DUP needs to suffer loss of face

Danny Morrison argues in today’s Daily Ireland that whilst Republicans are not happy about the potential long term suspension of the local institutions, neither are they panicking to have them back. He takes the view that what he sees as the DUP’s intransigence, should be dealt with by a hardening of government attitudes and that it “needs to be chastened, [and] needs to suffer a massive loss of face”.By Danny Morrison:

The threat by Peter Hain to dissolve the suspended assembly and cease paying salaries and allowances to MLAs has been met with anger, concern and scorn by most of the parties with the exception of Sinn Fein.

It agreed that while it was untenable to keep paying assembly representatives when there is no assembly what the British government should do is immediately lift its unilateral suspension of the institutions which would put pressure on unionists to engage.

In December Hain said that there would need to be real progress between the parties (that is, the DUP and Sinn Fein) if assembly elections, which are due in 2007, are to have any meaning. However, he toughened his stance in an interview at the weekend on BBC Radio Ulster.

“If we haven’t seen progress by the summer,” he said, “the first decision I’m going to have to make is over continued payment of salaries and also allowances.”

Before October 2002 MLAs received an annual salary of £41,321 – reduced to £31,817 after suspension. Assembly office expenses and allowances (excluding travel expenses which in the year prior to suspension amounted to £605,893 in total) stand at a maximum of £48,000 for those re-elected in 2003 and at £15,000 for those elected for the first time.

No wonder there were so many rival contestants at party conventions and hundreds of candidates jockeying for the 108 seats. No wonder the various parties – none of which, bar the DUP, have been responsible for the deadlock – feel so aggrieved at being laid off.

When Hain referred to assembly members getting “£32,000 salaries… to do a job which they won’t take responsibility for doing” he was making an increasingly popular criticism. However, he should have singled out the DUP and specified what the British government is going to do about the intransigence of that party.

North Belfast MP Nigel Dodds dismissed Hain’s threat as cutting no ice with the DUP.

“We don’t need any lecture in the principles of democracy from Peter Hain,” said Dodds. “So, if he actually thinks that threatening some financial sanction is going to make our party cuddle up to Sinn Fein then he has another think coming.”

Ian Paisley Junior added, “There is no appetite within the unionist community for a power-sharing executive with Sinn Fein and the DUP.”

Peter Robinson said, “It has been the blind obsession of trying to preserve and retain the unworkable Belfast Agreement that has caused deadlock.”

All of this is further evidence that for the foreseeable future the DUP will not share power with Sinn Fein, if, indeed, it ever does whilst Ian Paisley is the leader.

The DUP certainly wants an end to direct rule and wants an assembly restored but isn’t prepared to pay the price of power-sharing with the representatives of the nationalist community. It knows that the British and Irish governments invested considerable time, effort and credibility in drafting the Belfast Agreement and it is gambling that they are unlikely to dissolve the suspended assembly – as Hain has threatened – because that suggests defeat.

But listen to how squeaky and pathetic this challenge from Ian Paisley Junior actually sounds:

“If Peter Hain is a man of his word and delivers on his latest threat to end the Assembly altogether, he will be responsible for removing every aspect of the failed past initiative of the Belfast Agreement. He will simultaneously vindicate DUP policy and ensure direct rule becomes the only game in town.”

So, the DUP is exploiting the reluctance of the two governments to concede that all of its efforts have come to nought and is trading on its eligibility as the prime partner in a coalition to extract concessions from the British government. But DUP representatives have so proudly painted the party into such an uncompromising position that it actually has no room for manoeuvre, without a massive loss of face.

The DUP needs to be chastened, needs to suffer a massive loss of face, and republicans should not balk at inflicting it on them by supporting the dissolution of the Assembly.

Given that the main source of the DUP’s power is that the governments and the other parties want to see the institutions restored and the DUP knows that without its participation there will be no institutions it may well be that the only way to force the DUP to rethink its position is to deny it its veto.

Is the dissolution of the Assembly that frightening a prospect? Remember all the twists and turns, ups and downs, expectations and disappointments there have been since the IRA cessation was called in August 1994! We haven’t had power-sharing for three years; in fact, over a period of eight years we only had it for a matter of months.

What intransigent unionists need to understand is that republicans never wanted a northern assembly to begin with. Republicans compromised and agreed to enter and work an assembly on behalf of their constituents and as part of their strategy to break down partition, but also as acknowledging unionist sensibilities and offering them the hand of friendship. That has never been reciprocated. Unionists continually demand the IRA apologise for its past, without ever conceding their contribution to the outbreak of the conflict.

So, let the DUP carry the can for the ills of direct rule. Let it understand that there is a penalty to be paid for denying the nationalist people their democratic rights.

