Belfast Telegraph

Ruth Dudley Edwards: Forget scaremongering, let's just all keep calm and carry on

By Ruth Dudley Edwards

There is, as David Trimble said on the BBC Today programme yesterday morning, a "fair amount of scaremongering" going on about how a deal between the Conservatives and DUP could threaten the peace process and much else.

There sure is, and those engaged in it in the British media split into three main groups - all of whom seem to have been swallowing undiluted Sinn Fein propaganda.

There is the media, who love making dramas out of crises and vice versa; the hysterical "progressives" who are convinced that gays will be consigned to jail and women to the kitchen; and retired politicians formerly involved in peace processing who jump in at any excuse to talk up the fragility of the Good Friday Agreement for which they all claim credit.

It's fine to pour slurry over the DUP because it's fine to demonise British people for holding beliefs regarded with distaste in Islington.

If they're white and Christian, that is. And if they're also members of the Orange Order - as pictured on several occasions in recent days by The Times, which seems to have gone mad - pass the smelling salts.

The London Evening Standard was a good example yesterday of media nastiness.

Now edited by the ex-Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne, who has been spewing out bile against Theresa May since she fired him last year, it showed a photograph of Arlene Foster and the 10 DUP MPs with the headline: 'We're the masters now, Prime Minister.'

I was interviewed on Sky TV yesterday along with one of the progressives, Guardian journalist Dawn Foster, who was in a right old state about the threat posed by the DUP, "a traditional Christian party with very, very backward views".

Among her predictions was that the DUP would get Mrs May to rule out a border poll.

Dawn Foster could not accept that this was impossible under the terms of the Agreement. I didn't have the chance to ask her why Arlene Foster should be anti-women's rights, which she believed Martin McGuinness had been very worried about in his farewell letter - but if it was abortion she was talking about, she was too worked up to take on board my unhelpful explanation that the DUP attitude to abortion is close to that held by most political parties on the island of Ireland. And she didn't seem to understand Adam Boulton's argument that since the DUP wanted a soft Brexit, the maintenance of the pension triple lock and no means-testing of the winter fuel allowance, they might in fact push the Conservatives towards the centre.

She was also very worried about the peace process, which she thought in jeopardy, as do ex-Prime Minister Sir John Major and ex-Secretaries of State Peter Hain and Shaun Woodward, who have been hand-wringing vigorously in the last few days. The belief seems to be that British impartiality will go out the window and drive peace-loving republicans back to violence.

The boring truth is that the British and Irish Governments are co-guarantors, and both try and will continue to try to be impartial, even though the Irish would like a united Ireland some day and Conservative British would like to keep the Union.

Nothing will change. Mr Woodward should know that, but he claims that a deal with the DUP would be "reckless beyond belief".

"They would rather risk peace in Northern Ireland than do the proper thing, which is to say: 'You know what, I lost, I resign'."

That's a bit rich, since it was revealed some time ago in leaked emails from the Hillary Clinton treasure trove that after the 2010 election produced a hung parliament, at the behest of Gordon Brown who hoped to form a government, Mr Woodward had worked on an economic package for Northern Ireland "to win support from the DUP and other parties for Labour".

The DUP is almost certainly going to do with the Conservatives a sensible, low-key confidence-and-supply deal, like the one Fianna Fail has done with Fine Gael. Trimble is right about the scaremongering.

Now let's all keep calm and carry on.

Belfast Telegraph

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