Arlene Foster may preach unity now, but she led with division

The Democratic Unionist party had a front-page ad in the Belfast News Letter yesterday. “This union works,” it declared. “Lets build for the #next100.” As the first minister and leader of the DUP, Arlene Foster should have been leading this week’s celebrations for the centenary of the establishment of the Northern Irish state. 代わりに, the DUP has gone to war with itself. Foster has been humiliatingly ousted and the future of the “precious union” has been put at risk, not by republicans, but by Northern Ireland’s self-proclaimed most loyal sons.

Last Tuesday Foster made a rare visit to a youth project on the Shankill Road. In this west Belfast loyalist heartland, hundreds of families now rely on food banks, そして 子供達 were recently sent out with petrol bombs to riot by protesters whose politics were expressed when they attacked a press photographer and called him a “fenian cunt”. A reporter asked the first minister what she made of reports that individuals within her party were plotting to move against her. She brushed him off with trademark arrogance.

Hours later it emerged that most of Foster’s members of the Legislative Assembly (MLAs) and most of her members of parliament had signed a letter of no confidence in her leadership. She went home to County Fermanagh for a long night of soul-searching and quoted a psalm, on Facebook: “It is God who arms me with strength and keeps my way secure.”

彼女の resignation speech the next day was extraordinary. Foster had tried, 彼女は言いました, to lead her party and Northern Ireland “away from division”. People who identified as British, Irish, Northern Irish or a mixture of all three, as well as those whose identities were “new and emerging” needed to “learn to be generous to each other” and to share “this wonderful country”. That was where the future of unionism lay.

This came from the politician who previously said she had to protect the public finances and the unionist community from the “rogues and renegades” of the SDLP and Sinn Féin – her partners in the power-sharing executive – and who compared Sinn Fein’s demand for an Irish language act to that of a crocodile (if you fed them, 彼女は言いました, they would just keep coming back for more). The politician who took no action when one of her MPs said if such legislation were passed, he would treat it as toilet paper.

それでも, it was impossible not to feel for Foster. Her dispatch was brutal and its instigators included people she had regarded as friends and allies. She is embroiled in a court case over false rumours spread on social media about her marriage. Last week she heard a senior Sinn Féin politician describe a deceased IRA man who tried to murder her father, a part-time policeman and farmer, at their home on the Fermanagh border when she was a girl, as an inspiration.

But she was not known in her political youth as “the Bull” for nothing. When Foster was in the Ulster Unionist party (UUP) she and others, including Jeffrey Donaldson, did all they could to make it impossible for David Trimble to implement the Good Friday agreement. She then defected to Ian Paisley’s DUP. The UUP was irreparably damaged and has floundered from hapless leader to hapless leader since.

As leader of the DUP, Foster hitched her party’s “loyalty” to Boris Johnson. 結果として, 北アイルランド now has two borders, one across the land, and one in the Irish Sea.

Unionism is in panic. The Protestant community is on the verge of losing its majority. Foster couldn’t get the Northern Ireland protocol “ditched”, and neither will whoever replaces her. Sinn Féin could take the first minister position at an assembly election. The Alliance party, これ won seats at the expense of the DUP in the last Westminster election, is likely to see another surge of support now that the DUP is lurching backwards. One of the reasons cited for ditching Foster was that she had offended against biblical values when she abstained in a vote to ban the dangerous, discredited practice of gay “conversion therapy”, rather than opposing it.

The DUP wildly exaggerates the harms done by power sharing, claiming unionists are now second-class citizens. The truth is, if unionism won’t share Northern アイルランド, it is going to lose it. Those who want to live in the reconciled society that Foster espoused in her resignation speech may decide the northern state is impossible to reform, and vote in a border poll to bring it to an end.




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