Some will argue that direct rule will lead to a political vacuum. We already have a political vacuum. Some might argue that it will be filled with violence. Why should it? Conditions have changed. There is no need for armed struggle. Nationalist confidence grows by the day. Republicans survived repression under decades of direct rule and can certainly thrive politically, especially given their proven tenacity and creativity. They have many projects across the island. In the restructured local government councils they will be able to lead by example; and in the South there is a massive challenge: all of which means that the party need never be idle.

Would the dissolution of the Assembly mean the end of the Belfast Agreement and victory for the DUP? Certainly not. In fact, with the DUP’s negative bargaining power neutralised the two governments should be able to more easily introduce change. There are many outstanding aspects of the Agreement to be implemented which do not rely on devolution (though Sinn Fein recognising the PSNI appears to be conditional on the devolution of policing and justice powers to an assembly.)

If and when the DUP grow up and become democrats I am sure Sinn Fein will be accommodating when it comes asking for a power-sharing executive.

As an Irish republican all British rule – including direct rule – is anathema. What makes it bearable is that in the ultimate scheme of things it is transitory and power will eventually be transferred to the people.

First published in Daily Ireland on Wednesday 12th January 2006

  • Oilbhéar Chromaill

    It’s great that all the parties are getting together to applaud a genuine concession to Sinn Féin – may it be the first of many such occasions of cross party collaboration….

  • oceallaigh

    After so many years of a one party Unionist led state it would seem that there has grown a culture of entitlement within the Unionist ranks of N Ire ,almost like a welfare mentality whereby they expect the cheques to keep coming from Britain whether they earn them or not .Unionist intransigence and backsliding should not be rewarded and once the new councils are up and running the DUP will soon see how strategically they have shot themselves in the foot if they are still in their “not an inch ” mode .

  • Concerned Loyalist

    You and your fellow nationalist posters talk of “Unionist intransigence”.

    Here’s a metaphor for ALL nationalist posters that feel my community is “intransigent”. It might give you a bit of perspective:

    If you kick a dog will it not bark or maybe even bite?

    On the other hand, if you treat the dog well and with respect, it will grow to like you and respect you in turn…

  • esmereldavillalobos

    So, Morrison wants the DUP “to be chastened, need[s] to suffer a massive loss of face…”

    Sackcloth & ashes, perhaps? Where have we heard this before?

    Also his first paragraph appears to be out of date as during the debate on Hain’s statement withdrawing the OTR legislation, all the parties (except the shinners, obviously) agreed that MLAs getting salaries was untenable.

  • Mickhall

    So Mr Morrison and SF now want’s the British government to punish fellow Irish men and women. [DUP] OK I jest somewhat, but what’s with all this we must rely on Blair and his ministers nonsense. SF leaders seem incapable of criticizing Tony Blair, when any thing goes astray the buck never stops with Mr Blair, it is wayward secrocrats or intransigent DUPers and the only decent oik in the equation is yes you guessed it, Mr Blair. Thus if good old Gerry and Martin can only get along to No 10 and whisper in his ear, all will be put right. They remind me of those communists who were certain Uncle Joe new nothing of the gulags and death sentences.


  • Henry94


    If you kick a dog will it not bark or maybe even bite?

    On the other hand, if you treat the dog well and with respect, it will grow to like you and respect you in turn…

    Maybe it needs to get used to no longer being top dog.

    Paws for reflection on that.

  • Baluba

    Mickhall, I don’t know what planet you’re on bro, but SF are a bit raw in the throat complaining about the British government. Pick a press release out of a hat and I’m fairly sure you’ll get a complaint about Mrs. Windsor’s government and therefore, the fella at it’s head.

    I don’t believe DM is calling for a punishment, merely that we move on without them. This will inflict a loss of face on them (which will happen anyway when the rev doc pops his clogs and they go into gov’ment anyway).

    Oh yeah, concerned loyalist, that metaphor was pants man. We ain’t kickin’ your dog.

  • Baluba

    …a certain government and political representation may well be pulling your chain though…

  • Mickhall

    …a certain government and political representation may well be pulling your chain though…

    Posted by Baluba on Jan 11, 2006 @ 03:33 PM

    This post is a joy, it encapsulates all we have been debating over the last few days. Anyone who posts something Baluba disagrees with, is either a stooge, foolish or is posting for motives beyond that which they express in their post. It is a good job few shinners are into the Bolivian disco powder as they really would be a screwed up bunch. Then again for some one who supports Gerry and the Peace Makers, to accuse others of having a certain government pulling their chain’s takes one’s breath away. Denis Who one might ask? I’m going to withdraw for a few days before I say something I will regret.

    Best to All

  • Crataegus

    I have to take issue with this. Although I am less than enthusiastic about the DUP I must confess they seem to be fairly consistent to me. How can you make them loose face? Does Danny really think direct rule will result in loss of face if so then he really does not understand the beast?

    We will all suffer under direct rule it is not just, “denying the nationalist people their democratic rights.” It is squandering opportunity for us all but to DUP supporters it is a principled stand. Yes PRINCIPLED. .

