Storm clouds loom for stubborn Arlene
THE fog of Brexit blanketed the city, it rained all day and the lead story on the news was as bleak as the weather when I visited Belfast last week. A man had been murdered waiting to collect his 13-yearold son from school. Eight bullets in his head and chest fired by what is understood to be a professional killer.
Police believe that the murder of Jim ‘JD’ Donegan (43) who was shot in his red Porsche car – the basic model costs €122,766 in the Republic – is linked to the HutchKinahan gang feud in Dublin.
In the rush of shoppers – many from the Republic – I was reminded of past Christmases wreathed in horror from similar atrocities.
Crime and grief never recognised borders but a hard Brexit and frontier posts would make life easier for criminals, some of whom use politics as a flag of convenience.
The DUP wants to seize economic and political failure from Theresa May’s ‘have-your-cake-and-eat it’ opportunity in her Brexit deal for Northern Ireland.
Mrs May’s deal offers Northern Ireland a land border with the EU to trade with EU – and access to the UK’s free trade deals with the rest of the world.
Unionist farmers, businesses and trade unions (and the majority in Northern Ireland who voted ‘remain’) resent the DUP twinning with the English nationalist minority in the Conservative Party.
Ms Foster, a lawyer, told the cashfor-ash (RHI) inquiry that she had not read the legislation about the RHI project when she was the minister in charge of it ‘because she was too busy’.
She will make quotes of the year with her ‘I am accountable but not responsible’ response in the inquiry and if the report is scathing she cannot continue to lead the DUP.
Many who heard her evidence to the RHI inquiry wonder how and why she is still leader of the DUP but believe it will be impossible for her to remain when the RHI report is published.
The Northern Ireland civil service also expects criticism for an absence of note taking and not standing up to DUP ministers and their advisors through the RHI scandal project.
The DUP’s reputation has already been irreparably damaged by the RHI scandal and Ms Foster will need to embellish her tepid excuse to her party’s conference with a heartfelt, public apology.
Rumours are rife in Belfast that talks between the DUP and Sinn Féin about reviving the Stormont Executive and Assembly are on the agenda for January.
But the executive cannot sit again until the RHI report and its recommendations are published and after a general election – and with Britain’s fixed-term parliaments that will be in 2022.
By that time Ms Foster’s deal to prop up the Tory government will be history – and it will be astonishing, even miraculous, if she is leading the DUP.
Sinn Féin came within 1,000 votes of beating them in the assembly election in March last year. But the DUP’s close shave with coming second to Sinn Féin was old news three months later when Ms Foster made a post-election deal with the Tories in Westminster.
If Britain leaves the EU with no deal, 55% of the people in Northern Ireland, including 11% of unionists, would support a united Ireland, according to an opinion poll in The Times last week. The same poll also found that 25% of unionists believe the DUP is wrong to reject Ms May’s withdrawal deal.
Ms Foster’s line on Brexit has boosted Irish nationalism.
The DUP’s trenchant stand against the majority in Northern Ireland on Brexit could see ‘not-anin-inch’ as the epitaph on their political tombstone.