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Editor's Viewpoint

Parties have little influence outside NI

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Prime Minister Boris Johnson

Prime Minister Boris Johnson

PA

Prime Minister Boris Johnson

The Northern Ireland MPs who sit at Westminster are to vote against the EU post-Brexit trade deal negotiated by Boris Johnson. In reality it matters little what the DUP, SDLP or Alliance members do or say as the Prime Minister will easily win the vote with Labour probably abstaining.

But what it does do is chart how the DUP's eight MPs have grown disenchanted with the Tory government. It seems a long time since the party was cock-a-hoop at negotiating a £1bn confidence and supply deal in 2017 for backing the then PM Theresa May.

And it certainly is a far cry from the party conference in 2018 when Boris Johnson was cheered to the rafters for his pledge that he would never create any new economic borders down the Irish Sea. He not only lied to their faces but then stabbed them in the back.

The DUP's Brexit spokesman Sammy Wilson doesn't do irony but even he must realise that he is desperately clutching at straws when he says this latest decision to oppose the exit trade deal is because it did not address "many issues that are damaging to Northern Ireland". The day the Brexit votes were counted the people of Northern Ireland, by a significant majority, told him and all other pro-Brexit MPs that leaving the EU would be damaging to Northern Ireland.

The DUP, like other MPs from Northern Ireland who held the balance of power - Frank McManus from Fermanagh/South Tyrone, SDLP leader Gerry Fitt, John Carson and Harold McCusker - were in a pivotal position but never made full use of it. It wasn't so much a case of perfidious Albion as it is often portrayed, but circumstances which changed and rendered the NI MPs of little consequence.

The DUP may have gained the £1bn dowry but most people in Northern Ireland still wonder if the cheque was ever cleared or what it went to. The Health Service, given what has transpired, would have been a sensible beneficiary but there is little evidence it ever received such largesse.

However, while it is easy to criticise the DUP for once again being on the wrong page of history, we should not absolve Sinn Fein from any blame on how politics have developed. The party sits at Stormont, in the Dail and in Northern Ireland's super councils but declines to take its place at Westminster, wasting what influence it could use. Its claims that it can bring more influence to bear working behind the scenes doesn't hold water. Ultimately, like the others, it is a party of considerable force on this island but little beyond these shores.

Belfast Telegraph


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