DUP leader facing a political limbo?

Frank Millar indicates in today’s Irish Times, that there are some flurries of anxiety within the British government that the succession in the DUP could lead to fresh instability within the Executive:

Given Dr Paisley’s crucial ongoing role in securing and cementing the powersharing deal with Sinn Féin, there are indications that the British government would be reassured that a Robinson/Dodds leadership pact would spell security for the devolved administration. However, in the House of Commons yesterday Mr Dodds told prime minister Gordon Brown that “the horrific murder of Paul Quinn” had cast “a serious shadow over the stability of devolved institutions in Northern Ireland”.

Dodds has been notably quite of recent times, but there are thoughts within the party that Paisley almost symbiotic relationship with the Deputy First Minister has cost the party core support to its estranged MEP, Jim Allister. As one party insider put it to Slugger, it’s part of his character as a Pastor. He is just full of bon homie that he just can’t help himself.

Others believe that this is, as Pete has hinted, a question of contamination of the Paisley rather than the party brand. Millar further notes:

Long-serving deputy leader Peter Robinson MP now appears the hot favourite to succeed Dr Paisley when he does finally stand down. In an echo of the original – though in the end disputed – Tony Blair/Gordon Brown “Granita deal” over the Labour leadership, the growing expectation seems to be that Nigel Dodds MP will back a Robinson succession on the understanding that Mr Robinson will in turn support Mr Dodds to become only the third leader in the DUP’s history.

There was a time when Dodds was widely considered to be the ‘anointed one’. Observers note that on occasion Paisley would redirect questions aimed at Robinson to Dodds. But the tides have been shifting inexorably towards the erstwhile DUP Deputy Leader, not least since an internal poll of DUP members for the Hearts and Minds poll put Dodds with a tiny amount of support within the party a few years back.

And in the last year, as Suzanne Breen has noted, Robinson has been consolidating his power within the party:

“With a meticulous eye for detail and unsurpassed organisational abilities, Robinson was made to be a minister and has excelled himself in the finance department. His professionalism and competence have won him admiration from even those in the fundamentalist wing of the party, who had long disliked him because of his eagerness for a political deal.”

This is a new game calling for new skills and new metrics for political success. However long it takes for the old Rhinoceros to cede the ground, there is a growing consensus that his day is almost over. Possibly by May, a government source suggests. And possibly sooner, if the Parliamentary Commission for Standards makes a negative ruling on Junior’s performance as a parliamentary assistant to his father.

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  • DC

    Setting aside the recent controversies for a brief moment, the view also must be that as First Minister Paisley senior struggles with his brief.

    He is in his 80s and Northern Ireland is a very much changed placed not least with new political theory emerging as a result of many identities and aspirations being wrung out within devolution.

    This alone makes Paisley stand out as being involved in something so unique as to contrast him questionably when recalling his former rhetorical stances.

    But, it is obvious from the point of watching Paisley senior at the dispatch box that his dynamic is lost and rhetoric wont cut it at that point. He has been slurring his words and failing to string out sentences coupled with the real need for his son to be at his side to turn over pages and whisper in his ear timely pointers.

    There comes a time whenever even despite all the best wishes in the world the body is no longer capable, especially now that his dogsbody Junior has been toppled.

    The end is nigh.

  • belfastpaul

    I think we should have a seperate page dedicated to David Gordon from the Belfast Telegraph who tenaciously chased Baby Doc to the ends of the earth.

    There should be a slugger prize entitled ‘Chasing Baby Docs’.

    Now David go an catch another one of the 108 who has been doing things we didn’t /don’t approve off.

    On a related blog. I will call Stephen Nolan a journalist if he ever does what David Gordon did.

  • Greenflag

    ‘The end is nigh.’

    True enough . But which end ? The Paisley end or the Devolved Assembly end ? With Robinson already picking his ‘successor’ Dodds , even before Paisley steps down is indication enough that the democratic concept is weak within the DUP organisation.

