Clash of DUP wills to determine future of Northern Ireland

Michael McGimpsey has a platform piece in todays Newsletter in which he argues that the two faces of the DUP will come to blows more and more in the coming months.

The field on the twelfth of July is usually not a particularly controversial place. However this year Ian Paisley grabbed a few headlines when he announced that there was no place for Sinn Fein in the Government of Northern Ireland. “It will be over our dead bodies” he said. His speech delivered to Independent Orange Order Members was his standard oratory punctuated with a few no surrenders. It was noteworthy for the media and political commentators as all eyes are on Ian Paisley’s party in the run up to the 24 November deadline for restoring the Assembly and Executive.

Meanwhile in another field on the twelfth Jeffrey Donaldson was calling on people to recognise the efforts the IRA had made in decommissioning. Two DUP MPs, two different messages.

The old DUP loves the bombastic Paisley rhetoric, it is re-assuring like a comfort blanket. Meanwhile the new DUP as characterised by Peter Robinson, Jeffrey Donaldson and the many ‘young turks’ in the press office and policy unit within the DUP have been frantically trying to do a recovery job and return the party onto more pragmatic ground.

These differences, which I predict will become more stark in the weeks ahead, show the difficulty that the DUP, after many years in opposition and where tough decisions were avoided in favour of pouring cold water over every agreement or political initiative, are facing. Their arguments over the years, by appealing to the comfort blanket mentality, were convincing. Ultimately it could be argued that through the strength of their ‘no, nay, never’ positioning they have steered a majority of Unionists to their way of thinking. It is the path of least resistance and when offered a seemingly comfortable path where nothing ever changes or a hard path with uncomfortable but arguably necessary changes, most unionists will take the comfortable road everytime.

But therein lies the dilemma facing the Party. The DUP have devoted their energies to unionist infighting and slating everything that moved to the point where they are now unable to move.

Bar a few cosmetic tweaks here and there to the agreement, the deal being offered by the DUP, is essentially the Belfast Agreement. I like to think of the DUP ‘fair deal’ as one of these modified cars that you see from time to time. Under the hood it is still the same car. But the bodywork has been changed with a few go faster stripes and a spoiler. The point I am trying to make is that in the end it still does the same things as the car without the modifications and ultimately will drive you to the same destination. But the DUP will tell you it is not the same car at all.

Meanwhile the IRA have engaged in a massive act of decommissioning but criminality still presents a hurdle to be overcome, as does support from Sinn Fein for the PSNI.

In the coming weeks, while unpopular decisions by our direct rule ministers continue to affect the daily lives of everyone in Northern Ireland, the DUP have a tough job ahead of them. Even tougher, I would argue than the job that my party faced when we were the lead Unionist party. No longer do they have the comfort of opposition. They have to undo their convincing arguments and try and present the people to whom they promised so much with what effectively is a slightly modified Belfast Agreement. This obviously requires a lot of ground work and a lot more go-faster stripes if they think they can get away with it.

So Dr Paisley’s twelfth speech needs to be viewed in this context. Meanwhile, Jeffrey Donaldson and others, eager to get properly into the driving seat know this as good as it gets and want to take the modified agreement for a spin around the country. It is, in the end, this simple clash of wills and who prevails that will determine your future on the 24th November

  • Keith M

    “Michael McGimpsey…” ROTFL , enough said. Such is the Gimp’s record, if he told me that today was Tuesday, I’d check my calendar to make sure.

    Seriously, is there ANY evidence of the slightest division in the DUP apart from that invented by their political opponents and the usual hacks?

    Compare the DUP time as the leading voice of unionism and the last years of the UUP.

