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Unionism in Northern Ireland is in turmoil with elected members of the dominant Democratic Unionist Party in open war over the election of its new leader Edwin Poots. With the name of the new Premier of the Assembly of Northern Ireland due to be announced in the coming days, subsequent events could see the collapse of the regional parliament and with it the expected rise of the pro-Irish party of the Sinn Féin unit to become the largest political party in the province, as Ken Murray reports from Dublin.

On June 22, prominent pro-British trade unionists will gather at Belfast City Hall for an event marking the 100th anniversary of the first opening of the Parliament of Northern Ireland by King George V.

The institution was described by former British Prime Minister James Craig as “a Protestant parliament for a Protestant people”, while the sovereign Dublin parliament responded to the wishes of the predominantly Catholic community in the South following the division British from Ireland in 1921.

For 100 years trade unionists in the Protestant community viewed Northern Ireland as “British as Finchley”, the former home of former Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher.

However, unrest in the union ranks has meant that what is expected to be a glorious day of celebration on June 22sd to mark the creation of Northern Ireland, promises to be anything but.

The pro-British Democratic Unionist Party, which currently holds the most seats in the Assembly, is at open war.

A recent rebellion by hard-line members of the DUP elected to the Northern Ireland Assembly to topple leader Arlene Foster saw ultra-conservative Edwin Poots defeat MP Sir Jeffrey Donaldson by just two votes, with just under half of the parliamentary party believing the uprising to be stupid and unnecessary.

A main source from DUP said Belfast Newsletter paper “that individuals across the Party were considering resigning, some likely to go to the [rival] Ulster Unionist Party.

At a Party membership ratification conference at a Belfast hotel last week, a number of senior Party members including Lord Nigel Dodds, his wife Diane and MPs Sir Jeffrey Donaldson, Gavin Robinson and Gregory Campbell , came out just as Poots was about to take the microphone to deliver his victory speech, itself a reflection of the Party’s bitterness.

Arlene Foster, who many observers have treated appallingly, is clearly seen as a scapegoat by former friends and fellow party members.

According to them, it failed to prevent the introduction of the so-called Northern Ireland Protocol negotiated by London with Brussels as part of the Brexit Withdrawal Agreement.

The protocol sees goods exported from GB to NI checked at the ports of Belfast and Larne, creating a fictitious border in the Irish Sea which trade unionists say now aligns Northern Ireland closer to Dublin and more far from London.

The hapless Mrs Foster is the victim of a deal which Boris Johnson told DUP members would never happen, but then reneged!

Following the uprising against Ms Foster, she had planned to step down as NI prime minister at the end of June, but the ruthless nature of her impeachment suggests she will be gone in the coming days.

Speaking to Chris Mason on the BBC New podcast on her humiliating defenestration, she said: “…… .. the politics are brutal, but even by DUP standards it was pretty brutal.

“If Edwin decides he wants to change this team, I will have to go too because I cannot stay with a new ministerial team over which I have no authority, and that would be a mistake.”

Poots, who in 2012 as Minister of Health imposed a controversial ban on gay men from donating blood and publicly declared that Earth was only 6,000 years old and has, bizarrely, ruled out naming himself Prime Minister!

The favorite to play the role is 39-year-old Poots loyalist Paul Givan. However, if Givan is made Prime Minister of Northern Ireland, a series of training events could see Edwin Poots’ reign short-lived!

According to the rules, the appointment of a new prime minister of Northern Ireland should also result in the election of a deputy prime minister on the opposing Irish nationalist side. In that case, that would see the current Office holder, Michelle O’Neill, re-appointed by the pro-Irish Unity Party Sinn Féin.

As it stands, there is growing frustration and anger within Sinn Fein over the delays and failure of Poots’ DUP to approve the introduction of the controversial Irish Language Act.

Accepting such a move, as many trade unionists see it, would cause Northern Ireland to become more ‘Irish’ and less British, with the language being taught in Protestant schools and eventually becoming more visible on road signs and logos. state institutions!

If Sinn Féin insists in a deal to back Givan for the Prime Minister’s stance that a deadline must be imposed for bringing the law to the assembly and the DUP refuses, the NI regional parliament risks losing out. collapse, followed by an expected game. -change of election!

In 2016, Paul Givan, then Minister of Communities, set a milestone in his stance on language when he cut funding for a project that allegedly saw schoolchildren attending an Irish-speaking neighborhood in the Republic of Ireland, a sectarian decision that contributed to the collapse of the Assembly in 2017.

This emerging scenario leaves the DUP in a sort of political pool! The party, which has shown no enthusiasm for the Irish Language Act, currently has 28 seats in the Northern Ireland Assembly with Sinn Féin out of 27.

It is almost certain that Sinn Féin will become the largest party for the first time since the creation of Northern Ireland in 1921 following the upcoming Assembly elections due to demographic change.

Any loss of power or reduction of DUP seats would then result in a decision by the Jeffrey Donaldson wing of the Party to remove Poots, thus further increasing the division in its ranks!

Trade unionism in Northern Ireland is in great difficulty, a scenario which, 100 years after the creation of the “Protestant Parliament for the Protestant People”, currently gives it little reason to celebrate!

According to Arlene Foster in an interview with The Financial Times, “I think we are regressing and getting closer,” she said.

“It’s pretty nasty, frankly. For the union to be successful, we must be a bigger tent. . . The plea I would make to the party is that if they want to secure the union, they have to have a broad vision for the union. “

In the meantime, SNP leader Nicola Sturgeon is expected to increase pressure in the coming months for an independence referendum in Scotland, the outcome of which could further jeopardize Northern Ireland’s position in the Kingdom. -United.


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