Northern Ireland: politicians on strike! Who will “surrender” first?

17 May 2022

The 25 newly-elected 25 Democratic Unionist Members of the Northern Ireland Assembly (MLAs) are on strike! Although, unlike workers who strike, they still get paid...

     These MLAs are refusing to take their seats in the Assembly. They say the Northern Ireland Protocol agreed by Johnson “to get Brexit done”, damages NI businesses and threatens the union with Britain because it creates a border in the Irish sea. Actually, all it creates are custom checks. Which certainly are an additional burden, but one due to Brexit, which they voted for. Ever since Brexit was implemented 2 years ago, they’ve demanded to have it scrapped. Or, maybe, this time, just changed?

    The DUP strike by the 25 has laid off the whole Assembly of 90 MLAs. This is thanks to that flawed 1998 Belfast Peace Agreement which legitimised NI’s sectarian divide by making power-sharing between the “communities” (i.e., nationalist and unionist politicians), mandatory. It specifies that the first minister and deputy minister must come from opposing sides of this divide. If one or other refuses, there can be no executive and no executive means no Assembly.

    So why now? It cannot be coincidence that the DUP refuses to fulfil its obligations to the Assembly after losing the 5 May election. For the first time since 2003, it got fewer seats than Sinn Fein. Indeed, this bigoted and reactionary party which stands for British Union forever and no surrender to the Irish (and is against women’s rights, gay rights, etc.), is now obliged to play second fiddle to the former “enemy”. What is more, the smaller vote for the DUP also exposes declining support for its backward ideas.

    In other words, there’s a lot more at stake for them because of changing demography and culture. And if today they create mayhem due to the Protocol, what they’re really defending is their threatened status and privilege. Johnson and Truss, who rush to support their demand, claiming to redress the imbalance created by the Protocol and the threat to the Peace Agreement, take sides with these bigots, showing their own bigotry. But they know full well that they will have to negotiate a solution with the EU. The ”unilateral action” threatened by Truss on Tuesday (by proposing a new law), is probably calculated to be the least that the DUP will accept, in order to call off their boycott..