    With Robinson or Dodds as DUP leader I can see a rerun of the Trimble /Mallon problems . Paisley may no longer be ‘effective’ but he still commands support from across both communities even if from the nationalist/republicans its grudging in form. Neither Robinson or Dodds have shown that capability and both seem to be garnering political support within the party on a ‘tougher ‘ stance with SF . Well we all know where that can and probably will lead .

    It’s a pity that Paisley can’t hang on for a couple of years until the devolved institution is bedded down.

    ‘He is in his 80s and Northern Ireland is a very much changed placed not least with new political theory emerging as a result of many identities and aspirations being wrung out within devolution.’

    The FM role in NI under given the limitation of powers under Devolution is not much more than that of figurehead as indeed is the DFM role .
    In that sense it doesn’t much matter whether Dodds or Robinson succeeds . What does matter is the likelihood of either of the latter being able to deal with SF without collapsing the fragile House of Cards that is Stormont .

  • Damien Okado-Gough

    Paisley moved onto ground that Robinson and others were inhabiting a long time before the final move in govt with SF, so people can rest assured that the institutions will remain stable with Robinson and Dodds at the DUP helm.

    Long before the deal was done between the DUP and SF, senior DUP people were briefing journalists quietly that they would do a deal with SF in the event of decommissioning and their giving support to the police.

    Paisley snr has spoken about the pressure he was put under by the British government to go into government with SF, but he was being shepherded from behind from within the DUP.

  • DC

    Greenflag, the thing is though that Paisley’s inability to string out words quickly collapses the maxim of the DUP i.e. Leading for Ulster. The simple fact is, really, that it’s embarrassing to watch because of such pockmarking and then the interjection of Junior is needed to set him straight on the talkative track again.

    The question really is what next for Unionism? With Northern Ireland overhauled largely to the extent of intergovernmental coercion how does dup-Unionism square itself off under this.

    The Paisleys political philosophy use to rest largely on a sense of cultural unionism insofar as loyal order and Williamite traits could and should take primacy, but even more the DUP use to be based on Protestant ascendancy over Catholicism in that the Union has no place for parity of esteem for political nationalism if not even stronger in a republican form. But today here it is by its side.

    Interestingly Peter Robinson loathes parity of esteem in that sense too as he has stated on several occasions. In many ways what will Republican Justice look like when powers are devolved, especially whenever we are so use to what it looks like at its former street level. DUP have delivered ethno-religious antics in the past but such many antics have been largely supported by Robinson and to a lesser extent by Dodds.

    The end is nigh, yes for Paisley but perhaps also for the Unionism as Paisley and even Peter Robinson supported it and supposed it as being.

    The thing is I wonder if both men know it too and are sacrificing longstanding political philosophies to control what influence they have left while ensuring that the political careers they have built up on such ideals should not cease in realisation of apparent changing circumstances.

    In other words, which might indicate the dislike for Paisley Junior, that the DUP have become career politicians rather than advocates of a political philosophy and way of life they assured their constituents they could safeguard. Ideally, the pace of change happened far too quickly giving rise to this wider-view.

    To conclude they sold many constituents a pup to bank a power base that has now been put to other uses of which Junior has shown in many distasteful ways.

    Northern Ireland is not a failure because of this but it poses questions as to what it means to be unionist and DUP in this changed setting.

  • PeaceandJustice

    belfastpaul – “Now David [Gordon] go an catch another one of the 108 who has been doing things we didn’t /don’t approve off.”

    Do you think he is brave enough to check up on the Shinners? Or is he afraid what could happen – followed by a quick denial by Minister Murphy?

    Given that Sinn Fein PIRA have been involved in fuel laundering, bank robberies, counterfeiting, property deals etc there are lots of things for him to investigate. The only problem is that such criminals don’t keep such good records. So it’s easier to investigate ordinary politicians.

    belfastpaul – “I think we should have a seperate page dedicated to David Gordon”
    If David Gordon also starts digging the dirt on Sinn Fein PIRA criminals, then we can talk about him in such glowing terms.

