The rise and rise of the DUP…

BBC1 Norn Iron will be tracing the rise of the DUP tonight at 10.35pm, from the party’s origins, through to its position as the leading party in unionism today.

  • Token Dissent

    Sounds like a timely programme.

    Desmond Boal is a very interesting figure. A former Unionist genuinely of the left with regard to socio-economic issues. The marriage between this Belfast secular unionist tradition and the rural religious one was quite an achievement by Boal and Paisley.

    In practise the influence of any ‘left-of-centre’ tendency was always limited. Those who joined the DUP from a NILP background had largely left by the late-1970s. By this stage Boal had faded away from active politics.

    It is notable that Boal’s successor as the dominating force in the ‘Belfast DUP’ Peter Robinson is from the evangelical right. He has also at various times had links with the British far right, including writing for the sordid little rag ‘Right Now’.

  • seanzmct

    Quite so Token Dissent; the DUP’s historical leftist tendencies are as threadbare as Sinn Fein’s and if anyone Shinners want to debate this issue, fire ahead; correction-go ahead!

  • Philip

    This should be recorded by everyone to prove how the DUP have failed (sic) to save Ulster.

  • seanzmct

    Save Sodomy From Ulster!

  • Murphy

    Is it been called ‘The Rocky Road to Dublin’ ?

  • GavBelfast

    I’m hoping for a few McQuadeisms which have hopefully been found in the archives.

  • seanzmct

    “Allegations have been made about me. I want to know who these allegators are”.

  • Belfast Gonzo

    They’re feeding the gondolas.

  • GavBelfast

    Republicanism is like giant octopus spreading its testicles across Northern Ireland.

    Urban myth or not, I’m glad I heard it.

  • Julius

    “…tracing the rise of the DUP tonight at 10.35pm, from the party’s origins, through to its position as the leading party in unionism today.”

    Oh please! Spare us the sickening sight. I know Norn Iron does hypocrasy better than anyone but really, do we need this?

  • kokane

    “The Dup will be the largest party in non iron over my dead party” David Trimble

  • Christopher Eastwood

    Peter the Punt —–> Peter the Pragmatist

    Well, you know what they say… if you’re not a radical when you’re young, you have no heart. If you’re not a pragmatist when you’re older, you have no brain.

  • seanzmct


    Surely the paying of the punts rather than a principled spell in a Free State jail was evidence of Peter the Pragmatist all along.

  • Christopher Eastwood

    Quite true….

  • willis

    Interesting choice of contributors. Plenty of Arlene but no little Jeffrey or indeed Nigel!

  • SuperSoupy

    A decent enough potted history of what we all knew, nothing surprising or new.

    The most interesting bit for me was that Robinson of all the possible leadership contenders was the only one attributed a central role and outside Paisley he was the only member of the DUP that seems authorised or agreeable to participation.

    It was also easy to work out who is the happiest at a DUP dinner – the waiters, one bottle of wine open on each table only one had even a glass out of it by the time the comedian came on.

  • SuperSoupy


    Cross posting there. Arlene was another serving member but not a leadership contender…..unless… those odds would be great. I’m ringing Eastwoods first thing.

  • Murphy

    ‘Peter the Punt’says it all.

  • kokane

    The boy Peter looked great in the berets – I think he modelled 2 colours Ulster Red and Paramilitary black.

    The guy doing the leadership commentary in the style of a horse race in the hotel was good – particulalry the joke about Paul Berry – having made a mistake – and then “Hes Gone”.

  • SuperSoupy

    Peter has aged amazingly well. Talk about growing into your face. Poots was in the background at one stage as a young man, he didn’t start well but has been very unlucky with time. Maybe he’s Peter’s Picture of Dorian Grey? Allister was almost identical in both taking the huffs periods.

  • who

    Particularly interesting to have a young fella from Queens with the surname Allister espousing the virtues of what a great fella Paisley was.

    No relation to an MEP by any chance? Allister didnt fair particularly well from tonight, did you get the feel that there was just a little emphasis put on the resigning “for the second time” bit?

  • SuperSoupy

    There was one very good edit.


    Peter: You can ask Alec Reid and he would confirm he wasn’t there to represent Sinn Féin

    cut to Reid

    Fr Reid: I was there to represent Sinn Féin’s view.