  • fair_deal

    1. The premise of the article is based on a misquote “he announced that there was no place for Sinn Fein in the Government of Northern Ireland”. Paisley used the term IRA-Sinn Fein.
    2. There is nothing directly contradictory in what Paisley said and what Donaldson said. The characterisation of Donaldson’s comments are truth economy. He did acknowlegde the IRA had moved but he also added:
    “We must not give in to the temptation of taking the pressure off republicans before they have completed the transition.”
    “There is no acceptable level of violence in Northern Ireland and there is no acceptable level of criminality. And that standard applies to loyalists as well as republicans.”
    “If and when the IRA’s activity is over let us welcome that. But if it is not, we must not and cannot ignore it.”
    “We have a unique opportunity in the months that are to come to end the IRA’s paramilitary and criminal activity for good.”
    “History has taught us that republicans can move but that they only move when the pressure is on them.”
    “To allow Sinn Fein into government while an underlying level of activity continues, is to condemn Northern Ireland to a future where this level of criminal activity is permanent.”
    3. This is nothing new in this claim and the UUP has been pushing it since November 2003 with none of their doom-laden predictions about the DUP coming true nor manifestations of the deep split they say exists.
    4. The analysis also ignores the near deal of December 2004. The DUP came very close to making a deal without any schism or fallout.
    5. He is applying the standards of the UUP to the DUP. They are different political creatures.

  • Pete Baker

    “Bar a few cosmetic tweaks here and there to the agreement”

    I presume Michael McGimpsey didn’t get a preview of Peter Hain’s speech today?

    How is that PUP-enabled Executive seat looking?

  • esmereldavillalobos


    1. The premise of the article is based on a misquote “he announced that there was no place for Sinn Fein in the Government of Northern Ireland”. Paisley used the term IRA-Sinn Fein.

    IRA and SF are two sides of the same coin are they not? Can SF exist without the IRA? What would the DUP need to believe that the IRA have gone and SF exist independant from them? Or is this an interpretation based on “what the Big Man meant to say was…”

    I know you are not a DUP ‘clone’ but I’d be interested to know how this misquote is relevant as opposed to just an exercise in semantics.


  • spice girl

    at the end of the day the 2 main parties each have 1 last trump card, the dup know that the government will bend over backwards to get em into governemnt and and shinners likewise know that they have a stranglehold over the policing situation. Each, will try to keep hold of their card for as long as poss, in an attempt to get all they can – no change there then. Serious progess has been made on both these fronts and I can see both these issues being resolved in the forseeable future. How do we get the parties to lay down these cards – that;s the question!! We need to find a scenario wereby each party can return to it;s supporters and claim victory. ideas on a post card please.

  • The Gimp has been relatively quiet since he lost the UUP’s last remaining seat in Belfast last year. As for his piece, it’s really for DUP people to respond but it would be interesting to know if the Continuity UUP has anything to say about what it would do differently if it ever regained its old position. The Gimp and others seem content to throw invective which, funnily enough, is what they always accused the DUP of doing.

  • boshank

    “Compare the DUP time as the leading voice of unionism and the last years of the UUP.”

    Keith M, please elaborate, also You and Fair Deal, bar the arguments over whether there are splits or not (probably dissent but splits don’t go down well in the autocratic DUP!), plaese disproove McGimpsey’s line of a slightly modified Belfast Agreement. What major changes, if any have been made to back up the claim that the Agreement is dead and buried?

  • “Meanwhile the IRA have engaged in a massive act of decommissioning but criminality still presents a hurdle to be overcome …”

    If IRA/SF criminality is so pivotal to the formation of an Executive, why is the UUP prepared to take an additional Executive seat on the basis of the alliance with UVF/PUP?

  • fair_deal

    “Can SF exist without the IRA?”

    Hopefully we will get an answer to that and sooner rather than later.

    “What would the DUP need to believe that the IRA have gone and SF exist independant from them? ”

    IMO the IRA meets in accordance with its rules, votes to disband then does so with independent confirmation from the IMC.

    “what the Big Man meant to say was…”

    I used his exact words while this article did not so no.


    1. To use the car analogy. The governments have said that the agreement can be stripped back to its basic prinicples ie they say it needs four wheels, an engine, doors and a steering wheel. That provides a significant amount of flexibility ie a Porsche can fit that description as can a Seat Ibiza. Alternatively you can have the ‘Pimp my Agreement’ analogy, a wreck of a car goes to a workshop for a complete overhaul. Can a person say that is the same car? Yes Can somoen say it has been fundamentally changed? Yes. It is the same car but what it looks like and capable of doing is vastly different. (I wonder if Xzibit is doing anything in November.)
    2. The choice by the DUP of the term fair deal was a wise one. They did not promise a “Unionist deal” simply one that could be viewed as acceptable to the Unionist community.

  • John East Belfast

    I think the biggest problem for Paisley and his camp is theological.

