader who was galvanising support, who really spoke to them, who offered real hope in the face of austerity, and most importantly of all, he asked our demographic to vote. A far cry from the Tories who clearly banked on a low youth turn out, and rather refused to even suggest that they should register. Arguably the smartest move of Corbyn’s campaign, away from his policies, was to capitalise on social media. While May relied on the backing of the Sun, and other redundant right-wing newspapers, Corbyn well and truly took over Facebook, Twitter and even Snapchat, to deliver a much fairer image of his party. While the older generation looked to newspapers and news such as the BBC for their information, the young looked to social media, bursting with memes, real facts and a clear love for Corbyn’s real values, far from the terrorist sympathiser that he was said to have been elsewhere.

This was what really baffled me about the consensus of the campaign being a personality contest that Corbyn was losing. The sheer ignorance of the older generation really proved disastrous for those who opposed Labour or its leadership. From my little ‘lefty bubble’ I saw things wholly differently, I saw a massive influx in people interested both in politics and in making a better country for us all. As a young person, I am rather an anomaly in this sense, I have taken a great interest in politics and Labour since Corbyn gained leadership. His values spoke to me, and I found his leadership much more inspiring, as a woman, than May ever could. This was a man that had fought his whole life for others, and on the right side of history and still made it into power, for us, for the right values, and that was inspirational and somewhat ground-breaking. Especially through the election I was hooked, watching the news constantly, making sure I tuned into the BBC, then Channel 4, and caught up to what other channels would be saying. I watched Question Time weekly, along with PMQs until it was halted for the dissolution of parliament, I watched Marr and Peston and every debate I could, I even went to see Jeremy speak. All this is well and good, and really gave me a good perspective over the election and what the leaders were really saying, but it was twitter that really gave me a platform to speak, and also read others’ opinion. Not only this but on a personal level, it allowed me to help engage others, who maybe weren’t actively seeing both sides and wanted help, with many of them messaging me to ask, regardless of how close we were. I believe that this optimism and energy that Corbyn gave so many people, including me, had an immense knock on effect. Not only this, but with social media, people really began to question what they were being fed, and saw that Labour and Corbyn were not getting a good enough representation, and in turn saw the true colours of a ‘nasty party’, smearing Corbyn with every chance they could. People who never really took an interest in politics before, saw that they could have a say and were important, and they had Corbyn to thank, not May.

Of course, the manifestos also had a great deal of impact in the election. May, it appears, believed that she could get away with anything, with one of the worst and most damning manifestos in some time. She clearly banked on her soundbites working, and the older generation handing her their vote no questions asked. But the young, and indeed many of the other demographics, saw her as spending more time and effort smearing Corbyn and attempting to derail their costings and manifesto, than actually costing their own. Once again, the right-wing papers felt redundant, more reviled than listened to. May certainly didn’t help herself, going through countless interviews with the same rehearsed statements, never really giving an answer, and leaving more of a generic soundbite at every turn. Her constant smear of Corbyn and a ‘coalition of chaos’ prospect only further presented us with an image of a weak leader who couldn’t fight for her own policies, and instead had to resort to attacking a man who was, and doing a great job of it. Not showing up for debate was a massive failure on her part, but the reasons given were even more damaging to her case. Laughed at by journalists, she contested that it was because she was focussing on Brexit. She was actively stating that the election, of which SHE had herself called, was disrupting this, an extremely weak and damning reply. She also regularly contested that the people did not want to see two politicians fighting out their policies, while Corbyn said she should defend her record, yet, she rather contradicted herself by sending Amber Rudd. In doing so she advocated that it was her weak and unstable leadership, and lack of social skills even, that relegated her into hiding. While she hid, Corbyn rose, with even his harshest of critics praising his strong and calm answers to questions, and almost impeccable presentation. You might not have agreed with him, but at least he had an answer to give. This was refreshing to so many.

Of course, you wouldn’t have thought this looking at the right-wing newspapers. Yet, Murdoch and his merry billionaire friends’ support for May at every turn was perhaps destructive to her campaign on the whole. People were reading through the lies, curious as to why they would still support her after such damning policies, mistakes and U-turns. The public began to see that they clearly had a motive, and a stake in the Conservative government, and that only gave the people more motive themselves to show their power. The trust in the papers was lost, especially for those with active access to social media, and therefore the access to a sea of different ideas and fact checking, away from the ploys of the mainstream media. Credit must also be given to celebrities, and prominent labour speakers, for really pushing this movement. Grime4Corbyn of course had such a large impact, and rallies held with musicians such as Wolf Alice and Clean Bandit made Corbyn appear more like a headline act for a festival. His appearance ahead of a Libertines concert was received with mass cheers and chants, May on the other hand resorted to banning the sale of flour and eggs on her visit to Wrexham. Owen Jones was one of the most active speakers, and must be credited with having an extremely positive and strong influence on young people supporting the Labour party. One of his most successful campaigns was asking young people, through social media, to call up their grandparents and ask them to vote Labour. This was revolutionary, further thrusting the older generation away from the mainstream media and into a much more open form of debate, and opened the eyes of many older people to see the truth behind both party claims. I myself gained the support of my family for labour, with even my nan voting for them. Being disabled herself, she relies on surgeries and help with a car, far from being a scrounger, before she retired she worked seven days a week running her own pub, living in it and working tirelessly despite her disability. Yet, even she had been swept into the anti-Corbyn image, not even really questioning her vote for May, even though she abhorrently disliked the policies. This was the case for many of the older generation especially, however, social media, and the youth movement really pulled that house down, and paved a way for a new kind of politics.

That is what lost May her big win. Her ignorance in ignoring a whole demographic, and continuing to do so in her campaign meant that some very safe seats were lost to Labour. It was the youth turn out that really swung this, rumoured to be about 66-72%, depending on sources. It meant that Chelsea and Kensington were now Labour, unthinkable before this election. It meant that for the first time in almost 100 years, Canterbury turned red surrounded by a sea of blue. Despite the calls from the media, this WAS a personality contest but in an extremely contrasted sense to what they had first thought. The image of Corbyn and his personality was based on his sheer stability, through this campaign and his whole political career. It was the fact that he always stood up for the people and did not back down in the face of regressive opposition. He was interested in our voices, in our ideas, in our wants, our needs and our well-being. He put that across to us, he told us that we held the power, he told us that we could question the establishment, that we didn’t have to stand the cuts and inequality that we were facing. He inspired hope, while May inspired fear. Not once asking us to vote. Going to meet the people to her meant clearing out warehouses and repopulating them with her own picked out supporters and reporters. It meant sneaking through the back in and out of events. It meant only answering questions she wanted to, and even then, not really answering them at all. It meant blaming every failing on other people. It meant hypocritically smearing Corbyn for things such as being a terrorist sympathiser while she sold arms the Saudi Arabia, and don’t get me started on her proposed coalition of cruelty with the DUP. May arrogantly and ignorantly led a campaign of smearing and scaremongering, all her faults within it would take ten more posts to state. And while it must yes be recognised that Corbyn didn’t win, however May certainly lost, and she lost big. This appears to be the end of the Conservative party rule, it appears to show a rise and revolution of the true Labour, and the end of the ‘New’ Labour party that was formed under Blair. This IS change, and this IS a win for Jeremy Corbyn. A man who was always disregarded, who refused to step down in order to make sure WE were heard. He ran a campaign for the people, and he well and truly won this election when it all comes down to it. But he wouldn’t say that, he’d say it was you.