Who really leads the DUP..?

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“THERE is new political space developing in Northern Ireland,” Peter Robinson told the South Antrim DUP at the weekend. “It is the DUP’s aim that unionism will own it and lead it.” But it can’t. Tonight, “the new political space” will be seen at the front of the City Hall, where I doubt those mingling in the Christmas Market will care too much about any flag flying above them. Round the back, will be the “old” political space, full of DUP protesters and flag-wavers.

Robinson acknowledges that the fastest growing identity is “Northern Irish”, but his party tonight will go out of its way to alienate those potential voters, few in number as they appear. The back of City Hall will be full of safe votes; the front, where the new votes lie, won’t want to know – something for the DUP bear in mind if your hidden purpose is to win back East Belfast from Alliance.

In a way, that’s all good – voters won’t be fooled by Robinson’s charm when they can see at first hand where his party’s true priorities lie. It is fantastic that every time Robbo reaches out that his party slaps him back down as it reveals its true face. And so it might be asked: who really leads and defines the DUP – progressive Peter trying to carve out an image of an inclusive DUP, or the uncompromising Canute-like old guard still trying to hold back the tide?

Tonight, Alliance votes will save the flying of the Union Flag over City Hall. A nationalist controlled committee wanted to bring it down altogether, and an Alliance abstention in the full council would allow that to happen. Instead, the new policy will be exactly the same as Stormont’s with the flag on display on designated days – something the DUP have done nothing to change at Parliament Buildings.

If there is trouble tonight, the blame can be placed squarely where it belongs. Let’s hope there’s not. But if there is a battle between the DUP and Alliance for the hearts and minds of the “Northern Irish” – those Robinson himself describes as “not coming with a textbook nationalist wish-list demanding it be satisfied” – then tonight there will be one clear winner.

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  • http://alaninbelfast.blogspot.com Alan in Belfast

    The News Letter this morning report

    Tonight’s protest at the City Hall has been organised by a group calling itself United Protestant Voice.

    One of the organisers says he has been contacted by people from as far away as Scotland who will be attending. Speaking to the News Letter last night, Billy Millen said he expects a large turnout.

    He said: “I have been organising the Facebook side of it. There’s a group going from Tiger’s Bay, there’s a group coming from Dee Street in east Belfast, and there’s also a group coming from the Shankill.

    “We’ve even heard of people coming over from Scotland so you could see a good crowd turning out.”

  • http://nalil.blogspot.com Nevin

    “Tonight, “the new political space” will be seen at the front of the City Hall, where I doubt those mingling in the Christmas Market will care too much about any flag flying above them”

    BG, I would describe the folks at the front as shoppers, not APNI wannabes :)

    As I illustrated in a previous thread, the NILT survey claims that 28% of folks prefer the Northern Irish label yet APNI hovers at just under 8%, despite the East Belfast bonus. It looks as if the shoppers still prefer their traditional Orange and Green colours. APNI, as you note, has the deciding voice but how it plays that card could have longer term repercussions for the party. It’s essentially the puppet of the OFMDFM in the Justice ministry so that could easily change in the future.

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  • Dec

    ‘Robinson acknowledges that the fastest growing identity is “Northern Irish”, but his party tonight will go out of its way to alienate those potential voters, few in number as they appear.’

    There appears to be an assumption here, and one not just held by Robinson, that anyone and everyone identifying as ‘Northen Irish’ in opinion polls is obviously a Catholic.

  • http://sluggerotoole.com Belfast Gonzo

    An assumption by Robinson, perhaps. By me, definitely not.

  • toaster

    Nevin I think the AP voters are mostly from the unionist tribe. But that’s no bad thing

  • TheUnicorn

    Have to say I agree with this post 100%.

  • http://WindowsIDHotmail danielsmoran

    BG. I don’t know why Robbo bothers with these ‘statesmanlike’ speeches when, as has been said here, you could hardly boil a kettle before the knuckle-draggers would have shown it up as futile. This speech yesterday takes the biscuit, and no attempt to resist the temptation to play to the gallery with gloating about Gerry Adams. The reality is there no crisis in nationalism, it’s in unionism as no matter how many unicorns keep NI in the union, there’s nothing but decline ahead for the political unionist class with years of drip drip seat losses like chinese water torture. Couldn’t happen to a more deserving bunch.

  • http://nalil.blogspot.com Nevin

    Toaster, the November 30 poll in the BelTel paints a different story:

    Alliance is gaining support in this same [Greater Belfast] area, but is also gaining in parts of Upper Bann and the north coast.

    Alliance’s support is strongest in the younger age ranges.

    Once regarded as a middle-class Protestant party, its support is now split in a 4/3 ratio between Catholics and Protestants, with Catholics in the majority.

    Up on the north coast APNI has yet to regain what it lost post-1998. It’s main base has been in and around Coleraine.

  • Red Lion

    BG, tonights only one night, Robbo seems to be preparing the ground to move in a certain direction, it’ll be years and years before any referendum might happen…

  • simtrib

    For all the analysis of Robinson’s speeches and so forth a simple explanation seems to have been missed.

    He has seen Unionist votes leak to Alliance (including his own Westminster seat!) and wants to stem that.

    I think that this is more of an immediate concern to him than converting SF and SDLP voters to DUP voters by one speech!

  • wildmind

    the First Minister is right ; political fluidity is coming to Northern Ireland at last. and that presents a challenge to both sides…to the orange side to realise that the economic and social future of northern ireland will need far greater engagement with the rest of the island (and the world) and to the green side to imagine something a bit richer for the future than pure majoritarianism.