Brian Feeney has no doubt that Sinn Fein will ante up (subs needed) in the end. Instead he questions the degree to which the DUP has prepared its constituency for the shift in direction towards power sharing.
Many people voted for him (Paisley) secure in the knowledge that he would never share power with republicans, let alone agree to all-Ireland institutions. Yet he didn’t denounce the concept at St Andrews. On the contrary, he said he’d go along with it if certain conditions are fulfilled. They will be.
However, he asserts:
There has been no education process in his party. The ground has not been prepared as Sinn Fein’s leaders prepared republicans slowly and carefully over years, losing some by the wayside.
So why is he prepared to have a fenian about the place? Feeney reckons:
He wants to complete the job and finish them (UUP) off as a political force. That’s why the DUP want a triumphal assembly election so bad they can taste it. Furthermore, the DUP got the message on the doorstep in 2005 that voters didn’t like them saying ‘No’ to everything, including sharing power at Stormont. Failing to bite the bullet – unfortunate metaphor – and snuggle in with Martin McGuinness would mean the slow withering of the all-conquering unionist party Paisley has created.
Worst of all, it could allow the resurgence of the UUP as a party prepared to do a deal with republicans, which is something the DUP know unionist voters want.
Hmmm… Whilst the UUP don’t seem, yet, to be remotely ready to take up the slack within Unionism: yet there is merit in his argument. Once started, the best way to continue a perilous journey is to keep moving and not to stop until you reach the other side. Getting caught in the middle is probably the most undesirable (and strategically least defensible) outcome.
Feeney is probably right insofar as the DUP wants to keep up its swing into the heart of the Unionist middle classes. Their calculation, however, may figure more around the nature of the loose strings that will inevitably be left by the British and Irish governments after all the substantive negotiations are done, than on the need to finish off their old rivals.
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