Telling a new story

Ian Paisley will stand down as leader of the DUP in a few weeks. This will give the next generation in the DUP, those he groomed, the chance to take control of the largest Unionist party at an important juncture. An organisation is vulnerable when it attempts a generational transition even as smooth a one as the DUP appears to be managing. Beyond the everyday and strategic politics, the DUP has two key challenges, communication and organisation. It is the nature of the communication challenge that this thread will focus. Paisley’s departure – gain and loss

The replacement of Paisley as leader solves a number of immediate issues for the DUP. However, it is not all gain. Although his skills have declined with age and the family had put something of a protective shield around him, Paisley was the party’s great communicator, most especially to the base and in particular to the evangelicals. Leader-elect Robinson has publicly acknowledged that no one person can be Paisley’s replacement and recognises the need for a corporate leadership. This is what you say when a party leader stands down. It has the effect of smoothing the feathers of rivals but it is also the truth.

However, the DUP is far from a communicative desert. It must be acknowledged that Robinson built the headquarters team and honed the message of the DUP’s political campaigns, most especially post-Belfast Agreement. The party also has a cross-section of able senior people who while they may not match Paisley’s many skills, collectively are strong. However, they cannot match Paisley’s immense emotional intelligence of the DUP base in particular and the Unionist community in general.

Politics and emotion

Given the importance of emotion in the political thinking of the electorate, it is perhaps too easy to exaggerate the importance of reason and rationality in dialogue with the electorate. It is simplistic to suppose that the DUP can refute the emotional appeals of the TUV and others with reason and empirical arguments.

Political ideas and their promotion are a form of advertising. It is to emotion that successful advertising focuses. The key to accessing emotion is the construction of a narrative. A narrative is the story people develop based upon your actions and statements (The Political Brain and this Radio Four debate ‘Jackanory politics’ for a full examination of narrative). Post St Andrews, it is in the development of a narrative that the DUP has its greatest weakness.

The fair deal narrative

This narrative was designed to communicate the transition of the DUP from a position of total opposition to one of engagement to achieve change. It was to provide expression to the mood of the Unionist community that it was not opposed to making an agreement but viewed the Belfast Agreement and its interpretation as fundamentally imbalanced. It was also to be a realistic promise. It was not promising a victory. As a message it worked, contributing to the DUP overhauling the UUP.

However, after the 2005 Westminster election it became a half-forgotten narrative. Its half-forgotten status was an example of how the DUP began to view its position as unassailable. Depending on your perspective, this led to an arrogance or malaise within the party. The result was a failure to engage with the party grassroots and broader community.

After the 2003 Assembly election at party events and conferences some stress was placed upon the fact that the negotiations would involve hard decision-making and realistic expectations. After 2005 such caveats or cautionary warnings seemed to vanish from the DUP’s message. While the flaws in St Andrews would have led to some opposition anyway, the lack of preparation contributed to the party’s difficulties. Feelings of relief and complacency developed with the lack of an explicit electoral backlash (despite some warning signs) in the Assembly election and the lack of negative feedback from the constituency office network or public events e.g. parades after the decision to share power. It was not until Dromore that any re-think was thought necessary.

Overall, the fair deal narrative has run its course. However, the DUP’s new narrative needs be built upon it as jarring narratives do not work.

Post St Andrew narratives

After St Andrews the DUP has jumped about between different and sometimes conflicting narratives. These have generally not worked and in this void the narratives of opponents have gained more ground. With changes in key personnel and the significant distraction of governance the issue has not been seriously addressed.


The first narrative the DUP adopted was the victory narrative. The principal argument for such a positive interpretation of St Andrews was that the UUP had failed to sell the Belfast Agreement well. While the UUP certainly did not handle their post-agreement phase well hard sell does not make up for an imperfect product. St Andrews was less imperfect than the Belfast agreement but it was not credible to sell it as perfect.

The victory narrative had a number of flaws. It jarred with the previous promise of a fair deal. It jarred with people’s assessment of Unionism’s position. In general terms the Unionist community was not expecting a full reversal of the past anti-Unionist direction of policy. Thus any claims to the contrary would be viewed with scepticism. Additionally, the 12 apostles’ mini-rebellion undermined this. If senior members weren’t willing to swallow the line neither will the broader community.

It jarred with people’s assessment of Nationalism. In general terms the Unionist community views nationalism as able (many go further than that). Thus a claim that Nationalism has agreed to a Unionist victory is not viewed as credible. Nationalism being made to concede is sellable but not their defeat and their agreement to a defeat.

