Eamonn Mallie: History speaks for itself on the DUP
‘Lie down with dogs and you’ll rise with fleas’
DUP leader Arlene Foster with her deputy Nigel Dodds as they hold a press conference at Stormont Castle. Photograph: Charles McQuillan/Getty Images
Arlene ‘hyperbole’ Foster. I chuckled to myself when I heard the leader of the Democratic Unionist Party saying there has been “a lot of hyperbole” since last Thursday.
“A lot of things said, by a lot of people who really don’t know what we stand for,” she said.
One does not need to rehearse the history of the DUP and its associations with its loyalist cousins using ‘unparliamentary measures’ down the years. History speaks for itself.
I was there. I witnessed what was taking place across Northern Ireland as the DUP played at being would-be armies.
My recollection of what I observed at the hands of loyalist and republican organisations is not hyperbole. It is fact.
Clinging to power
Country people have a great way with words - “lie down with dogs and you’ll rise with fleas” was part of the vernacular of my childhood days in rural Northern Ireland.
Yes - there is a crudeness attaching to this maxim, but there is merit in invoking it in any examination of the current political environment.
Theresa May, a lame duck prime minister having lost her majority, grasped the only reed available to her to enable her to cling to power - the Democratic Unionist Party.
The Irish writer Seosamh Mac Grianna wrote: “Tá rothaí móra na gréine ag dul thart ach a fhios ag Dia féin cad tá lenár leas na aimhleas.”
Translated, this means “the wheels of the sun keep spinning around but God alone knows what’s good or bad for us.”
And this is now the orbit in which May and Foster find themselves - they are in bed together and the fleas could stick to one or both of them before this drama unfurls.
The omissions and commissions of the Tory government in the days ahead, particularly with the conundrum of Brexit as the sword of Damocles hanging over them, could have far reaching implications for the lives of every citizen in these islands and especially for the fate of the DUP.
“We’re now players,” one DUP insider told me. “We’re in the game. It’s high stakes.”
It is indeed high stakes not just because of how deleterious the relationship might turn out to be for their Northern Ireland electorate but because of any damage the DUP might do to the Conservative party.
The media hounds are off the leash in London right now. There are no poodles among them. They scent blood. There is a determination ‘to get’ May. If this means using DUP MPs as collateral damage so be it.
There are other ‘below the radar’ dangers for the DUP. Down the years some members of the London media have been sniffing about trying to find scandal on DUP MPs.
It is now open season.
Journalists in Northern Ireland are getting endless calls from all over England and around the globe posing questions about this political enigma obtaining in the 21st century.
All comments and utterances on homosexuality, anti same-sex marriage and other issues are being dredged up and reproduced in ink and on social media sites. There is a ruthless tsunami of this material and it promises to get worse.
Inevitable scrutiny is coming on matters monetary with well rehearsed allegations of financial scandals being levelled against the DUP.
Investigations are already under way into the banking scandal and Nama property sales in Northern Ireland which unfolded during the DUP tenure of office.
Arlene Foster was the minister directly in charge when the RHI scheme was introduced in Northern Ireland - a scheme which risked almost half a billion going up in smoke because of an alleged lack of control or regulation of the scheme.
Judge Patrick Coghlin is currently chairing an inquiry into the so called ‘cash for ash’ scandal.
The hand that feeds
I have been in and out of studios opining internationally on the evolving political situation. The ferocity of the European verbal assault on May and her administration ahead of the Brexit negotiations is brutal and offensive.
She and her government are being held up to ridicule over and over again.
Any divorce settlement is only as good as the barrister one deploys.
Where are May’s big guns for this Euro battle? Foster and the DUP? I doubt that.
The Daily Mail headline screamed today: ‘Theresa tears up her manifesto: May axes key pledges as she pays the price for Cabinet support before facing a showdown with backbenchers.’
Before the postponed Queen’s speech, May might have to tear up her manifesto a few more times given Northern Ireland politicians’ reputation for begging bowl politics - a politics which normally results in biting off the hand that feeds it.