In Government without a Government | Are we really going to ignore the elephant in the room?
In Government without a Government: are we really going to ignore the elephant in the room?
As Theresa May cinches the waist and adds the finishing touches to her new coalition government with the DUP, Northern Ireland stick their heads out of their metaphorical window, squint into the distance and mutter, “There the politicians are! Haven’t seen them in a few months.”
That is the reality of the most peculiar situation we find ourselves in; the largest party in Northern Ireland, backed by thousands of voters, completely unprepared to establish some sense of normality and form a local assembly. The DUP suffered significant seat losses in the last Assembly election a mere 3 months ago, and their quibble with Sinn Fein has left Stormont in a state of perpetual collapse (one assumes that during this time the Secretary of State is wandering through the rubble, muttering to himself about Brexit and a shared future.) Meanwhile, in the same breath and not even a stone throws down the timeline later, the DUP are shoving through the crowds to jump into bed with May and the Tories.
After the carpet was swept out under the feet of the SDLP and UUP in their comfortable MP seats, it left the same old, same old DUP/Sinn Fein carve up to rule the roost. The only thing that hasn’t changed this election time is the abstention policy Sinn Fein hold on to, and the result has been catastrophic – a party whose moral politics make the Conservatives look like free spirits given free reign to join the government in what has already been dubbed a “coalition of chaos.” The DUP are inching forward into the forefront of Westminster; all we can do is watch the circus.
“I make no apology for wanting the best for Northern Ireland and all of the union,” Foster intoned, while simultaneously leading a party who not only encourage but uphold anti-LBGT, anti-women’s rights and pro-Christian stances. Their track record for racism, homophobia and misogyny is appalling at best, and should not be taken lightly by citizens in any corner of the UK. Additionally, there is a certain irony to being mandated to slide to the front of a government of whom which same-sex marriage, abortion and hate crime laws are all well within legality while simultaneously denying these to people giving them the same mandate at home. Which will it be, Arlene?
“The shape of Northern Ireland’s politics” is a phrase we continuously hear, when the truth is this: there is no shape to it. Westminster continue to pay the wages of MLAs who do not take their seats, and there is no provision for government other than pushing the administration onto our civil service. Put simply, my question is this: if the DUP cannot handle a provincial government head role, how can they handle the running of Britain? How can they be trusted, even, three economic and numerous political scandals later?*
A future with Conservative rule is one that is already extremely bleak – austerity, food banks and rampant poverty are a side to Britain rarely shown but very prominent. Their return to power is now not only scary economically, but comes bolstered by a party of whom know little of political compromise or softening. The acceptance of Foster as a part of Parliament legitimises her unwillingness to rebuild the Assembly, and once again puts the future of Northern Ireland’s people and the devolved powers on the back burner.
Subsumed by an aesthetic of stability during Brexit and wielding power over Labour, the Tories have continued to throw our government to the wayside. When I get an ETA on us actually owning a functioning, legislating government, I’ll let you all know. In the meantime, I’ll just lay in amongst the debris and hope that I’m strong and stable enough to last that long.
*The DUP have been involved with a number of economic scandals, as well as scandals pertaining to issues of social justice, religion and education. Information on them can be found below:Homophobia