A victory narrative is also a highly risky one. At its core it risks being interpreted as the struggles are over and everything is going to be fine from here on. This narrative cannot cope with setbacks.

As confidence is an issue in Unionism there is a strong temptation to try and re-build it all in one go but a gradual process is more likely to succeed. Also if the DUP had actually delivered on its confidence building package then there would have been more a credible basis to pursue this line. The direction of policy could have been presented as more Unionist friendly.

Unfulfilled prophecy

In preparation for devolution the DUP began to push the battle a day narrative. Essentially, this was a reassurance narrative – “Don’t worry about us agreeing to devolution. We haven’t gone soft. The arena is changing but the fight goes on”. It is certainly factual that the struggle between Unionism and Nationalism isn’t over. However, when this did not occur it became the unfulfilled prophecy. Furthermore, the ‘chuckle brothers’ act was a complete contradiction to expectations. Those who had accepted the reassuring message would become doubtful, distrustful or resentful. It also didn’t seem to link with the ‘victory’ narrative, yesterday we won but tomorrow we start all over again.

Delivery and destinations

There have been two narratives that could contribute to a new narrative for the DUP. The main one is devolution is delivering. However it is insufficient. It is almost seen to be avoiding the central questions that many Unionists are asking in the post-St Andrews context. The message gap it represents explains the lack of impact it has made. It needs to be remembered that apart from the Victims Commissioners mess, devolution has been running pretty smoothly from a Unionist perspective. The lack of politicisation of the Unionist electorate also hampers the power of this message. Their lack of policy awareness often means that they don’t recognise a success when it is achieved. The ‘them and us’ mentality means that a proposal that is for the benefit of all in Northern Ireland also has limited return.

The other interesting phraseology that has popped up in a number of DUP statements is ‘a fair deal, not a final destination’. Again it is an accurate description of the situation and should be an element of any future narrative. However, it is more of the sub-text that the main narrative communicates rather than the public/actual message. Its use has been intermittent and there is a sense it is being toyed with rather than adopted.

Alternative narratives

The DUP’s failure to develop a successful and sustainable post-deal narrative has lead to three developments.

First, there is the ‘co-opted’ narrative. The DUP began to slip into the process narrative – there is no alternative etc. It does not help convince people that you are different from Trimble and the UUP when you sound like them.

Second, the ‘chuckle brothers’ narrative, started by the media but assiduously promoted by the UUP and TUV, filled the narrative void. It is essentially a ‘self-interest’ narrative – the DUP don’t care about you and your concerns; they just want to enjoy power and its trappings. While it is potentially harmful to both the DUP and SF it has had much greater bite in the Unionist community.

The ‘chuckle brothers’ became a gateway to the most harmful alternative narrative of all, the ‘snouts in the trough’ narrative. The protracted Sweeney/Causeway debacle and the exposure of the personal Paisley Jnr wish-list made many believe it was for highly personal and self-interested reasons that Paisley had been persuaded to accept the deal.

What questions are being asked?

There are three key questions that sections of the Unionist community are asking in the post-St Andrews context.

Why did we have 30-35 years of conflict?
Why did the DUP take the decision to share power (and so quickly)?
Where is Unionism going from here?

The first is of particular significance because of the present make-up of the Unionist vote. The security vote is probably disproportionate in the make-up of Unionist voters. These are the people who served in the Army, Police and Prison Service during the Troubles. The civic mindedness that led them to engage in public service also means they are more likely to vote (and their families). The DUP should be well aware of the power of this section of the electorate. Their electoral growth was partially driven when the traditionally UUP-supporting police section of this vote moved to them because of the Patten proposals. Of particular importance to them is the battle to define the past. Unionism needs to engage in the debate of the past not simply be reactive to republican re-writing.

It is safe to say the vast majority did not put on a uniform to patrol dreary and potentially dangerous streets with the aim of putting an IRA Leader into power (even power with strong checks and balances). The narrative through most of the troubles was the defeat of terrorism rather than a political deal. They need a satisfactory answer about what their service was for and what it achieved.

The second is primarily a product of the 2005-07 inactivity and the speed of devolution post-election. The failure to properly engage during these periods needs to be acknowledged. There is a chunk who did ultimately expect power-sharing but slower i.e. longer testing period. The degree of risk the DUP was willing to take staggered them. The evangelical section needs special attention in this element. It cannot be engaged through the mainstream media it needs a bespoke approach in terms of events and message.

