Has the DUP already given up on Tony Blair?

Unlike last year, the holidays have been fairly quiet this year (so far). However, this short analysis piece from Frank Millar in the Irish Times is worth marking for future reference. In it he questions whether the DUP is already calculating that they’d be better waiting for a change of residents at 10 Downing Street. One that was less cosy with its political opponents: Gordon Brown or even David Cameron?And it’s not a Unionist/Nationalist split either. The SDLP clearly feels it’s been dealt a poor hand by what they see as Blair’s one sided facilitation of Sinn Fein’s political agenda:

…the parties in Northern Ireland are inclining increasingly to the idea that recovery is beyond Blair, and that around Brown is where the action will eventually be. “It is not our happy view, but it is our fear that it is so,” says a senior member of the SDLP, who confirms: “It is certainly Mark’s view that Brown would make a better fist of it.”

SDLP leader Mark Durkan has so far stopped short of calling on Blair to stand aside in favour of Brown. But he is bursting with evident frustration at what he has described as No 10’s “feckless and reckless” handling of current issues in Northern Ireland. Consider the words; consider the source. This is John Hume’s successor as leader of “constitutional nationalism” in the North.


His [Durkan’s] party thinks current British plans to finance community-based “restorative justice” schemes a licence for legalised vigilantism which, in the words of one of his colleagues, “will see the killers of Robert McCartney and their like policing the streets of our communities.”

So far as Ian Paisley Junior is concerned, the DUP is happy to play a long game in context of incipient political change in Britain:

“I think distrust of Blair is a healthy attribute right across our party,” says Paisley jnr, confirming his view that the party might want to play it long. “If we can create an enabling environment in which there is sufficient unionist confidence, we’ll talk to the [ British] government about the process over the next two or three years, or more.”

How much Paisley jnr matters is a question which exercises the best official minds in London and Dublin. Their most benign view is that his influence will not survive his father’s domination (surely bound to end some time?). From within the DUP it is suggested the so-called “modernisers” might even prevent jnr succeeding in his father’s North Antrim seat when the time comes. For the present, however, he plainly speaks for and to what remains indisputably a Paisley party.

Moreover, the “modernisers” who actually matter do not dissent from his view that there is currently no appetite for a resumption of power sharing.

Mick is founding editor of Slugger. He has written papers on the impacts of the Internet on politics and the wider media and is a regular guest and speaking events across Ireland, the UK and Europe. Twitter: @MickFealty