Most of the excitement regarding the DUP conference centred on Peter Robinson’s speech (or Sammy Wilson’s). In contrast Nigel Dodds’s has received less attention. The moving forward narrative was again played up with the repeated claim that the DUP are the party of Northern Ireland and the party to move Northern Ireland forward. There were swipes at the UUP and TUV as well as nationalists and republicans. Dodds’s moving forward was couched in somewhat more traditional unionist terms. His remarks on victims and Sinn Fein seem designed to show that the DUP is not going to allow victims to be forgotten nor to allow unchallenged the rewriting of the history of the troubles. His comments on Sinn Fein were fairly acid:
Sinn Fein are the tomorrow people and the yesterday people.
Irish unity is going to come but it is always tomorrow. When not dreaming of tomorrow they are trying to re-write yesterday.
Sinn Fein seeks to re-write the history that has failed them.
To do so they seek to portray themselves as victims of state discrimination that left them with no other means of redress but through the bomb and the bullet.
How warped and how wrong they are.
Yet regrettably some Unionists go to Sinn Fein rallies and give credence to such a fallacy by condemning the unionist leaders of Northern Ireland who went before us.
I can tell you this now, this Deputy Leader and this Party will never condemn their own community before the accusing eye of Sinn Fein, and shame on those who do.
Sinn Fein can demand, yearn and search for truth all they want….
But one simple and absolute truth will endure for all time.
The terrorist campaign of the Provisional IRA was criminal, genocidal and sectarian.
It was unjustified and will always be unjustifiable.
Let republicans acknowledge that truth.
Then we can all move forward.
Peter Robinson of course made a number of fairly similar points which seemed a bit forgotten in the excitement about getting Catholics to vote DUP.
The whole conference demonstrated the DUP’s Molyneau-esque ability to appeal across a vast stretch of the unionist population: liberal and hard line; secular and religious unionists. There may be some work to be done increasing the appeal to working class unionists and to very liberal types but that work is well under-way as it seems are attempts to reach out to Catholic and “New Northern Ireland” voters. Unlike the UUP under Trimble, however, the DUP seem determined not to loose to their “right” with their outreach elsewhere. Currently they look to be almost unassailable: that said so did the UUP just after Trimble took power. The problem is always Events, dear boy, events.