The first two must be addressed otherwise they will not listen to the third answer. The third answer is the new narrative. It will be a key determinant to the future direction of the DUP and both the party and Unionism’s future electoral performances.

New opportunity

The change in leadership provides the DUP with a new opportunity to give clear consistent answers to these questions. In the next few months it needs to focus on the first two questions and to develop ‘Unionist’ answers not adopt process-speak. Its answers need to accept the legitimacy of concerns and doubts, not be arrogant or dismissive even though it is through Jim Allister’s voice that these are most often expressed. This will prepare the ground for the new narrative which will answer the third. If the ground is not prepared it will fall as flat as the other DUP attempts. This new narrative could begin at the party’s conference later in the year.

It is important to answer these questions not because the bulk of voters are likely to go elsewhere, despite the electoral kick in the stones at Dromore. Dromore was something of a perfect electoral storm. The greater and more fundamental risk for Unionism is apathy. The unimpressive Unionist turnout in the last Assembly elections is a pointer to this. The lack of red hot telephones in constituency offices was another. Why no explosion of anger? For some of the disenchanted the DUP was Unionism’s last hope. So their perception of DUP failure led to a sense of hopelessness rather than anger at the decision to share power.

What should a new narrative aim to do?

The new narrative must try to do the following:
• The old narrative as starting point – the new narrative must not jar with the fair deal narrative.
• Be positive – Power-sharing means future messages cannot rely so heavily on negativity or bogeymen (real or imagined).
• Be durable –This narrative must be built to last. It should be expected to carry the DUP from now until the next Assembly/Local government elections through both the European and Westminster elections. It must be able to cope with political advances and set-backs.
• Reassure and re-engage with party support – it should be able to re-engage with the disillusioned.
• Provide a role – it needs to start to give ordinary Unionists a proactive role.
• Promote growth – It must plant the seeds for Unionist electoral growth. This is a long-term strategic challenge for Unionism. This task will not be completed in the short-term but it is something that must be included.
• Be meaningful – It must be a Unionist message. The UUP provides the perfect warning of meaningless narratives/messages e.g. ‘Simply British’ .
• Go for verbs – The best slogans involve action as US pollster Dick Morris argues in political messages verbs beat adjectives.
• Actions and words – Don’t just develop a good slogan. Think about what is likely to occur in the next few years, ensure no predictable big event will discredit it.

The balancing act between all these elements is not easy, but political message management never is.

  • Rory

    ….and of reaching out to the nationalist community and assuring them that a policy of inclusiveness and a proactive policy of respect for the existence and future development of their culture and a strong commitment to allay their concerns over control of loyalist gangs?

    Will the First Minister designate reach out to half of his constituency to reassure them that, having achieved power, he will exercise it fairly across the board? Will he be a First Minister for all the people?

    Will he do this? Should he do this? What do the fair minded readers on Slugger think?

  • DC

    So really you are asking how can the DUP save face politically after Paisley Snr altered longstanding/generational positions of non-engagement with the Irish, GFA and now indeed Sinn Fein-detached-from-the-IRA. Looks as though the pain from that break-neck U-turn will hit Robinson like bad whiplash that sets in shortly after crashing longstanding DUP stances, but as FM will he have the time to appropriately condition for it?

    I know you are a DUP fan FD, but my views are that any people interested in politics today and are perhaps in school or in Uni here should look at just what is opening up before them and work out how to provide stable political stances befitting of the realities arising from new working relationships, at all levels. Breaking from the past would be great particularly as all parties have been greatly wounded and compromised, new ground can clearly be seen. Especially now the extremes have bought into the process. Why settle for rank hypocrisy in the form of a ultra-refined sugary little narrative that amounts to nothing more than more DUP psychological mind-tricks, done to try and eradicate a very recent past to consolidate power for its career politicians.

    Do you ever wonder FD why is it that SF-DUP are leading up power together, perhaps there may be something in this argument that they abused such emotional intelligence together in order to suit and boot themselves into power @ OFMDFM. Gerry Adams re-worked SF’s position papers on the GFA process into something more akin to popular nationalism rallied under by the SDLP for ages, sure didn’t the DUP ridicule the peace process with poison, but hey look at them now, the power-grab spectacle, what a political pairing.

    There are loads of books now out about the Northern Ireland peace process and politics north and south, any good political student with a keenness for Northern Ireland to succeed should realise that finding a place for Northern Ireland requires an acceptance and understanding of values across all the islands, then shape policy that is likely to succeed in that context.