    My interpretation of how Paisley behaves politically has its routes in his interpretation of Christian doctrine on Sin and Forgiveness

    Shortly after the Enniskillen bomb and the unconditional forgiveness stated by the guy who had lost his daughter (his name escapes me) Paisley’s response was that there “was no scriptural foundation for forgiveness without repentance”.

    I have always felt this was significant and has governed a lot of Paisley thinking towards the Agreement – release of prisoners, SF in Govt.

    ie if the individuals were truly repentant and sought forgiveness and admitted what they did was wrong then his Christian faith would dictate that he accepted them.
    If they didnt he was under no obligation and indeed it was probably his duty to highlight the injustice of any ‘forgiveness’ granted to them.

    ie I can never see Paisley doing a deal with SF because SF are neither remorseful nor do they consider what they did to be wrong – indeed they make a point of glorifying as martyrs their deceased comrades.

    To some extent this is how I feel to loyalist paramilitaries and the UUP – ie we can all move on, we can all forget, we can be pragmatic and let them out of prison but dont expect me to ever sign up to them in my party as legitimate when given the same set of circumstances they would maintain that political murder is justified.

    I draw the line at partnership in my Party I assume Paisley draws it even further in that he cannot have partnership in Govt with people even though they have been put there by others.

    Therefore this is Paisley’s dilemma and I cannot see how he can address it without the mother of all flips – ie even if IRA become boy scouts SF will still justify 30 years of violence and hence Paisley cannot “take their hand”.

    Sooner or later Paisley is going to have to bite this bullet and say what he really thinks – then we will see the split bewteen them and the pragmatists.

  • boshank

    fair deal,

    so what are these modifications of yours to pimp my agreement lol…i’m curious to know what these fundamental bodywork changes are, what tweaks to the engine etc…

    just to pre-empt you, the 11 departments thing was on the cards anyway before the DUP got to the top of the crap heap…

  • boshank

    ps, funny that what the dup despcribed as a toothless tiger back when the uup suggested its creation (the imc) is now one of the key benchmarks isnt it?

    Do you rate the doc as someone capable of delivering?

  • fair_deal


    Is there anything I can answer to that question that won’t be dismissed as “minor” “insignificant” etc?

    “the 11 departments thing was on the cards anyway”

    An Paxmanian yes to that claim

  • boshank

    fair deal,

    lmao yes of course…if the changes are genuinely significant i’ll acknowledge them. If the DUP have fundamentally changed the Agreement then fine, i’ll acknowledge it. But i’m just trying to get at what the changes are, whether as per manifesto and billboards and election literature the agreement is dead and buried or whether it’s just being hidden by a lick of paint and a killa systems decal lol

    Personally i’m more inclined to Richard Bullick’s analysis when he told someone that if we get even 5% of the agreement cahnged then we can present it as a victory (im paraphrasing)…but the point is this is very different to what you promised which is in essence the nub of captain miserable’s platform

  • BooBoo

    Yep, when you want a convoluted metaphor you can always rely on the Gimp, or whichever one of the CunningPlan House typing pool penned this for him.

    The problem with the UUP motor is that it never stayed on the road for any length of time and most of the period between 1998 and November 2003 was Direct Rule anyway (complete with unpopular decisions from NIO Ministers). So, instead of cheap shots at the DUP, perhaps the UUP would be better advised explaining why none of the institutions they took all the risks for were actually in place at the 2003, 2004 and 2005 elections. Granted, the DUP hasn’t delivered a fairer deal; but the UUP had no deal in place at all!!!

    Good to see the Gimp, in relation to Sinn Fein, writing about “criminality still represents a hurdle to be overcome.” Surprisingly, he doesn’t make the same point re the UUP’s link with the UVF. Or has he given up on the idea of the UVF being anything other than drug pushing criminals?

    There are and will be differences within the DUP about the way ahead. So what? All parties have those differences internally. But I think it is most unlikely that the DUP will fall apart and if the UUP is hoping they will, then the UUP is even more inept than I imagined.


  • CS Parnell


    Fair play to you if you are suggesting the DUP will sign up to government with the Shinners if you are satisfied the IRA are gone but, but, but…

    Do you think that is really what the average DUPer thinks? I think they take McGimpsey’s view on what Big Ian said – ie no, nay, never.

    And – what is it that the Shinners have to do to satisfy you?

