The leader of the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP, in its acronym in English) and chief minister of Northern Ireland, Arlene Foster, has anticipated an internal rebellion that had already cornered her and has announced her resignation: on May 28 she will release the training reins, and at the end of June he will leave the Government. Foster thus becomes the scapegoat for the historical errors of unionism. The DUP favored the downfall of former British Prime Minister Theresa May by rejecting her attempts to soften the impact of Brexit in Northern Ireland. The formation blindly bet on Boris Johnson, who had no qualms about unhooking that portion of the country from the British locomotive and leaving it within the customs territory and the EU Internal Market.
The feeling of having been betrayed has been behind the resurgence of violence on the streets of Belfast or Derry in recent weeks. Foster has thrown in the towel to avoid defeat in a vote of no confidence promoted by his own deputies. His resignation speech, in a recorded video, has had the tone of dignity and inclusion that his opponents always demanded, without success, from a woman as tough as politics is in that tormented region of Europe. “There are people in Northern Ireland who feel British, others feel Irish, and others simply Northern Irish. There are those who consider themselves a mix of the three identities, and some are new and emerging citizens. We must learn to be generous with each other, live together and share this wonderful country, ”said Foster.
The 50-year-old lawyer and politician, born in Enniskillen, has been for five and a half years at the forefront of the formation founded by the hated and admired Reverend Ian Paisley. From such a legendary character he inherited a Northern Ireland in peace and an institutional arrangement with the Republicans to co-govern the territory, but also a unionism little reconciled with its historical role in the last 20 years and increasingly convinced of being the losing party in the conflict. .
Paradoxically, that resentment was compounded when the DUP was at its best. Ten deputies in the House of Commons gave the formation an unimaginable weight in British politics, being the necessary reinforcement for the Conservative Party to preserve its majority. At the same time, episodes of corruption and authoritarianism in the Northern Irish Executive (shared by turns between unionists and republicans) and in the autonomous Parliament of Stormont, caused London to seize the region’s powers for almost three years (2017-2020). self-government.
The DUP contributed with its votes to reject the EU Withdrawal Agreement that May negotiated with Brussels, whereby the entire territory of the United Kingdom would have been kept for a long period of transition in the EU customs space. It was the solution devised by the former prime minister so that the country would not fragment. The unionists decided to tighten the rope, and ended up betting on Boris Johnson. To his surprise, the new Conservative leader decided that his long-awaited Brexit was well worth a denial, and despite all his promises, decided at the last minute to leave Northern Ireland within the EU Internal Market and create, in effect, a border in the EU. Sea of ireland.
This has been the main reason for the unrest and anger of the unionist paramilitary forces that continue to operate in Northern Ireland. Behind the first graffiti threatening dockworkers – the Belfast Government and the EU had to withdraw their staff for a few days – they ended up provoking, through the incitement of their young followers, sectarian violence in the streets of Belfast and Derry as it had not been remembered for many years.
Foster, who did not hesitate to air Johnson’s betrayal in the weeks before the riots broke out, now becomes the necessary sacrifice of a party in low hours that urgently needs to reinvent itself. Next year there will be new regional elections, and the DUP leaders fear that their voters, irritated by the current situation, will abstain or opt for more radical options. And what is worse, that his worst nightmare comes true, that of a Republican Sinn Féin party, which has seen in Brexit the best possibility of a reunification of the island, which will win the majority of the votes.
Along with all these underlying reasons is added the moral dispute and the conflict of values that continues to exist in a deeply conservative party. The decision of Foster, along with two other DUP deputies, to abstain last week in the autonomous assembly before a proposal to prohibit the so-called gay conversion therapies irritated the most radical sector of the training. Paradoxically, Foster, who in his resignation speech has encouraged young women to break the glass ceiling and enter politics, leaves the party with a much more modern and tempered image than those who remain inside. It will be two men, Gavin Robinson and Jeffrey Donaldson, who will now compete for the leadership of the DUP.
Eddie is an Australian news reporter with over 9 years in the industry and has published on Forbes and tech crunch.