    To cause the DUP problems would involve them taking risks and trusting others and I see no prospect of that in the near future. I can’t see them putting themselves in the same position as Trimble did.

    Problems in the DUP will start when the Big Man passes on unless the rules of engagement are rewritten.

  • Ultonian Scottis American

    “If and when the DUP grow up and become democrats I am sure Sinn Fein will be accommodating when it comes asking for a power-sharing executive.”

    It seems to me that the whole system for “power-sharing” is undemocratic. As in the RoI, let the majority winners of an election actually form the government. Will there be “power-sharing” in the Nua Éire?

    I’d like to hear why SDLP isn’t the preference over Sinn Féin?

  • martin ingram

    Danny is doing his best in difficult times for the Shinners. He really does have to be applauded and to a point you can`t fault his effort.

    What Danny is saying is a coded or almost subliminal message to its core support ” For Fucks Sake Keep The Faith We know We Have Fucked Up But We Can`t Perform Miracles”
    The year Ahead will be difficult and for Sinn Fein to argue that it`s core support should not bulk at the dissolution of the Stormont regime tells you that in clear terms.This dissolutionment is as Danny argues a means to give the DUP a well earned slap in the face. Oh now thats sounds like fighting talk to me, I am certain the DUP will be quaking tonight not with fear but laughter at the sheer idiocy of this argument.

    What Danny is doing is just preparing the sheep for the dark days ahead without a shepherd worthy of leading the flock towards the safety and comfort of its pen. Nothing more and certainly nothing less.

  • Kathy_C

    Hi all,

    It seems that people don’t want to deal with the issue…the DUP is a party that received the most votes in the last election…and their mantra really was keeping SF from power…which the DUP has done very effectively. ERGO the DUP is using democracy as they see fit.

    As for SF not being concerned about the potential disolution of the assembly isn’t true especially if you go to SF’s web page and see all their statements since the first of the year.
    Jan. 10 Martin McGuiness talking about people being impatient for progress…”SF are ready and willing to see porgress made”
    Jan 9 John O’Dowd “SF Assembly members are keen to get back to doing what we were elected to do.”
    Jan 7 Gerry Adams “The focus of all parties and the 2 gov’t MUST be on the speedy restoration of power.”
    Jan 5 Martin McGuiness talking about the 300 students who want the assembly up and running
    Jan 3 Gerry Adams “Genuine effort needed to make speedy progress.”

    Now this shows that SF is biting at the bit to have the Assembly up and running…

    If the brits wanted gov’t up and running…it would be. Since it isn’t up and running…blair is getting just what he wants…and allowing the DUP to do his dirty work. Can’t see blair and company punishing the DUP under those circumstances.

  • martin ingram

    Kathy C.

    A well argued post . In writing this piece I have a vision of Danny crossing his fingers and sat drinking a cup of cold coffee preoccupied by a burning desire to put a positive spin on a serious problem. He does not believe this crap anymore than the broad community believes it, he is just playing the game.And losing.

    Its good to see people taking the time to research their posts and to provide collateral to their points.

    Martin Ingram

  • Kathy_C

    Hi all,

    Jan. 12-06 Pat Doherty Sinn Fein VP stated, “Sinn Fein has been pressing for early progress to be made since historic IRA initiative in July. We are keen to see progress made”…….

    So, again Danny got it wrong…and SF is out and about pushing for the Assembly to be up and running.

    There comes a time to ask…is Danny Morrison writing what he truly believes, (at which case he isn’t on the mark with this issue and it highlights he has lost his political grasp of the situation) or does he have another agenda….? What has troubled me for several weeks…Danny Morrison with his work at the Bobby Sands Trust along with Danny Morrison being the spokesman for Bobby Sands while Bobby was starving to death….why doesn’t Danny Morrison speak out about the traitor to the cause…Donaldson….and talk about Donaldson’s need to be chastened with as much verve as he talks about the need to have the DUP chastened. I’m extremely disappointed in Danny Morrison.

    MI(6)…thank you for your comments regarding my post.

  • Kathy_C

    Hi all,

    After I posted the above, I went to read An Phoblacht-the Republican newspaper and saw the headline about Gerry adams,and it was reported,

    Gerry Adams on Wed night (Jan 11-06) when asked about getting the assembly back up and running stated,
    “Well, we have met the 2 gov’ts at the highest level in recent weeks and will continue to engage with them.”….”We, (SF) put it very firmly to both gov’ts that they need to be moving the next few months to reinstate the potitical institutions.”

    Once again…SF’s mantra to get the instutitutions back up and running ASAP.

    There seems to be some in the republican movement that are living in cloud coo coo land and aren’t dealing with the political realities before them.

  • martin ingram

    Kathy C,

    Boy you are like a dog with a bone.


  • Belfast Gonzo

    To continue with the canine metaphor, I think Kathy might think the tail is actually wagging the dog.