SAD to say I don’t have access to the inner workings of the DUP, but I’m going to guess that on Saturday, Jeffrey and his DUP gang will be deeply disappointed in Michelle O’Neill and Alex Maskey.

This disappointment will be because Alex and Michelle will be at Westminster Abbey representing not just their party but the people of NEI in general. What can the DUP do or say in response?  Well, they could sneer “Call yourselves republicans, and you attending the coronation of King Charles III!”  but while tempting, that’d be a mistake. By doing so, they’d only be highlighting the republicans’ approach to those with differing culture and politics.

While the DUP continue to sulk in a corner and refuse to reform the Executive at Stormont, Michelle O’Neill comes out with the likes of this: “I am an Irish republican. I also recognise there are many people on our island for whom the coronation is a hugely important occasion. I am committed to being a first minister for all, representing the whole community, building good relations between the people of these islands and advancing peace and reconciliation through respectful and mature engagement.”

Oh, Michelle – how could you? Such a public display of empathy and maturity makes the DUP  positioning look even more petulant than it already is. The DUP (with Jim Allister’s TUV  holding to the fire any DUP feet in need of holding) are insisting that they can’t do the work for which they were elected and have been paid for over the past 12 idle months. In contrast, the Shinners show infuriating resistance to the caricatures that right-wing unionism has been feeding their electors. The DUP stay out of Stormont because the thought of being Deputy First Minister to Michelle as First Minister makes them, as Ian Paisley Jr once said of gays, sick to their stomach. 

But this actually goes beyond the present non-administration. Traditionally, the unionist objection to a reunited Ireland was that it’d be shackling the North’s economy to the pathetic stout-and-biscuits economy of the South. That objection has truly evaporated. As of 2021, the Republic of Ireland had a gross domestic product (GDP) of approximately $383 billion, making it the 33rd largest economy in the world. Northern Ireland, on the other hand, had a GDP of approximately $51 billion, making it the 106th largest economy in the world. Add a further two years of havoc wreaked by Brexit and you begin to see why the economic argument dies on the lips of any unionist rash enough to try using it. 

But of course Irish reunification is about more than the pound in your pocket. It’s about the dangers it poses to unionist/British culture. How could any unionist feel their traditions and loyalties will be treated with respect in a state where they are the minority?

Well, guys, you’re already in a statelet where you are a minority. And the biggest nationalist party is Sinn Féin. And Alex Maskey and Michelle O’Neill, in one truly classy move, have exposed your fears as bogus. The fact that unionist politicians have dismissed the Irish language as "leprechaun language," Irish music as "diddly-dee" and, in 1993 the All-Ireland GAA football champions as "the Londonderry team" has led them to assume republicanism will treat them with similar contempt. 

Uh-uh, guys. Another Michelle, Michelle Obama, put it rather well: “When they go low, we go high." Or as Shakespeare put it: “’Tis the eye of childhood that fears a painted devil.”  

Time to grow up, guys.