  • Dewi

    On the positive side it’s good to take the religious fundamentalism out of it. Robinson at least gives the impression of managerial competence (budget etc).
    On the downside what Dromore means that DUP have to take note of “rejectionist” views. Difficult – as is everything there.

  • Fair Deal, ‘narrative’ has the smack of spin with the underlying intent of pulling the wool over the eyes of the gullible.

    When the DUP moved ahead of the UUP it ceased to be a party of opposition; it became a party of potential government. It acquired part of its growth on the back of governments appeasement of ‘selected’ paramilitaries, in particular the PRM.

    When it moved ahead in the Unionist stakes it was confronted with more or less the same choice as the UUP ie enhanced joint direct rule or sharing government with SF, the PRM’s political wing.

    As you can see from the Blackside story, the DUP links with Sweeney long predate the St Andrew’s Agreement. The sense of local betrayal hasn’t gone away and the base treatment of the Rodgers family hasn’t been forgotten.

    Take a look at Bushmills, the gateway to the Giant’s Causeway. It’s a conservation area in an area of outstanding natural beauty – and it’s a disgrace. The planning service IMO has failed in its duty to conserve and the DUP, the main local party, remains silent. The office it uses for political purposes has been closed since the story broke about its rates-free status. David McAllister, the main DUP councillor, is back in the news – but apparently not in council meetings. Why is he still a director of Bushmills Townscape Heritage Initiative?

  • Alex Swan

    A few points,

    “Why did we have 30-35 years of conflict?” seems obvious, getting Paisley into the driving seat,

    “The security vote is probably disproportionate in the make-up of Unionist voters.” Most of these ‘voters’ held their noses to vote for Ian Paisley, not good in the long term.

    Was it all about noses in troughs? Is Robinson best placed to prove otherwise, there is little evidence of Mr and Mrs Robinson holding back on the expenses, for instance 38-39K pa for London housing allowance, the publication of MP’s expenses should make interesting reading.

  • Comrade Stalin

    Paisley has always been about the acquisition of power and control. He started his own political party and his own church, just so that he could be in charge. The reports of those involved in the UWC strike show that Paisley tried to barge in and take control of the whole thing, put himself at the head of it. It amazes me that people are surprised as if this is something new.

    Alex, Robinson’s expenses situation is shameful, but technically, not illegal. Expecting MPs to vote for restrictions on their own expenses is like asking a turkey to vote for Christmas.

  • FYI

    UUP Member Alex Swan claims:

    “Why did we have 30-35 years of conflict?” seems obvious, getting Paisley into the driving seat”

    Nothing to do with the IRA then Alex? That’s good to know.

  • Interestedobserver

    FYI/the only dundela stooge to venture on to slugger these days

    Is that your only response to Fair Deals post?

    Its fairly sad that you have nothing more to say than bash Alex Swann, the intellectual equivalent of kicking a puppy.

  • elvis parker

    An interesting article but it is based on the preposition that the DUP are a ‘unionist’ party when in fact they are an insular Protestant party.

    The only ‘narrative’ they understand is oposing others – nationalists or other unionists.

    As such they will prove a poor governing party and unable to whip up its core Prod vote with an on going diet of ‘stop thermuns’ they will suffer badly at the next election

  • Bigger Picture

    Good points as always f_d. Re-engagement is the most important thing all unionists can do. I do not believe that there is an awful lot of difference between the DUP and TUV poisitions and I think it is only through dialogue and talking to these people that we can be assured of future unionist success.

  • The reason the DUP and SF have been able to work together is because they are both happy to priorotise economic development (see the new Programme for Government and INvestment Strategy) within a neoliberal framework – see the recent announcement about financial services jobs here in NI from companies based in the Republic, on a branch plant basis with retained tax breaks.

    The DUP’s new political narrative is already here and it’s based on the economy. New times raise the question of how sustainable the ‘nationalist’ component of any narrative is going to be, whether it’s Irish or British nationalism, as borders become less important. Which of course leads to questions about the sustainability of a political system based on sectarian division rather than economic and class interests.

  • willowfield

    Unionism as a whole – and therefore the DUP as the largest unionist party – has to communicate on two flanks. It is not just the “emotional” unionists who might be enamoured of the TUV message to whom unionism needs to communicate: it is also the “soft” unionist constituency and those who do not necessarily identify emotionally with the Union. As demographic change continues, the future of the Union will depend on the support of sufficient numbers within this latter group, and this group can only be reached with pragmatic and rational messages.

