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19 June 2008 Edition

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The Mary Nelis Column

What was the DUP deal with Brown?

IT SMELLED to high heaven and, as one observer noted, it was a stench that came from an institution in terminal decay and which had no recourse other than to sup with the devil. The vote in the British House of Commons last week when the nine DUP members and three mavericks (described by some newspapers as ‘The Dirty Dozen’) shamelessly threw a lifeline to Gordon Brown that in the long run may prove to be the noose around the neck of New Labour.
The sordid passage of the Terror Bill, with its 42-day detention clause, among other equally repressive legislation, had as much to do with Gordon Brown’s rating in the opinion polls as with the safety of the British public. A whole raft of repressive legislation on the back of the so-called ‘War on Terror’ has effectively turned Britain, the self-styled ‘Mother of Democracy’, into a police state run by faceless people within the intelligence services.
You hate to say it but we on this island, who have been on the receiving end of British repressive legislation for generations, know exactly what it means to be dragged out of bed in the early morning, transported to one of the interrogation centres, held incommunicado, tortured and then transported to internment camps and in later years to the hell holes of the H-Blocks.

So it was sickening to listen to all the pronouncements about human rights and the destruction of laws that pre-dated the ancient Magna Carta. But it was even more nauseating to hear Gordon Brown talk about principle as DUP spokesperson Jeffrey Donaldson claimed that there was no deal done and that, as a party, they had been persuaded on the merit of the Government’s case and “voted on a matter of principle”.

Double-dealing, no matter what the circumstances, does not wash well with the British public, who know only too well the history of the Democratic Unionist Party which is now gloating that it holds the balance of power at Westminster. The speculation of financial inducements by way of the proceeds of the sale of British Army bases in the Six Counties is a bluff.  Most of the bases have already been auctioned off to private developers. But time will tell if the £200 million ‘blood money’ allegedly on offer will materialise. 
The more worrying development would be if the inducement in exchange for services rendered to New Labour by the DUP was the possibility of Brown conceding the indefinite postponement of the transfer of policing and justice powers to the North’s Assembly.
The transfer of policing and justice powers is vital for the future of the power-sharing administration and the Good Friday Agreement. And the history of Ireland is littered with agreements broken by the British in the pursuit of their eternal interests.
Gordon Brown, though, may want to reflect that in the long run, if you lie down with dogs you invariably rise with fleas.

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