|The Tussle Over The Protocol
Edwin Poots believed that the world was created by God six thousand years ago, therefore he was a bigoted, reactionary Ulster Unionist, incapable of making terms with Catholic modernity. His policy was to legislate the Irish Language Act with Sinn Fein, settle down the Six Counties during the next few years, and unify the Unionists in the hope of presenting a Unionist majority when the Protocol comes up for ratification by Stormont on its fourth anniversary.
He has been removed the DUP leadership after less than a month as a conciliator of nationalism, and he is to be replaced by Jeffrey Donaldson, who came to the DUP from the old Ulster Unionist Party when it made a formal commitment to implement the 1998 Agreement.
The UUP had driven itself onto the rocks under the leadership of Lord Trimble, advised by Eoghan Harris and Lord Bew of the Official IRA.
Donaldson had jumped ship from the UUP to the DUP in 2004, followed shortly afterwards by Arlene Foster. Nevertheless, they were 'moderates' by Dublin reckonings.
Donaldson proposes to be disruptive where Poots proposed to be conciliatory. But it seems that he does not believe that God made the world 6,000 years ago, therefore he must be sound basically. His election was welcomed by Dublin on that ground—Dublin meaning the Irish Times these days.
The Irish Times was set up to be the British newspaper in Ireland, and therefore it survived over the decades as a major newspaper with invisible means of support. It flourished during the forty years of intensive Anglicisation, when Ireland was Britain’s second vote in Europe. But Britain abandoned it when it concluded that it had done as much damage as was prudent to the European project from within and decided to resume national sovereignty.
This was a matter of fine practical judgment. Misdirecting Europe from within required that something should be contributed to the European development too, and that ran the risk of becoming entangled in Europe beyond the point of no recovery. For the watchful and purposeful minority that has been an active element in the British body politic, that point was reached with the consolidation of the Euro. Britain therefore left the EU. And the Irish Times was cut adrift from its source.
About a century ago, when a degree of Irish statehood became a certainty, the Irish Times had to become two-faced. Its response to Brexit demonstrated how much this had damaged its sense of what England actually is. It bombarded the Brexiteers with arguments about economic advantage and jibes against narrow nationalism. But central to English existence for half a millennium has been an exclusive sense of national destiny as the only thing worth living for. It is narrow or broad according as expediency suggests, and its abiding horror is of losing the unique sense of itself which it acquired in the mid-16th century, and of becoming subject to the understanding of others in a way that would enable them to manipulate it. In manipulative relations, England must be the manipulator.
The EU now challenges it on that ground. It aims to detach Northern Ireland from it by means of the Protocol. An influential group within the Tory Party is determined that this will not happen. Jeffrey Donaldson—who seems to have been all his adult life a professional politician, and whose first job was as private secretary to Enoch Powell—is a member of that group. He is much more British State-orientated than Edwin Poots—a farmer—more amendable to local accommodations.