I’m unrepentant about saying last week that the Windsor Framework is as good as unionists can get.
Published: 14 March 2023
As I tweeted after Jim Allister took issue with me, I have great admiration for his intellect and his integrity, but that doesn’t mean we have to agree about how best to preserve the union.
I recommend the brilliant blog https://www.briefingsforbritain.co.uk, where you will find ‘What should the DUP do now?’ an article by Dr Graham Gudgin — the hard-headed unionist analyst who in his time voted against the Belfast Agreement — arguing despite his reservations for accepting what is being offered “as a partial advance while continuing to campaign to remove EU law altogether”, inside Stormont and the Executive (scroll down for a link to a related article Dr Gudgin wrote for the News Letter).
I believe strongly that if business takes advantage of the deal, the rewards of having full access to both EU and UK markets will further erode the case for a united Ireland, which is looking sicklier by the day.
This is not a happy time for Sinn Féin. The lads in the Felons Club who dictate strategy will have been badly rattled ten days ago by the report from the largest face-to-face poll ever (2,045) of the Northern Ireland non-aligned — those who see themselves as neither nationalist nor unionist.
They will have been horrified to see that only 19% chose Irish unity as their constitutional choice, with 53% opting to keep the union.
And when it came to their identity, 34% saw themselves as Northern Irish, 29% as British, 20% as Irish and 9% as European; for 65%, Sinn Féin was the most disliked party.
There are many more reasons for the Sinn Féin leadership to feel uneasy.
One is that people all over Ireland have been truly horrified by the attempted murder of Detective Chief Inspector John Caldwell, widely and rightly praised as — in the words of Tánaiste Micheál Martin — “the very best sort of person”.
Many of us are angry that among nationalists there has been so little recognition of the fine qualities of many police the IRA dehumanised, murdered, maimed and defamed, but we should be thankful at least that a new generation are learning about what ‘Ooh ah up the ‘Ra’ means in practice.
To keep the hardliners happy, Mary Lou McDonald and Michelle O’Neill will trudge on giving their pathetic eulogies to terrorists, but they’re looking over their shoulders.
Along with Gerry Adams, they carried last week the coffin of ex-convict and on-the-run Rita O’Hare, who spent many years in Washington as a spokeswoman for Sinn Féin.
In her funeral speech, McDonald spun her as “an important figure in the Irish peace process” who worked “with great drive, energy and ability for the unity of Ireland, for a more just society, and for the cause of peace and reconciliation”.
Adams, however, at her request, instructed her grandchildren to tell all her descendants “their granny was in the IRA. Tell them she was a rebel. A freedom fighter”.
The words of condemnation of the new IRA are sounding hollow to many.
As Suzanne Breen put it in the Belfast Telegraph, “the party has not fully explained at what precise moment in time blasting a police officer in the stomach changed from being right to wrong”.
As we all know, Sinn Féin has been duplicitously rewriting Irish history and ruthlessly using lawfare to silence critics, but these days journalists — angered by the legal threats — have been paying much closer attention to what they’re doing and saying.
With putting the frighteners on the press backfiring, and meticulous reporting bearing fruit, in the Dáil, deeply damaging questions are now being raised about the party’s finances.
A furious Taoiseach is mercilessly assailing McDonald.
“I know you hate the truth”, he said last week, as he goaded her over Sinn Féin’s record in government in Northern Ireland.
And as if she didn’t have enough to worry about, she can no longer take the young vote for granted down south.
There is a new threat on the political left from the Social Democrats, now climbing in the polls under its new leader, articulate, attractive 33-year old Holly Cairns, who has no embarrassing baggage.
Sinn Féin is down to 29%, its lowest level since October 2021. The last thing the party needs is to see Northern Ireland prosper.