  • DC

    Thing is though PeaceandJustice the DUP are in government with them!

    So rather than face a political wilderness they lowered party standards, only lowered because DUP higher-ground never included SF, and so the party climbed up onto the power-sharing ladder with forced coalition because they couldn’t face losing seats and voices, which means so much to Paisley.

    A personal ambition without appropriate political outcomes quickly makes up the minds of those who question DUP direction. Robinson is as bad in that sense, but he can make amends if he can overhaul the DUP political landscape in this new SF power-sharing context; however, in doing so he must sacrifice old goals which allow for claims of career politician because he fits the mould not the other way round.

    Just like Jeffrey and Arlene, couldn’t face losing their seats and voices when the DUP onslaught happened, an onslaught which is infact now faulty due to where the DUP now is, so they jumped ship only for the DUP to offer much of the same things that they used as a pretext to jump years ago.

    End of.

  • LURIG

    Peace&Justice;,

    You seem very disappointed that Ian Paisley og has walked the plank and appear to think that a good Loyal Son Of Ulster can do NO wrong EVER. It is petty tribal politics of the worst kind. Yes I also believe that he is not the only one whose business dealings are questionable and we will probably hear more. However why should David Gordons be criticised for doing his job, and a very good one at that. I would like to see some of this investigative reporting going into exposing the British intelligence services and their sinister role in manipulating the conflict.

  • Greenflag

    The question really is what next for Unionism?

    There are only two roads for political unionism on this island.

    1) Continuing power sharing with Republican/Nationalist for an indefinite period into the future . This in many respects would be the negation of everything traditional Unionism has stood for since it’s foundation . Simple unionist majority rule will never again be possible within the present Northern Ireland .

    2) Collapse of Assembly followed by Direct Rule with more Dublin influence. Resistance by Unionism to the above leading to demands for self government and an inevitable repartition of Northern Ireland .

    ‘Northern Ireland is not a failure because of this but it poses questions as to what it means to be unionist and DUP in this changed setting. ‘

    True enough – never thought of it like that but then I’ve never really understood what it means to be a unionist. Unionism has always struck me as a narrow defeatist creed with more than a touch of empire jingoitis about it . I suppose a corollary question would be to ask oneself what would it meant to be Irish if say Bert Ahern was DFM in coalition with Gordon Brown governing both islands. Now that I put it like that I can imagine why many ‘unionists’ might feel uncomfortable about their political future.

  • darth rumsfeld

    As a proud rejectionist I make no bones about saying that the biggest advantage we have in pointing out the shortcomings of devolution is the bizarree behaviour of the ould croc, and his son. Robbo knows that too, and is using them as a firewall for as long as he can, putting off the day he has to do the heavy lifting for as long as possible.
    The question is whether the truth- that the DUP is micromanaging joint authority- is tolerable to most Unionists. Frankly I suspect that it is, and for the reasons DC’s insightful post posits.

    Whether it will remain so is more problematic. Unionists may grow-if not comfortable- immune to the idea of criminals as government ministers, but the manner in which all depsrtments deal with thorny issues- grammar schools, Irish language etc- may expose the unworkability of the executive far more effectively. In particular, the fact that almost all DPPs west of the bann will soon have SF chairmen, and the DUP’s ineveitable refusal to devolve policing within the specified timeframe,resulting in their probable mass resignation, looks to be the first real challenge.