    Genuine enquiries, I’m intregued that any DUPer is prepared to openly countenance this, and that’s a very positive move.

  • inuit_goddess

    I think the used car analogy is a fairly apt one – there was certainly nothing in the 2003 comprehensive agreement to indicate that the 1998 GFA was muchly “overhauled” or “pimped”!

    In fact the DUP gave much away in the 2003 negotiations – particularly in terms of new north/south bodies, leaving it a matter of some debate as to whether the agreement pimpmobile came out of the repair-shop much improved at all.

    The 2003 DUP/SF negotiations resulted more in a “spruced-up paint-job but they took away the sunroof” kind of “improvement”…

    The DUP will certainly have to do better than that in the autumn if they’re in with a hope of pimping their ‘Fair Deal’ among the Unionist electorate – many of whom have been led way up the garden path by inflated DUP rhetoric and fawning head-in-the-clouds Newsletter coverage.

    Their other option is the Paisleyite “there can be no compromise, no accommodation” route – and if they take that road they risk losing a lot of the Fair Dealers who switched to the DUPs in ’03.

  • fair_deal


    ” funny that what the dup despcribed as a toothless tiger back when the uup suggested its creation (the imc) is now one of the key benchmarks isnt it?”

    I see you are adopting the same approach as McGimpsey. The IMC is a toothless tiger as it cannot enforce its recommendations/punishments for paramilitary activity. My usage of the IMC was as a means of independent verification. Also the DUP didn’t make the that statement about using it as a benchmark, I did.

    “Do you rate the doc as someone capable of delivering?”

    Yes based on his behaviour during the Prior Assembly.

  • fair_deal


    Excuse me if I ignore the supposed Bullick quote. Unverifiable hearsay does not sustain an argument.

    First, if the DUP are successful it will have achieved the key target of Unionism post 1998, any power-sharing is as democratic equals. Something the Belfast Agreement and its implementation never achieved.

    As mentioned earlier it would establish a form of devolution that actually operated for a sustained basis.

    The key changes are for proper accountability and collectivity of government, a shrinkage of government (Departments and Assembly seats), a expansion/strengthening of east-west structures, overhaul of the NIHRC and EC. Plus change on a number of other issues ie parades (the one thing Reg has got 100% right is that without that resolved it’ll be a much rockier road) and packages of confidence building measures.


    1. The DUP have worked on developing their trust factor and credibility with the electorate. It is also something they will not throw away willy nilly.
    2. Papa Doc has a significant influence on the average DUPer. Although I add the caveat of selling it in the appropriate way will be key. It shouldn’t be crowed as a Unionist victory it should be sold as a “fair deal” (no pun intended), ie not a perfect deal but a good enough deal (a key mistake in the approach of all the parties the last time).
    3. Will this bring everyone? Nope but I believe they will take the vast swathe.


    “particularly in terms of new north/south bodies”

    No new cross-border bodies were agreed unless you mean the commitment to support two previously agreed forums.

  • Carson’s Cat

    “just to pre-empt you, the 11 departments thing was on the cards anyway before the DUP got to the top of the crap heap…”

    Was it indeed? That might be why all of the other parties (IIRC) with the exception of Alliance (IIRC) opposed it!

    They only started coming round very slowly, but you can be damn sure they had no intention of raising it. There has been only one party which has made the call for a cut, made the call regularly, and made it loudly. And that party certainly wasn’t the UUP,SDLP or Sinn Fein.

    Lets face it, the UUP haven’t got a bl**dy clue or any kind of insight into the DUP. One of the secrets to the DUP’s success (ably aided by an incompetent UUP) was that their attacks on the UUP were consistent, sustained, and they were based on a perception which mirrored the actual reality of the party.

    The UUP on the other hand seems to have more lines than Kate Moss……

    One day it attacks the DUP for being desperate to jump into bed with SF – only requiring a few minor tweakings to the Agreement.

    The next day they’re lambasting the DUP for ensuring that there will never be an agreement – we had Sammy Gardiner yesterday telling us that thanks to the DUP that Ulster was in its greatest crisis since 1912.

    Thirdly then they tell us of all these percieved splits and divions within the DUP – despite no hard evidence to back them up.

