Created to ‘strengthen Northern Ireland’s position within the UK’, the DUP have spent their whole existence convincing protestants in Northern Ireland that they alone can keep the union together.
This message has been the core of the DUP mantra at every election since the 1970’s – until this one.
This election has created a paradigm shift in politics in Northern Ireland. Suddenly, according to the DUP, being a strong and equal part of the United Kingdom is second to protecting the ‘special’ status that excludes Northern Ireland from ever becoming anything other than an unwieldy bolt-on.
When the leader of one of the two main political parties in the UK states clearly and repeatedly that he refuses to accept Northern Ireland as a ‘semi-detached state’- making the full inclusion of Northern Ireland a central pillar of his leadership, you would expect the party that has worn its ‘unionist’ credentials like a Chelsea pensioner wears his campaign medals to hail this as a historical moment for unionism in Northern Ireland.
Strangely, the DUP – the party that only exists to ensure Northern Irelands place in the UK – has done everything it can to undermine this support from the man who could be the next Prime Minister. The DUP have changed their fundamental stance from demanding to be an equal within the UK to ‘Northern Ireland needs to be treated differently to England, Scotland and Wales’.
Could it possibly be that the DUP have now decided that they prefer being the big fish in the small pond so much that they are prepared to undermine their very reason for existence? Their shallow cries of ‘unionist unity’ seem to miss the point that if they were prepared to step aside from their own ‘exclusionist’ agenda, Northern Ireland could find itself in the strongest position in history regarding membership of the UK.
The simple fact is that if the DUP could put down their sectarian sword and their exclusionist shield, Northern Ireland could make the next step in the process of ‘growing up’. If the Conservative party are prepared to make a committed stand on Northern Irelands membership of the UK, Labour and the Liberal Democrats would be forced to follow (Labour are already rumoured to be considering running Council candidates in Northern Ireland next year).
The very thought of a Westminster election in 2014/15 which sees Labour, Liberal Democrats and Conservatives standing candidates in every constituency, without the childish infighting that defines ‘Northern Ireland Unionists’ is the biggest example of ‘unionist unity’ that anyone can imagine.
The only argument that seems to be coming from the DUP to explain why they are against the move to offer ‘real’ politics to the people is that if they are independent they can fight for what is best for Northern Ireland. Even with a hung parliament, do they really believe that 9 DUP MP’s will have any power to ensure that we get more than England Scotland or Wales?
The DUP need to decide very quickly if they are really a party that wants Northern Ireland to be an equal member of the UK or have they become the Northern Ireland independence party