    Demographic change is unionism’s elephant in the room. I am unaware of any serious thinking about how to deal with a situation in which the traditional unionist constituency (Protestants) ceases to be a majority in Northern Ireland. The unionist position seems to be one of denial (it will never happen) and therefore there is no need to plan for such a scenario.

    So, FD’s piece is very useful, very important and very welcome, but it is only part of the debate about unionist communication.

  • Greenflag

    Now here’s a fresh example of Unionist/DUP communication that shows the ‘dilemma ‘ which the DUP faces . The extract is from a longer piece by Iris Robinson in the Newsletter.

    ‘With Northern Ireland’s constitutional position now settled – short of some Kamikaze mission – and any cross-border activity accountable to the Assembly, unionists can now engage confidently with the Irish Republic.’

    So far so good 🙂

    ‘While remaining 100 per cent committed to strengthening our social, economic and cultural links with Great Britain, we should not fear practical co-operation which is in the interests of Northern Ireland.’

    Not bad 🙂 ‘practical cooperation with the Irish Republic would have sounded better to nationalist ears.’

    ‘We have the assurance of being able to boot into touch any politically-motivated efforts to promote a united Ireland.’

    That’s a ball that will always be in play . Might as well get used to it . I’d recommend ear muffs as the best defence . This is a case where the long standing Unionist penchant for ‘ostrichism’ could pay rich dividends in improving ‘cross community ‘ appeal.

    But it’s in this paragraph that Iris shows her true colours .

    ‘In discussions on North-South matters, we must act in the best interests of the people of the Province but primarily defend the constitutional position of Northern Ireland.’

    One question which any Irish nationalist or republican or non committed or even thinking unionist might ask of that statement would be ‘What if defending the constitutional position of NI is not in the best interests of the people of the province’ ?

    Mrs Robinson ought to have said

    ‘In discussions on North-South matters, we must primarily act in the best interests of the people of the Province and also defend the constitutional position of Northern Ireland.’

    Now that’s what I would call putting people before party.

  • Granny Gregg

    Very good piece yet again FD.

  • Greenflag

    ‘Why did we have 30-35 years of conflict?’

    Because the UUP could not adapt quickly enough to the challenge presented by the increasing numbers of better educated Northern Catholics entering politics in NI in the mid 1960’s . O’Neill the ‘Englishman’ tried but failed. The rest we know or don’t want to know as the case may be .

    ‘Why did the DUP take the decision to share power (and so quickly)? ‘

    Because they could not trust HMG not to bring in even more Dublin involvement in NI affairs .

    ‘Where is Unionism going from here?’

    Nowhere except a long slow decline into decreasing relevance on this island . Only ‘repartition’ can prop up Unionism as a political ideology with perhaps some ‘future’ . But it appears that the stomach for that option is not there well not yet anyway.

    Perhaps over the course of this Assembly some kind of ‘deus ex machina’ will emerge which will
    open up a brighter future for Unionists as people . But for Unionism the political ideology I can only see continuing relative decline both in NI and Britain -regardless of the political demography of NI.

  • DC

    “The DUP’s new political narrative is already here and it’s based on the economy. New times raise the question of how sustainable the ‘nationalist’ component of any narrative is going to be”

    The thing is Jenny though that the DUP and Peter Robinson oft-cited negativism about the very potential of all-island co-operation. In essence the fears they used to stack up votes corrupted progress on the economy and other social issues. We await the recoil upon that stance, which must surely happen, given such attacks and persistent non-engagement with the Irish people, its representatives and anything considered cross-border. It is so difficult to get any viewpoint that comes out as being politically correct along DUP-lines as whenever you see Robinson foraging into the Republic it is difficult not to recall his bitter past positions that dipped other parties into the abyss just for trying to do justly what he is now doing.

    In relation to nationalism, in the Irish sense, it is currently aspirational and that allows for a certain dollop of creativity not afforded to Unionism that must redevelop itself based on practical realities. These such practical realities must surely push the DUP hard in being able to sell a comprehensible modern view to its electorate. Those previous political stances were hammered into the minds so hard.

    What I’m really saying is how much can an older and bitterly fought out narrative impinge on the ability to construct a saleable contemporary one based on new practical realities, new practical realities that would most certainly never have come about had that older narrative won out as a majority view in the minds of the people of NI.