    I dont often offer free advice to the UUP – but maybe if they follow it they would at least have a sporting chance of political survival – if you’re going to pick a line of attack then stick with it.

    The over-riding stence of desperation is not particularly pleasant and its growing stronger every day from the Cunning Plan House.

  • boshank

    carsons cat, maybe you should have a rewind and look at previous dup policy documents. I have some on file from a while ago where they actually advocate more. But it’s good to see the strenghth of ur argument revolves around rehearting old bull about the uup.

    Fair deal, thanks for the list of changes, at least you can debate without the silly invective!

    can you eloborate further on accountability and collectivity as it all sounds a bit wishy washy…confidence building measures too…i will concede the the shrinkage is agood thing although i’m not 100% this is solely down to your party.

    would you say though that this represents fundamental change and that the agreement is dead?

    point taken on bullick, was a cheap shot anyway.

  • Carson’s Cat

    The DUP may have advocted more – but the fact is that they were the only party advocating any change. They may not have got 100% of what they would have wished for in an ideal world, but its certainly more of a victory for them than it is for those who (initially at least) opposed any change to the number of Departments. Its definately a blow for them given that they negotiated that number of Departments for some *unknown reason.

    (*not that unknown really).

    If I can be accused of re-heating “old bull” about the UUP then I would imagine that your comment sits fairly comfortably against McGimpsey’s platform piece also. Not exactly ‘news’ that the UUP accuse the DUP of having some fundamentalist/pragmatist split is it?

    You didnt ask for them but getting them anyway – is this a fundamental change to the agreement and is it dead. This announcement alone constitutes neither of these, but combined with the other changes (particularly surrounding accountability etc) it certainly (further) signs the Agreement’s death certificate.

    Anway – I thought my Kate Moss line was quite amusing.

  • boshank

    carson’s cat…yeah kate moss line was funny but pretty old school by now lol…

    on the bull i’m only asking for detail on the changes to the agreement, we didn’t publish reams of stuff saying it’s dead. so now it appaers the position has changed somewhat…and that’s not what was promised no matter what spin u decide to put on it.

    personally i think that there are splits in the DUP, just that u lot are better at keeping a lid on it (which is where the autocracy came from)…so in a nutshell the agreement hasn’t been massively changed but slighly modified…so McGimp is kind of on the money after all?

  • fair_deal


    “would you say though that this represents fundamental change and that the agreement is dead?”

    In my mind it is fundamental change. Fundamental goals will have been acheived i.e. no terrorist groups in government, a sustainable functioning accountabel local democracy will be established etc.

    TBH I don’t care for the semantics of it. IIRC Gregory Campbell summed it up for me when asked whether it was a new negotiation, re-negotiation or a review of the agreement his reply was basically he didn’t care what it is called if they were able to get the changes they sought.

    As I said earlier I am not expecting the DUP to produce a Unionist ‘victory’ from the present process just a fair deal, the skews of the Belfast Agreement brough back into balance. This is beacuse I was part of the ‘No’ constituency that wasn’t opposed to the idea of a deal but opposed to the one that was put in front of us – a distinction many in the Yes camp ignored.

    The one thing I disliked about the Paisley speech was its use of a battle as an analogy (although understandable in the context of the day and the 90th anniversary).

    Just to add to the bad analogies, the analogy I prefer for the Unionism v Mationalism political struggles is a boxing match, as it involves lots of ducking diving fast foot work and mixing soft and hard punches. Also a couple of bad rounds don’t mean you’ve throw in the towel.

    In the peace process nationalism had the better of it in the early round but has been flagging as it goes on. If the talks go well I will consider it that Unionism has had a good round but know that our opponent is still standing and will be back out after a breather for more.

    Accountability etc

    To me it means making the checks and balances stronger and ending the fiefdoms of ministers and making it easier to censure/punish a party that messes up.

    Confidence building measures for me are shifts in policy or increased investment in existing policies areas of particular interest to Unionists. Some of the fruits of this have been seen already.

  • bertie

    John East

    You seem to be putting this at Paisley’s door as if he is the only one to do a flip. I lot of us share his view about and draw the line at the same point. If Paisley changes tack we will not follow and he and his party would find himself in trouble in a future election. This is not the will of one man. He is the leader of the main party now because that is the view taken by those who voted for him.

