Never Say Never Again

Political commentator and former Blanket columnist, Dr John Coulter, examines how Northern Ireland’s 18 MPs can hold the solution to the hung parliament dilemma at Westminster following the snap General Election.

Never say never again! The spectre of Hollywood heart throb Sean Connery’s 1983 James Bond could well be the theme of forming the next Westminster Government after the snap General Election dumped a hung parliament on the British people.

Once again, a future British Prime Minister will have to look to Northern Ireland’s 18 MPs if he or she is to be handed the keys to Downing Street.

The Ulster result saw the Democratic Unionists romp home as the only Unionist Party in the Commons with 10 seats, followed by Sinn Fein on seven – the party’s best ever Westminster result since the 1918 General Election when Ireland was entirely under British rule.

The 18th seat was taken by Independent Sylvia Hermon, the widow of a former police chief constable, but she saw her supposedly safe seat majority slashed from just over 9,000 to just over 1,200.

But it was an election disaster for the Ulster Unionists, the party formed in 1905 to combat Home Rule and which dominated Stormont politics since partition in the 1920s until the fall of the original parliament in 1972.

It lost both its Commons seats, reducing it to the 2005 scenario with no Commons representation and merger with the DUP to form a single Unionist Party the only option to save it.

Merger is also the only option for the moderate nationalist SDLP as the three seats held by three former leaders were snapped up by Sinn Fein and the DUP, leaving Irish nationalism with no Commons representation on the so-called Westminster ‘green benches’ for a generation.

Sinn Fein is adamant its MPs will not take their Commons seats because of the oath to the monarch – a move which has not stopped Scottish and Welsh nationalists from taking their seats, or indeed anti-monarchist MPs within the British Labour Party.

Sinn Fein has inflicted on the SDLP what the latter dished out to the now defunct Irish Nationalist Party in the 1970s. To survive, the SDLP has only one option – a merger with Fianna Fail, the Irish Republic’s main opposition party.

Tory boss Theresa May is dogmatic she wants a Conservative Government, even though her snap election plan to give her a bigger Commons majority has backfired. This can only be achieved with the help of the DUP MPs.

While the DUP will be spending the weekend drawing up its wish list in exchange for propping up a Tory Government, the DUP will be wary of what happened to the Liberal Democrats and Ulster Unionists when they entered pacts with Tories. Both the UUP and LibDems suffered in future polls.

That’s, of course, assuming that May survives as Tory leader and Right-wingers like former London Mayor Boris Johnston don’t come biting at her heels in a leadership coup.

But don’t rule our Labour’s Jeremy Corbyn’s attempt to form a rainbow coalition against the Tories using the Scottish and Welsh nationalists. But that would also involve the unthinkable – getting Sinn Fein to ditch its abstentionist policy.

But Sinn Fein has done so in the past. It dumped abstentionism in the Dail and Stormont. Indeed, its Northern leadership is ready for talks to kick-start the Stormont power-sharing Executive.

Ian Paisley senior once boomed ‘never, never, never’ in relation to the 1985 Anglo-Irish Agreement, but he joined a power-sharing Executive with the late Martin McGuinness of Sinn Fein.

Sinn Fein may be dogmatic about abstentionism in the immediate aftermath of the hung parliament. But Irish politics is the art of the impossible, and every party has its price, especially with the Brexit clock ticking.

Follow John Coulter on Twitter @JohnAHCoulter

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Anthony McIntyre

Former IRA prisoner, spent 18 years in Long Kesh. Free Speech advocate, writer, historian, humanist, and researcher.

2 comments to ''Never Say Never Again"

  1. SF should just get real and take their seats at Westminster. The republican posturing is well past its sell by date and principle or morals are scarcer than hens teeth in the party. Also, after the initial shock and sense of Tory Judas antics faded it is quite logical what the DUP are saying. If SF can galavant in and out of the Dail in Dublin, why can they not interact at Westminster? Bit of a no brainer. As long as they don't drag up the Drumcree and marching issues and all that sectarian supremacist shit, I say good for them. Squeeze a load of money out of the Tories for the health service in norn iron and other services and leave SF looking like the Eunuchs thay are. Bar Michelle of course. She's a real man.

  2. Larry,

    On the upside you are right, the wee 6 will have a stronger hand(out) this time round!


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