Monday, December 11, 2017

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Dominion Status

Dominion status is the only workable option for Sinn Fein to achieve some form of Irish unity, according to controversial commentator, Dr John Coulter, in his latest Fearless Flying Column today.

Sinn Fein has been able to wrong-foot the DUP for much of this year, beginning with bringing down the Stormont institutions in January, but the DUP has hit back with the Brexit Bounce.

While this year’s annual Sinn Fein conference had a tribute to the late Martin McGuinness with a shout of ‘Up The Rebels!’, the DUP has used its Commons veto and close ties to the Conservative Party to deliver a political body blow to the Republic with a ‘Starve The Rebels!’ financial tactic on Brexit.

With British PM Theresa May having to substantially back-track on any deal over the border after consulting with the DUP, the latter has now created a scenario whereby a hard border will – not maybe or could – condemn the republic’s economy to the status of a third-rate African state.

So what should be Sinn Fein’s reaction to the DUP master stroke so far as Unionism is concerned? Firstly, Sinn Fein needs to keep quiet politically and let the rival Southern parties – Fine Gael and Fianna Fail – wallow deeper into the political quagmire which the DUP has dumped the republic into.

Fine Gael Taoiseach Leo Varadkar will be wheeling out every political big gun imaginable to try and persuade the DUP to adopt some form of concession which will allow a deal on the border to proceed.

The hard border lobby in Unionism is cock-a-hoop at Dublin’s dilemma and judging by the daily rants coming from the corridors of Leinster House, the DUP has backed the republic into an economic corner – just when the Celtic Tiger was beginning to recover from its latest financial banana skin slip.

The obvious tactic for Sinn Fein would be to hold yet another special meeting and change the rules on taking seats at the House of Commons. Even the dogs in the street know the Tories are about to become totally engulfed in a civil war over Brexit, and if there’s another General Election soon, it will be Labour’s Jeremy Corbyn who will be in the driving seat.

However, like Theresa May, Corbyn may need to form a coalition with someone to ensure he’s got the keys to 10 Downing Street. He cannot rely on a massive Labour revival in Scotland given that the Tories seem to be fast emerging as the main political opposition to the SNP.

Okay, so the SNP suffered more losses than expected in this year’s Westminster poll, but if Scottish nationalists can use the Brexit drum to bash out a message of a second independence referendum then there’s the chance further losses to the Tories or Labour could be severely curtailed.

It would be a supreme irony for Corbyn if all he needed to become Prime Minister was the seven Sinn Fein MPs, so he may be asking – does Sinn Fein have a price, or is there a form of words which could be conceived which would allow Sinn Fein MPs to take their seats in the Commons and give Labour those vital votes? After all, look at the impact which devout republican Bernadette Devlin had when she took her Commons seat in the late Sixties.

But if Sinn Fein sticks to its dogmatic stance of taking Commons funding, but not seats, it’s MPs would be as useful to Corbyn in a tight Parliamentary vote as a condom in a maternity ward.

So apart from staying silent and watching Leo and his pals squirm at the hands of the DUP, what should be Sinn Fein’s Plan B? The DUP does not want a soft border or special status as that smacks too much of a united Ireland under another name.

Besides, if special status is granted to Northern Ireland simply because it voted ‘remain’ during the referendum, then the Scots will go buck mad demanding similar concessions because Scotland was another ‘remain’ region; not to mention specific constituencies in England or Wales which had a ‘remain’ majority.

Likewise, granting special status to Northern Ireland could actually be another stumbling block to getting the Stormont Executive back in business.

Realistically, Sinn Fein must return to its founding roots of 1905 when it was a separatist movement under Arthur Griffith’s influence – not a full-blown, hardline republican movement. Sinn Fein initially set out to achieve dominion status.

The success of the 1998 peace deal was the use of political ambiguity in the language and terminology among the participants. May’s text over Brexit hit the rocks because it was too descriptive, reaching the DUP the EU’s head on a platter.

Dominion status is a term which Sinn Fein can spin to its own advantage. The republican movement just needs to rebrand unity as some form of dominion status similar to Canada, Australia or New Zealand, where a lot of Ulster Scots families have settled.

After all, at one time one of the political movements on the go in Northern Ireland was the British Ulster Dominion Party, which pushed the notion of dominion status for Northern Ireland. Likewise, Sinn Fein should not forget the various loyalist organisations which pushed the concept of an independent Ulster.

These included Ulster Vanguard, the UDA, the Ulster Movement for Self-Determination, and the Ulster Independence Committee.

The PUL community will not swallow anything which smacks of a united Ireland, united island, or unity of any kind. But Unionists could be persuaded into some form of dominion status for Ireland north and south. Looks like Sinn Fein spin doctors have their work cut out for them in the coming weeks, so cancel Christmas, New Year and even Easter!

John Coulter is a unionist political commentator and former Blanket columnist. 

Follow John Coulter on Twitter  @JohnAHCoulter


Frankie Lanigan said...

Coulter has a brilliant insight on all perspectives north and south ...nails it every time!