  • keep it in the family

    From DUP website

    List of DUP MPs and MLAs who employ relatives

    Gregory Campbell – wife (Full Time) – employs 7 in total
    Nigel Dodds – wife (Full Time) and son (Part Time) – employs 7 in total
    Jeffrey Donaldson – wife (Part Time) – employs 8 in total
    William Hay – son-in-law (Full Time) – employs 3 in total
    William Irwin – daughter (Full Time) – employs 2 in total
    Nelson McCausland – nephew (Part Time) – employs 3 in total
    Ian McCrea – wife (Part Time) – employs 4 in total
    William McCrea – son (Full Time) and daughter (Full Time) – employs 6 in total
    Michelle McIlveen – brother (Full Time) – employs 3 in total
    Adrian McQuillan – sister-in-law (Full Time) – employs 3 in total
    Maurice Morrow – sister-in-law (Full Time) – employs 3 in total
    Robin Newton – wife (Full Time) and son (Part Time) – employs 2 in total
    Dr Paisley – son (Part Time) and two daughters (Full Time) – employs 7 in total
    George Robinson – son (Full Time) and nephew (Part Time) – employs 4 in total
    Iris Robinson – son (Full Time) and daughter-in-law (Part Time) – employs 6 in total
    Peter Robinson – son (Full Time) and daughter (Full Time) – employs 4 in total
    Jimmy Spratt – wife (Part Time) – employs 3 in total
    Jim Wells – daughter (Part Time) – employs 6 in total

  • red branch

    DC

    Interesting insight, especially to Jeffrey and Arlene. What I have always found amazing with these pair is that never seem to have caught on or admitted that they jumped and ended up where they started.

    But as you say anbition is a wonderful thing

  • pacman

    Is Peter and Iris employing the same son full-time?

  • Greenflag

    ‘Is Peter and Iris employing the same son full-time? ‘

    I trust the lad has the whit to demand ‘overtime ‘ 🙂

    Politics is a family business obviously . all the same isn’t the English taxpayer a generous soul to be coughing up all this largess for the nouveau political trough snouters .

    Normality ye can’t beat it 🙁

  • mag

    How do you define “part-time”?

    Does Nigel not only have one son – who is in full-time university education?

    Does this mean that Peter and Iris employ their ENTIRE family (two sons and one daughter)?

  • Mark Fartlighter

    BBC have just confirmed that Gregory Campbell ‘rents’ his office off his wife!

    12,000+ per/year.

  • Greenflag

    ‘Whether it will remain so is more problematic.’

    Eventually ‘devolution’ will prove disappointing to most Unionists and it won’t matter whether they are DUP, UUP or TUV. For no matter which way they cut the cake there will always be less to share out than in the old majority Unionist take all days. SF will be less disappointed as for them it will effectively give control of Northern Ireland west of the Bann in a way that was never possible before the GFA.

  • PeaceandJustice

    Does anyone have a list of Sinn Fein PIRA MPs and MLAs who employ relatives?

  • Pancho’s Horse

    Peace and Justice, there is no such party as Sinn Féin PIRA (and there is a fada on the é of Féin). Are you stupid? How many times must you be shown?

  • Greenflag

    Peace and Injustice ‘

    ‘Does anyone have a list of Sinn Fein MPs and MLAs who employ relatives?’

    Don’t be such a lazy loyalist go and dig it up yerself! Being politicians I would’nt expect the other side to be any different

    Ye must be a right gobshite if ye believe that politicians are more interested in principle than principal ( argent , cash , the readies , the dosh , loot , spoils of war/peace etc etc etc.

    You just have to create an economy that can afford to pay your locally elected ‘gangsters/politicians in the style to which they feel entitled ! Why else do you think they spent all those years battling it out for some control over the public purse ?

  • PeaceandJustice

    I would have thought that Sinn Fein PIRA would publish a list of MPs and MLAs who employ family members. Because they are just a normal democratic party now. Yeah right.

  • pith

    Peace and Justice,

    Do try to keep up. There is no such think as Sinn Fein – IRA anymore. It is Sinn Fein – DUP these days.

  • Pancho’s Horse

    Sinn Féin have published a list but it’s in Irish so you can’t read it. Naa naa.

  • PeaceandJustice

    On 4 Feb 2008, Mark Devenport reported the following:

    Sinn Fein say there is no place for nepotism in politics, and they employ their staff on merit.

    The party goes on to say that
    “Dodie McGuinness had previously been employed by Martin McGuinness through Westminster. She is no longer employed by the party. She was related to Martin through marriage to his brother although this relationship ended some 20 years ago and long before she was employed by the party. Her appointment was based on merit.

