Belfast Telegraph

Will PM Corbyn dazzle at DUP conference just like Boris?

Looking back, 2018 was a dramatic political year, with Northern Ireland thrust into the international spotlight thanks to Brexit. But what might 2019 bring? Commentator Jon Tonge takes a light-hearted look at what could happen in the months ahead

Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn
Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn
Prime Minister Theresa May

January: Theresa May's Brexit deal unexpectedly passes the Commons. The DUP walks out, claiming a clear mandate for abstention from Westminster. Sinn Fein's MPs take their place, swearing an oath of allegiance to the Conservative Prime Minister's proposals.

February: A new seat of learning is opened, to widespread acclaim. The Karen Bradley University promises "specialist courses in the electoral politics of Northern Ireland".

March: Brexit Day sees slow border crossings and lots of questions about why journeys really need to take so long. Translink says its Enterprise rail service is running normally.

April: The eagerly-anticipated RHI verdict arrives. Criticising appalling mis-governance, it recommends the closure of Stormont for ''not less than 20 years". The Secretary of State declares that MLAs will only be paid 60% of their salary during those two decades.

May: Local elections see the DUP and Sinn Fein enjoy huge successes, consolidating their dominance. The PSNI puts out an appeal to see if anyone can find the ''Centre Ground" and says they will search everywhere bar polling stations.

June: Belfast International Airport announces a new route to Sri Lanka due to ''unprecedented demand for low-cost family holidays" and declares it is considering similar to the Maldives.

July: Problems on the Twelfth as the Parades Commission decides to issue its marching determinations in Irish following the shock passing of an Irish Language Act. Assembling outside the Felons Club, the Orange Order claims not to understand the revised routes.

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August: The Belfast Pride parade attracts thousands. The DUP and Orange Order floats - part of both organisations' new outreach programmes - are unanimously voted as the best.

September: The much-vaunted Larne to Stranraer 'Boris Bridge' is finally opened, based on the Carrick-a-Rede rope model to save money. Critics are told they will be "easily swayed" and to "put a knot in it".

October: Fianna Fáil comes to a decision on candidates for elections in "the North". An urgent party review will decide the matter "by 2050 at the latest".

November: New Prime Minister Jeremy Corbyn addresses the DUP conference, filling the vacant Boris Johnson slot. In a well-received oration, the Labour leader pledges to ''smash regulatory divergence between Great Britain and Northern Ireland" and "trash the backstop". He denounces "Sinn Fein sympathising" with former PM Theresa May and denies all knowledge of a united Ireland-supporting past.

December: A Border Poll is tied 50-50. Unionists claim "a clear mandate" for the Union. Republicans declare the result "an overwhelming verdict for a united Ireland". A plan to rotate the governance of Northern Ireland on a weekly basis between the British and Irish governments fails to pass the Commons. Another 'People's Vote' is promised to "resolve the matter once and for all".

Jon Tonge is Professor of Politics at the University of Liverpool

Belfast Telegraph


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