The DUP’s £1 billion ‘bung’ is doing Northern Ireland no good at all

Kiss of death: This is a mock-up, of course, but the relationship between the Conservatives and the Northern Irish DUP is harming the smaller party.

What a stroke of genius for Theresa May – she bribed the DUP to support her minority government at a time when the £1 billion on offer cannot be used to help the people of Northern Ireland.

Claudia Wood’s piece in The Guardian makes it abundantly clear that cash should be going into Northern Ireland’s health and education services – but isn’t.

She states:

A three-week wait for a routine GP appointment isn’t unusual. Hospital referrals are much worse – the 18-week targets English hospitals may miss by a week or two are the stuff of dreams over here, where waits for up to four years (yes, years) for first outpatient appointments are not uncommon. About a third of all patients wait longer than a year and even urgent health consultations have a two-year waiting list in the worst areas.

With fewer than 2 million people living in Northern Ireland, schools are closing because they can’t attract enough pupils. The schools that do have enough pupils to stay open are withering on the vine, with half estimated to be running a deficit this year and some asking parents to donate stationery and toilet rolls.

The money isn’t being sent where it is needed and the reason is simple:

Northern Ireland is also short of a government.

The DUP’s £1bn is being allocated by officials according to designated pots set out in the agreement to prop up the Conservative government in Westminster, but in the absence of ministerial sign-off, big budget items are being tied up.

Popular protests have taken place under the slogan “We deserve better” – and have gone unheard. The DUP has failed to reach a new power-sharing agreement with Sinn Fein, so Northern Ireland limps on with no government.

What will this do for the DUP at the next general election?

Who will support a party that secured a huge amount of money for Northern Ireland, then refused point-blank to take the steps needed to use it in a constructive way?

Unless Arlene Foster changes her mind and concludes a new agreement to get Stormont up and running properly again very soon, she could face annihilation in the next poll, much as the Liberal Democrats did in 2015, after their five years of collaboration with the Conservatives.

It seems the Tories cannot avoid harming their allies.

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