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PM May must find her inner Thatcher to face down DUP Brexit sabre rattling over border

Margaret Thatcher
Margaret Thatcher

By Tom Kelly

In spite of their considerable talents, the DUP leadership is not Carson and Craig. This is not 1913. Nor it is 1920 when the British House of Lords and Commons were stacked with Anglo-Irish unionists. It's not 1974 either when a slither of cowardice slipped down the backs of both the Home Secretary and Number 10 when confronted with what was then an act of open treason by loyalist thugs.

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But things changed and time changes everything.

Mrs Thatcher had few characteristics to be admired but she, as the most conservative and unionist politician of them all, put an end to fanciful threats from the leaders of unionism when she faced down those opposed to the Anglo-Irish Agreement in 1985. Mrs Thatcher reminded both Paisley and Molyneaux that she, not they, was Prime Minister of the UK. And it is she who makes the laws that govern the relationships between the UK and other countries and that those decisions are made also on behalf of Northern Ireland.

As Mrs May edged towards a deal in the 'national interests' of the UK with the EU, the unionists started their age-old sabre rattling. Whilst the DUP may be propping up Mrs May in government, they don't speak for the majority of the voting public in Northern Ireland on anything. They can only speak for their own party political support.

The idea of free trade, particularly within key sectoral areas which are critical to our economies on both parts of Ireland, North and South, is logical and is a natural consequence not only of the expressed wishes of a democratic majority here but also because it maintains the integrity of the Good Friday Agreement of which the British Government is a co-guarantor.

The reaction of DUP members threatening to bring down a government may have started an unintended chain reaction, which will lead to the eventual end of the Union with Britain.

Demographic change shows that in less than20 years the Catholic community will have a voting majority in Northern Ireland. Another general election will probably make Sinn Fein the largest party in terms of MPs. The television pictures of unionists being broadcast across the UK telling the PM what they won't tolerate will only increase British voter frustration with their embarrassing and belligerent cousins in Northern Ireland. Unionists hysterically saying that they won't tolerate anything, which makes Northern Ireland different to other parts of the UK, would be hilarious if it was comedy night at the Apollo. Unionists have always made Northern Ireland different from the rest of the UK. Social legislation in Northern Ireland is a relic from the 1950s. We have a health, housing and education service that's different. We have a raft of equality legislation that's different and we have two large political blocs, which make the place ungovernably different too. We are more like the Balkans than the English borders.

The ambitions of the Tory party hierarchy brought about this Brexit shambles to the UK and a weak Prime Minister lost her authority by gambling on an unnecessary election and losing. Mrs May is the first British leader to find herself as ransomed to the fortunes of others since Richard the Lionheart.

Corbyn and the Labour party have a duty to step up to the mark now and offer support to the PM.

Novice Taoiseach Leo Varadkar will also have his mettle tested. Britain and Ireland need leadership from real politicians - not parochial cheerleaders. Mrs May, may risk a lot more, if she doesn't find her inner Thatcher soon.

Belfast Telegraph


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