WE’VE touched on it before, but later today, we’re going to have one of those “hugely significant“, Tonyandbertie hand-of-history moments (bleurgh!) when the DUP ends its 16 year boycott of the British Irish Interparliamentary Body. Although it won’t take its seats (yet), the DUP reps will make a presentation – which should suit those of a proselytising nature. The correct response is to interpret this as further evidence of the political ‘thaw’ in the DUP, and it probably isn’t entirely risk-free for the party. But it’s a gamble worth taking, not that those good living souls would ever describe it as such.
And that’s why today’s visit to what is essentially a talking shop will be lauded from all political quarters. How could it be otherwise? The Shinners took risks for peace, now that the DUP are starting to follow suit, wouldn’t it be just terribly uncivil not to proffer them the same courtesy?
Because the two governments have to continue to act like there’s a November 24 deadline, and know the DUP will be holding the ball when the whistle blows on the Agreement, any potential signs of movement will be trumpeted from the heavens like the Second Coming.
If they continue to follow the Sinn Fein political formula for party advancement to the letter, the DUP stands to make political gains while extracting concessions. Like Sinn Fein, it only has to respond to pressure from within. That means delivering to DUP voters, by demonstrating that politics works. And because politics has to work by November 24, there’s a feeling of familiar choregraphy about what might happen.
As the party continues to reap plaudits for each tiny, carefully-measured step forward, it will bask in the spotlight of international praise that would make an Adams or McGuinness blush. And, with any luck and a quietish marching season, maybe enough consent will have been manufactured by the time it comes to making the key, crunch, deal-making concession or U-turn.
If this is the DUP strategy, they could be on to a winner. If I was in the UUP, I’d be worried. It’s all very well pointing out that the DUP are “only doing what we did XX years ago”, but that didn’t get the SDLP very far, now did it?