  • seanzmct

    Not so sure Soupy; I thought it a lightweight effort almost verging on Paisley hagiography. Too much omitted . For example:

    The Divis St riots in 1964 started by Paisley and Kilfedder (an odd bedfellow).
    Paisleyite reaction to NICRA
    Major Ronald Bunting
    The brief integrationist phase of Paisley
    in the early seventies.
    Saving Ulster From Sodomy
    Public verbal attack on Paisley by Bob McCartney
    in the 1980’s
    Ulster Resistance at the Ulster Hall
    Loyalist paramilitary comment on Paisley
    Republican comment-why just Seamus Mallon?

    My suspicion is that the DUP dictated terms to the BBC and in true provincial form the BEEBNI caved in.

  • kokane

    It could only happen in Non Iron – the DUP headed by a right wing clerical fundementalist is the largest party at the biggest university.

  • beezer

    How many punts did he pay ?

  • seanzmct


    “It could only happen in Norn Iron”- surely not so.

    The DUP’s “right wing clerical fundamentalism” is a vicar’s tea party compared with Iran;Iraq;Israel,Bush’s USA etc –and oh yes, the ROI in days not long past.

  • GavBelfast

    That Paisley so obviously co-operated, and seemed approving, in this programme indicated that it would be gentle if not complimentary on both him and his party. And so it proved. The clue was in the generous title of the show.

    It wasn’t quite a PPB, but it was like an ‘At Home With’ rather than a critical analysis.

    Worst of all, there were no McQuadeisms after all.

    Being a teenager then, I had forgotten all about Robinson’s temporary estrangement from the leadership 20 years ago, and his political relationship with Harold McCusker, who seemed untypical of ‘big house’ Unionism, and whose early death ironically launched Trimble’s career. How fate intervenes.

  • SuperSoupy


    The programme was about ‘the rise and rise’ of the DUP.

    For me it covered most of the events that lead to that rise quite well but adding little or nothing new to the already known.

    If the programme had claimed to be a history of the DUP it could be accused of glossing over some very unsavoury parts – it didn’t.

    ‘The History of the DUP’ would be a very different programme or series.

  • kokane


    ok I’ll concede the middle east countries – you are right Non Iron does fit well with Iran and Israel.

    p.s. the boy Bush aint no cleric and ROI dont do clerical leaders either.

  • seamzmct

    The DUP did not actually “rise and rise” . For a considerable period its vote remained fairly static. The incompetence of Trimble in the face of Sinn Fein tactical nous/duplicity -depending on your viewpoint changed all that.

    I understand that the programme was not a comprehensive history of the party, but nerertheless it could have provided agood deal more substance.

  • SuperSoupy

    Paisley himself said the Free P’s only have 12,000 members. The level of elected representatives from that church is hugely disproportionate but they aren’t the people winning them seats. The majority of Unionist voters happily elect members and viewpoints that originate from that small ‘sect’.

    I’d like to hear a Unionist explain how such a tiny religion can come to occupy a dominant political position.

    That would be part of a ‘History of the DUP’ series that tonight’s ‘rise and rise’ didn’t examine.

  • seanzmct

    Kokane –

    The boy Bush don’t have to be no cleric, he has plenty of those to guide him.

    I was referring to the ROI in the past when the special position of the Catholic Church was written into fundamental law and when clerics such as Archbishop John Charles McQuaid wielded far more power than a Paisley ever did.

  • seanzmct


    The Free Presbyterians are not a “tiny religion” as you put it. They are a tiny sect of Protestantism which is of course a branch of the Christian religion.

    Those unionists who vote for the DUP are not voting for the Free Presbyterian church, they are voting for a party which they feel will best protect the unionist interest in the face of the rise and rise of that other unsavioury communal bloc – Sinn Fein.

  • kokane


    ok lets stick with Now and Europe

    In this day and age in a ‘modern’ European staelet it is quite incredible that a right wing clerical fundemantalist could garner the most signatures (although presumably excluding at least 2 sizeable minority groups – gays & taigs ) from the brighest section of the staelets’ youth.

  • SuperSoupy


    I have presented the stitistics before can’t be bothered to dig them out again.

    ..but the percentage of elected representatives from the Free P’s runs at nearly 2,000% above what would be expected on the basis of demographics.