  • John East Belfast


    That is the point I am making – Paisley is just the spearhead and advocate of such a position – I cannot see how he can change and bring every DUP Voter with him – yet the pressure on him within the DUP must be immense

    Such pressure would be the cause of cracks and splits.

    I dont think he used the phrase “over dead bodies” casually – Maybe he knows from his own personal health issues that he can go to his grave sustaining a No Surrender position.

    However the damage he is doing to the Union and probably his own Party is immense.

    He should come out publicly and state it as he sees it which knowing something of the mindset of fundamentalist Protestants I cant see how he can turn at this point in his life.

    The whole intermarriage of religion and politics, and which takes primary position in the DUP, cannot be under estimated.

  • bertie

    I think that it is hard to analyse what the dynamic in the DUP is at the moment. A major part of the DUP are ex UUP who haven’t changed. They just find the same view that used to be accomdated within the DUP is better accomodated within the DUP. To be honest I have been suprised at how esily this appears to have been accomplished. The fact that more secular unionism now finds its place within the DUP means that it is not the same animal of say 10 yrs ago. It is not just fundamentalist Protestants who take this stand. The DUP probably had most of the fundamentalists voting for him all along. Many UUP votes from way back shifted to him because of his stance. Most of them would me what I consider secular unionists.

  • Greenflag

    ‘I think the biggest problem for Paisley and his camp is theological. ‘

    Paisley’s party is the Party of God (the Non Islamic and anti Catholic God that is) . Thus the party of God’s will has now devolved into the party of Paisley won’t.

    Irish political parties North and South -Republican and Nationalist need to leave the DUP to sort out it’s personal inter party negotiations with God, as to any points of political concern regarding the future of Northern Ireland . One assumes God will be able to devote more time to this problem than he/she’s been able to in other God soaked ‘struggles’ in Iraq, Iran , Palestine, Afghanistan etc etc. At that point assuming God agrees with Paisley then God can delegate a representative with Paisley’s approval,to conduct ‘power sharing ‘ negotiations with the infidels . This way the DUP will still be able to state that not even God could make them negotiate face to face with SF . Thus the DUP will not have to split.

    On the other hand Irish Nationalists and Republicans could stop wasting their time on the DUP and a powerless /useless NI assembly and instead focus on Dail representation.

    Paisley’s party have nothing to offer the Ireland of the future except eternal sectarian politics. Ireland can do without Paisleyism .

  • lib2016

    Strictly from an outsider’s point of view it would seem to me that it is not just the UUP nor the DUP which are split down the middle on the question of powersharing but the whole unionist community.

    Whichever way the unionist parties jump they will fragment their tenuous majority, while all the time watching the inexorable rise of Sinn Fein.

  • páid

    John EB’s posts frovide food for thought.

    The man who forgave too much, if memory serves me correctly, was Gordon Wilson, father of Marie (RIP) who was blown apart in Enniskillen.

    (Another blow for old Ireland)

    Mr Wilson, I think, was reared in Manorhamilton, and was an Irish Senator.

    I always had time for Mr. Wilson.

    As for the debate about DUP/UUP hardliners / softliners, and the effect of Protestant fundamentalism thereon, I doubt it will make much political difference in the end.

    The headline of this thread states:

    Clash of DUP wills to determine future of Northern Ireland

    Sorry, I don’t think so.

    Macro socioeconomic and political shifts in these islands will determine the Future of NI.

  • Greenflag

    ‘The man who forgave too much, if memory serves me correctly, was Gordon Wilson, father of Marie (RIP) who was blown apart in Enniskillen.

    In the too long list of atrocities committed in NI in the past 40 years Enniskillen is the one which is remembered for Gordon Wilson’s forgiveness. His later efforts to contribute to peace in NI in the Senate were/are an example to all. A Christian gentleman RIP.

    ‘Macro socioeconomic and political shifts in these islands will determine the future of NI. ‘

    I agree generally but I would not discount a ‘political shift’ within Unionism to upset the applecart . A shift within Unionism towards further political separation from the rest of Ireland through ‘repartition’ of NI, might be opposed by a number of Republicans in the present 6 counties, but it would not be ‘stood up’ to by either the Irish Republic or the British Government . What happens in Scotland, Wales , Mid Lothian etc notwithstanding .

    From here at this time it looks as if what’s left of political unionism is not up to the challenge .