Arlene Foster said a funny thing last night. Well, actually two funny things. She said that the DUP had always insisted on the political and economic unity of the UK.
Let’s take the economic one first. Unity suggests all the bits have equal status, that you’d have pretty much the same economic life if you lived in one part of the UK rather than in another. That is patently not the case for our tormented green corner. To take one example: our tgc grew faster economically than any other part of the UK during the 1990s, due (irony of ironies) largely to the strength of the south of Ireland’s economy. House prices here are the lowest in the UK. We work longer hours than anywhere in the UK. Over 30% of people working here work in the public sector – higher than anywhere in the UK. We have our own currency, but as we know most shops and stores in Britain hold up any Ulster Bank notes to the light and say “What is it?” So if our tgc’s economy is an integral part of the UK’s economy, how come our porridge bowl – despite the claimed £10billion subvention, another difference – is only half-full of very thin gruel?
As to our tgc’s place as a part of the political unity of the UK: don’t make me laugh. We have our own Assembly, even if it hasn’t met for over 1,000 days. We have the petition of concern, meaning a majority of both unionists and nationalists must support legal measures. We have Diplock courts (yes, still, Virginia) which meet, try and sentence people without the tedious presence of a jury. Unlike Scotland and Wales, as we all know, we don’t have a language bill to protect our native tongue. We have a clause in the GFA which says if a majority of people here want it, our tgc can vote itself into a united Ireland. Try that last one with Somerset or Finchley.
A final irony: when Boris drew up his clever little plan for Brexit recently – since firmly stamped on by the EU – he wanted to have a border in the Irish Sea so that our tgc could be part of the European single market, unlike the rest of the UK. The DUP promptly said they’d go along with that, providing they said they’d go along with that, which is completely different from their being made to go along with that. If you follow me.
Psst, Arlene. Remember that quote attributed to Dominic Cummings, the British PM’s eminence grise? “Northern Ireland can fall into the fucking Irish Sea for all I care”. Now that would really make our tgc different, wouldn’t it?