    That isn’t a blip to be ignored, it is a hugely political religious minority managing a massively disproportionate political influence.

    It is worthy of comment.

    You may think it’s because they represent the most anti-SF position available, that doesn’t explain why that opinion is found and elected so dosproportionately from one tiny ‘sect’.

  • seanzmct


    Don’t be taken in by DUP propaganda. Take it from me, that other vehicle for extremism-Sinn Fein is the biggest party amongst those students who bother with politics at Queen’s University Belfast.

    Also, How many “statelets” are there in Western Europe with histories the same as Northern Ireland’s? For example, can you think of any European state where a section of the citizens have been denied the right to join and vote for the mainstream non-sectarian parties of government and have been quarantined in a region of confessional party politics?

  • Murphy

    Remember that former loyalist paramilitary prisoners have stated in the past that they wish they had never heard the name of Ian Paisley. I wonder why? May be a bit more openness to there influence on these organisations would have been nice.

  • SuperSoupy

    I’ll do it again off the cuff…12,000 Free P’s in total – removing normal inability to vote through age, registration and turnout would optimistically give 6,000 voting Free Presbyterians. We should expect 1/180th of a Free P MP based on statistics and just under one Free P in the Assembly.

    Mutiple every Free P member in the Assembly by just over 100 and you have the disproportionate electoral strength of reps from that religion.

    It’s the will of the electorate but the most politicised religion in the world. I await correction.

  • Token Dissent

    I think some of you are being unfair on the show. It was in my opinion a good stab at dealing with the major issues in one hour. I accept that issues such as the rise and fall of Vanguard were skipped over, and it was strange that no Shinners were involved, but overall it was a good documentary.

    Murphy did you miss Ed Moloney neatly summing up Paisley’s moral responsibility for loyalist terror?

    Super Soupy – your point about the small numbers in the Free Ps is important. Too often people equate Paisley’s small (undemocratic) church with Presbyterianism.

    The difference between the DUP’s huge support and the small numbers of Free Ps is, I suggest, for various reasons. Firstly you have to factor in that many Prods from other denominations (or none) who vote DUP are in broad agreement with the theology of the Free Ps – but maybe not its organisation and election of a Pope.

    More important however is (and I apologise for the cliche but its true) that the DUPers have risen because of the climate of fear and insecruity created by Provo violence, British and Irish Governmental duplicity, and the lack of a coherent positive vision offered by the UUP. Within this climate it is unsurprising that many unionists turned to a party that (appeared) to have ‘moral’ clarity. In many ways Paisley’s appeal was originally based on the assumption that he was above politics and coalition building. Of course this was bullshit but it was a powerful myth, one which appeals to a strong Protestant sense of non-conformity and individual conscience.

    The class issue, as Lord (!) Morrow said, is important too. How many of the top leadership of the Protestant Unionist Party and the early DUP would have had a realistic chance of making it in the elitist Unionist Party? Class resentment was a powerful force.

    I would add that the small compact nature of the Free Ps, especially in the early days, made it a great organising unit for establishing the party. The Vanguard of the revolution!

    Would a suitable comparison be the small number of active republicans who helped spread that gospel in the same period?

  • Comrade Stalin

    My suspicion is that the DUP dictated terms to the BBC and in true provincial form the BEEBNI caved in.

    Sean, I think it’s simpler than that. The mainstream part of the profession of journalism in NI seldom has the balls to ask the hard questions of established politicians. This place is loaded with hypocrisy left, right, and centre. The big newspapers and broadcasting houses seldom explore this and try to present everything as if it is mainstream and normal.

  • willis

    It could have accurately have been described as “The rise and rise of Peter Robinson”. Looked at from that perspective you can explain a lot of the omissions.

    Look at the number of references to Robinson’s efficiency, or him being CEO to Paisley’s Chairman.

    Fascinating also that when they wanted shots of FP at prayer they did not use Martyr’s Memorial but rather David McIlveen’s church in East Belfast. Both ‘successors’, spiritual and temporal got their chance to pitch.

    If you were regarding this documentary as directed primarily at DUP voters what would the message be?

  • Glen Taisie

    A very purposefully soft line taken by the beeb (ni).

    Similar to the Martin McGuinness programme where he indicated that he rang his mammy every night.