    Grainne Maskey, who is a niece of both Alex and Paul Maskey, is employed by Fra McCann as a political advisor. Her appointment was based on merit.

    Shauneen Baker is employed by Carál Ní Chuilín as a political advisor. She is married to Carál’s husband’s brother. Her appointment was based on merit.”

    UPDATE: Partly in response to a comment on this blog entry regarding Martina Anderson, Sinn Fein has now sent me amended family details as follows:

    “Grainne Maskey, who is a niece of both Alex and Paul Maskey, is employed by Fra McCann as a political advisor. Her appointment was based on merit.

    Shauneen Baker is employed by Carál Ní Chuilín as a political advisor. She is married to Carál’s husband’s brother. Her appointment was based on merit.

    Paul Kavanagh, Martina Anderson’s husband, is employed by Raymond McCartney. He works primarily as a policy researcher. His employment was based on merit.”

    The SDLP says 10 of their MLAs employ family members. Here is their list:

    “Alex Attwood (West Belfast) – Brother part-time constituency worker
    Dominic Bradley (Newry and Armagh) – None
    Mary Bradley (Foyle) – Daughter full-time researcher and office manager
    PJ Bradley (South Down) – Daughter full-time researcher and secretary
    Thomas Burns (South Antrim) – None
    John Dallat (East Derry) – Wife full-time office manager
    Mark Durkan (Foyle) Wife part-time receptionist
    Tommy Gallagher (Fermanagh and South Tyrone) – Son full-time administrator and constituency worker
    Carmel Hanna (South Belfast) – Sister part-time administration and planning
    Dolores Kelly (Upper Bann) – Daughter one-year part-time contract administration and research
    Alban Maginness (North Belfast) – None
    Dr Alasdair McDonnell (South Belfast) – None but employs a niece on a temporary contract as a receptionist for Westminster
    Patsy McGlone (Mid-Ulster) – None
    Declan O’Loan (North Antrim) – None
    Pat Ramsey (Foyle) – Wife, part-time driver
    Margaret Ritchie (South Down) – None”

    ————————–

    On the 20/02/2008, the Irish News reported:
    MLAs who hire family members

    SDLP: 10 out of 16 – 63 per cent
    Sinn Fein: One out of 28 – 4 per cent

    ————————–

    What is the truth regarding Sinn Fein PIRA?

  • Screwball

    One might also ask how parties apoint these members of staff. I’ve never seen the Shinners nor the DUP advertise in the Irish News, Bell Tell nor any of the job websites.

  • darth rumsfeld

    Paul Kavanagh, Martina Anderson’s husband, is employed by Raymond McCartney. He works primarily as a policy researcher. His employment was based on merit.”

    Excellent news.

    Now all they have to do to shut the sceptics up is provide details of the advertising process,the qualifications the successful candidates were required to meet,the job specification and the interviews of the unsuccessful candidates

    I must have missed all those ads at the back of the News Letter-“Sinn Fein is an equal opportunities employer but particularly welcomes applicants from the Protestant/Unionist community”

  • The original Sam Maguire

    “I must have missed all those ads at the back of the News Letter-“Sinn Fein is an equal opportunities employer but particularly welcomes applicants from the Protestant/Unionist community” ”

    I might be wrong but surely sharing the political ideals of any party would be prerequisite to seeking gainful employment from them? If the Shinners feel that they can get the cream of republican thinkers (no it’s not an oxymoron) from the ranks of their party members then more power to them.

  • Insider

    “I’ve never seen the Shinners nor the DUP advertise in the Irish News, Bell Tell nor any of the job websites.”

    Show me where either the UUP or SDLP advertised for Members’ staff? Or are you too bigotted to mention that?

  • The Original Sam Maguire

    To be fair I’ve seen Thomas Burns of South Antrim advertise in the Tele, along with a few non descript Alliance ads. There was a vacancy with a recruitment agency in Belfast before this storm erupted as well, however the Party was undisclosed