DUP’s split thinking on Secretary of State…

There has been a fair amount of confusion and off key singing from the official hymn sheet since devolution officially restarted in early May. So far, the DUP has managed to keep its ministerial line intact, though today’s Irish Times, carries two conflicting internal accounts of the party’s position re the possible reappointment of a Cabinet based Secretary of State for Northern Ireland:This from one member of the party’s Excutive team:

DUP MP Nigel Dodds told The Irish Times he would like to see Mr Brown reinstate the position of a full-time Northern Ireland secretary. Provided “the lines of responsibility” were clearly drawn between Westminster and the devolved Northern Ireland Assembly – which he was “sure” they would be – Mr Dodds said: “My view is that it’s better to have someone at the cabinet table fighting for your interests.” The Stormont Enterprise, Trade and Investment Minister added that this would be “especially” the case when it came to the negotiation of the British government’s comprehensive spending review.

Since there are a number of issues requiring critical oversight from Wesminster, not least Policing and Justice, it’s not hard to see why the DUP might adopt such a line, at least in the short term. But it seems to be at considerable variance with current thinking inside the party’s First Minister’s office:

Mr Paisley Jnr confirmed his expectation that – whatever cabinet appointments are initially announced next week – the new prime minister would probably eventually appoint “a minister responsible for all the regions” embracing Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales. Mr Paisley jnr said he thought Mr Brown might move in the autumn to appoint a junior minister or ministers at cabinet office level, answering directly to him “as prime minister for every region of the United Kingdom”.

Asked if the DUP leadership had already agreed there should be no Northern Ireland secretary with cabinet rank, Mr Paisley jnr replied: “We never supported the idea of a secretary of state. That was something foisted upon us when they took away our [ pre-1972, Northern Ireland] parliament in the first place.”

So which is it guys?

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  • Fermanagh Young Unionist

    So which is it guys?

    Will Hain want to show his face after Saturday? Hopefully he’s humiliated out of the public spectrum.

  • BonarLaw

    It was so nearly bye-bye Hain, hello Pantsdown. Could I suggest that if Brown is looking for a NI Secretary from the opposition benches in the Lords there is at least one underemployed local peer with relevant recent experience…

  • Hey, c’mon, Slugger: get up to speed.

    What about the BBC item at http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk_politics/6224862.stm?

    “Brown offered Ashdown Cabinet job”

    “Prime Minister-in-waiting Gordon Brown offered former Lib Dem leader Lord Ashdown the Cabinet post of Northern Ireland secretary, the BBC has learned.”

    That, to me, suggests that the incoming-PM sees the Stormont flat as a grace-and-favour residence, outside and beyond normal practical politics. Behind the splash headline is the macchiavellian wish to have Ashdown available, on the pay-roll, and biddable as a gofer (and not just for NI-duties).

  • Jamie Gargoyle

    re: Brown offered Ashdown Cabinet job

    Suspicious as I am that Brown’s intentions were more
    about creating disquiet among LibDems rather than
    trying to create a concensus approach to government,
    did Gordon not think that Sir Paddy’s recent
    appointment to the Parades Review might create a
    conflict of interest…?

  • To return to Mick’s original post:

    Surely the cleavage is between
    (a) those realists (of whom Dodds is laudably one, much of the time) in the DUP (and even elsewhere) who want someone at the cabinet table fighting … “especially” in the negotiation of the British government’s comprehensive spending review.
    and
    (b) those, like Junior, who hanker for a greater degree of independent action which strains any definition of “Union”, as for example in the footsies that are apparently being played with the ScotNats in Holyrood.

    There is a serious ideological issue coming out here. Watch this space?

    And as for Jamie Gargoyle @ 10:50 AM:
    Surely one can betcha that Brown’s intentions were more about creating disquiet among LibDems. To which we might now add: and didn’t he do well. And it’s kept the Tories, and Cameron’s celebrated relaunch of only Monday, off the front page for another day.

    The next General Election is likely to be far more bipolar than those of recent memory. If there is clear water (of any clichéd colour) between the two, then that implies a squeeze on LibDems and all others. In that reading, Brown (who is arguably the roughest, toughest faction fighter left standing) is simply applying the good principle that thrice-armed is he who gets his retaliation in proactively.

  • páid

    Spot on, as per usual, Malcolm.

    But if Gordon should hammer the LDs, no-one will laugh louder than the Salmond, half way up the river, waiting for the flood.

  • I view this as being a fissure between unionism and Ulster nationalism in the DUP.