    The beeb would give Daniel O’Donnell (the singer) a harder time than Paisley/ McGuinness.

  • Yokel

    O’Donnell would deserve an inquisition………

  • Reality

    The biggest feeling I got from watching it was regret that Terrence O’Neill wasn’t allowed to modernise unionism as he had planned to – that could have saved thousands of lives.

    Paisley and Robinson were both described as incredibly ruthless during the programme, does that imply that they understand how without their actions we may have been able to have avoided the troubles? How the hell do they sleep at night?

  • fair_deal


    “I’d like to hear a Unionist explain how such a tiny religion can come to occupy a dominant political position.”

    Here’s my tuppence
    1. Some old CRC research showed that whatever the official liberalisation by the larger protestant denominations the attitudes of members remain much more traditional (IMO even resentful at the shifts). Hence a group that espouses the traditional has a lot of latent sympathy to call upon beyond its denominational limits.
    2. Purely from anecdote it can be surprising how conservative in attitude people who aren’t ‘religious’ can be i.e. mightn’t live that way but think that is the way it should be. In working class communities this is usually displayed in the respect shown to those who are ‘good-livin’. Hence falling church attendances should not be viewed as the complete end of such belief systems.
    3. The last twenty years have seen a growth in smaller protestant denominations that are also quite traditionalist in doctrine. In the beginning the Free Ps were at the forefront of this and been better placed to establish relationships and work this developing network. There is also stronger linkages and networking between these small denominations than between the larger denominations – gospel singers, giving testimonies, preaching. If you go round the gospel halls of your area giving your testimony/preaching/singing you will (a) meet a lot of people (b) make a good impression. The greater degree of informality and usually smaller size gives greater opportunity to connect.
    4. The unique relationship between the church and a party gave a clear ‘development’ path for keen people to progress that other churches don’t have. Also post 1972 the larger denominations seemed to discourage involvement or have an aversion from politics.
    5. Another interesting note may be that the people skills that evangelicism seems to give a person. IIRC American research estimated an evangelical is 20 times more likely to have a conversation with a person in a day than someone who isn’t. An interest in people and ability to connect is a useful skill for a politician. Plus as with most evangelical churches there is a work ethic about the Free Ps so being a hard worker tends to bring electoral rewards too.
    6. Events/Good fortune/Predestination depending on your outlook. They were the significant part of Unionism’s second party that because of monumental screw ups by Unionism’s first party saw very rapid electoral advancements in a short space of time. Past concerns about the influence, real or imagined, of the Free Ps was secondary to the bigger politicial picture.

  • Philip

    Some good points from members of this forum:
    The programme was nauseas and half accurate. I found it interesting that Paisley made the point that an OUP MP initiated the DUP and the commentator said it was borne out of an IRA act. The joke about Paul Berry was embarrassing, more so given that members of the audience took great glee at him ‘falling’.
    There was a better, IMO, programme on RTE about how to become a TD. Very good.

  • Gréagóir O’ Frainclín

    Good programme but rather mild when reporting on the antics of the young Paisley. I think Paisley’s profile today is becoming that of the approachable grand old daddy of Unionism, kinda like Santa Clause for all young naive Unionists to believe. Not the case however when looking at the young Paisley, a beligerant intolerable young man who riled people from both communities and whom Loyalist killers dubbed the ‘Grand Old Duke of York’ for persistantly marching them to the top of the hill, ie, the brink of civil war.
    An interesting incident too of the young Paisley’s life was the time he kidnapped a young girl for the sake of her conversion and salvation by Christ….and by Christ, he sure has changed his tune since those times with his recent conversion, and we all should be thankful for that.

  • Concerned Loyalist

    Very well made documentary-style programme. Good to hear Robbo’s version of events at Clontibret amongst other things and his reasoning behind it…

  • Murphy

    Concerned Loyalist?

    Do you actually believe ‘Peter the punts’ excuse. He nearly laughed at himself at one point during it! All i can say is thats typical. The man openly left these 6 counties with a band of hooligans and most likely terrorists were they then assaulted memebers of the Garda Siochana and delivered abuse to the local poeple and there homes.

  • páid

    Great Post FD.

    What a number of DUPers have is emotional intelligence. You don’t get into MENSA, but you do get into power.