Party sources are briefing about a new leadership replacing the Paisleyite dynasty – possibly as early as this autumn. Finance minister and DUP deputy leader Peter Robinson will in all likelihood replace Paisley as first minister. Meanwhile, according to senior party figures, the DUP leadership will pass over to North Belfast MP and enterprise minister Nigel Dodds. The Cambridge-educated, Everton-supporting Dodds represents the DUP’s second generation; he is still in his late 40s but is someone who straddles the two wings of the party, both a fundamentalist Christian and, like Robinson, a technocrat.
The Robinson-Dodds DUP dream ticket would also open up the possibility of a radical reshaping of unionist politics. Robinson is known personally to favour the creation of a single super-unionist party. With Paisley out of the way (a man who historically generated almost as much loathing and mistrust within the Ulster Unionist party as among nationalists) a pathway could be cleared leading towards a unionist fusion.