What the Democratic Unionists Party (DUP) have done is to draw up their portcullis and fill their own moat with crocodiles. They are now finally, to paraphrase Seamus Heaney, besieged within their own siege. That's not politics, that's not even a plan.

On Thursday we'll have another election in Northern Ireland that on its face isn't about the health service, jobs, employment prospects, or the quality of life.

Once again, thanks to the DUP and their endless political Groundhog Day, this latest election is about what it's always been about: the union with Britain, will we stay or go?

Every political and social question, no matter how urgent or complex, has had to fit through this little keyhole since the foundation of Northern Ireland, a place where you can have any change you like as long as there is no change.

Either you make your peace with this long broken status quo, where nothing is supposed to change because that's actually the plan, or you vote with your feet and just leave because your feet will probably have more impact, in the sense that they may lead you someplace slightly less hopeless.

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Around Belfast, leaflets have started appearing in people's letterboxes this week illustrated with fire engine red alarm bells that say, “Wake up, the union is under threat!” For decades that's all the DUP have ever run on. As some commentators have started noting, their councilors could set a million pounds earmarked for public services on fire outside Belfast City Hall and they would still be reelected. 

So the DUP may not mean to make people despair, but their platform and narrow flag-waving agenda effectively ensures it. They backed Brexit and now they are stuck with it, having ultimately achieved what they vowed to reject, a border down the Irish sea.

If they had been concerned with these checks then they should not have heeded Brexit's siren call. That means that they can not run on their record now, but luckily for them, they never need to.

James Joyce repeatedly used the word “paralysis” to describe Dublin and Ireland at the turn of the last century. He thought the city faded, ruined and haunted by centuries of colonial exploitation and he thought that it might never change, although he saw the creative stirrings that were happening in the Irish culture and politics and he contributed to them mightily himself.

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It's taken the Republic almost a century to shake off those colonial doldrums but there is no question that it has. The impact of the Civil War, the long recessions, the Troubles and the Celtic Tiger have helped to ensure the people of the Republic have interrogated their own history and grappled to find the best way forward, imperfect though it may be, together.

To find paralysis in Ireland now you have to look further north. What the DUP has done is to draw up their portcullis and fill their own moat with crocodiles.

They are now finally, to paraphrase Seamus Heaney, besieged within their own siege. That's not politics, that's not even a plan. That's the definition of Joyce's paralysis and it can't end well.

We could all do with some of Seamus Heaney's generosity of spirit in this election season. It is perfectly possible, he liked to remind us, to be in two places at once. You could be Irish in Northern Ireland, or you could be British, or you could be both. Like poetry itself, you could be here and there at the same time, if your imagination and your spirit was keen enough.

But now the British Home Office, in defiance of the Good Friday Agreement, has decided that you have to choose, one or the other, never both. Heaney's metaphysical outreach was an olive branch that is not being returned. 

As the UK increasingly embraces the Northern Ireland zero-sum model of politics, the practice there is increasingly to reject and differentiate, to draw lines, not to welcome and embrace. So once again the fault is being written into the political software, ensuring the same result, you are either a zero or a one. 

If you're young you won't see a future in this place, you'll see what the young James Joyce did, haunted paralysis. He left at the age of 24 and took his genius with him.

Later he made a few brief visits back to Dublin but he never returned. In winning every little battle with this “protect the union” campaign the DUP still hasn't noticed they are losing the war.

Great change is coming anyway.

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