    It just seems so blatantly hypocritical from a DUP political view point. Hence career politicians and adaption to suit other political view points to ensure, as one other commenter said, the survival of the interests of Unionists, not of Unionism per se. I agree wholly on it all making economic sense but should I be expected to take that advice from Peter Robinson afterall he wrote bitterly against it just because he thought it would help him and the DUP nick votes at that particular time of political modernisation, which as a party they didn’t want to sell because then it didn’t suit them.

  • Eire

    I agree: this is very useful and very important, Fair Deal. Thank you.

  • Greenflag


    ‘Take a look at Bushmills, the gateway to the Giant’s Causeway.’

    Jayzuz – that looks bloody awful . I’m reminded of the old joke re an atom bomb falling on Moss Side -Manchester and doing 20 pounds worth of damage .

    Ah well the capital of the Devil’s buttermilk brew should’nt expect much from the party of alcohol abstinence , no line dancing and tea making weemen folk .

    Perhaps the IRA could be asked to ‘reemerge’ on a temporary basis mind you to help with ‘renovation’ via the well known avenue of ‘insurance ‘ claims 🙁

  • Greenflag

    FD ,

    ‘Why no explosion of anger? For some of the disenchanted the DUP was Unionism’s last hope. So their perception of DUP failure led to a sense of hopelessness rather than anger at the decision to share power.’

    Because many may remember what ‘anger’ achieved after the Anglo Irish Agreement , after Sunningdale , etc etc . I’d suggest that voters on the unionist side are becoming more realistic re their overall situation and have learnt that ‘politics’ is the art of the possible . Allister can indulge in the impossible but all roads lead back to the same inevitable dead end i.e Unionism can only be an appendage to the main political movement on this island . And the cousins across the water are not that bothered .

    How the new DUP deal with the new realities will decide their longer term political future in or out of the union. It’ll be a political high wire act with a thinner than usual safety net below.

    Not sure Robinson can pull it off but he seems to possess more political ‘smarts’ than David Trimble ever did . The fact that he’s no Paisley might actually rebound to his credit over the next few years .

  • fair_deal

    Thanks to those for their kind words.


    In my mind the economy narrative is essentially a sub-division of devolution is delivering. However, if inapproriately handled it becomes a ‘rational’ argument.


    Unionism finding ways of new support bases I considered partially addressed by promote growth. Althogh as I make clear I think this is a long-term project.

    I may return to this in an article in a few months. If I don’t get around to it please do remind me.


    “DUP fan”

    I try to avoid the fealty to acronyms that is common in Unionism. Organisations are the means to an end for me and it is the end that is more important than an organisation. The DUP are what is there with the greatest capability to achieve things.

    The rest is essentially pointing out why you are not a fan and a bit of ‘spilt milk’ analysis that I doubt my words will dissuade you from.


    “I’d suggest that voters on the unionist side are becoming more realistic”

    I think future voting patterns will prove or dsiprove that.

  • DC

    “The rest is essentially pointing out why you are not a fan and a bit of ‘spilt milk’ analysis that I doubt my words will dissuade you from.”

    Your words probably wont FD but the point is really that while Robinson used the process as the platform for grandstanding a bit of political theatre, to others it created an atmosphere that was really a stage for their execution. Don’t you get that or are you really not able to see the harm with that and that is why the DUP-SF are up there together now in Stormont because party behaviour has more similarities than differences. So, it’s more than ‘spilt milk’ which is why I’m not really enraptured with the DUP as leaders of Northern Ireland.

    This is why I am not prepared to buy into this little attempt at revisionism now in 2008 whenever I bought the realities back in 1998 for obvious political reasons. But if the DUP are now beginning to spoon feed its electorate now to this nourishing stance, good; but, Robinson and Paisley have proven to be psychological manipulators of unionists rather than substantive policy providers of Northern Ireland.

  • The Raven

    Jenny wrote: “The reason the DUP and SF have been able to work together is because they are both happy to priorotise economic development”

    What, are you mad or something?? Surely you cannot be one of these people who believes that the DUP/SF have done anything which REMOTELY benefits the 92% of businesses in this region which have 10 or less employees? And if you DO, could you let me in on the secret??

    Seems to be a lot of basking in the sunlight of 5000 outsourced (cos of the traffic and cheaper wages, guv) Dublin jobs (excuse my glibness here, but I’m a mite angry about Minister Dodd’s stewardship) and a conference that will yield no new economic infrastructure….

    Oh yeah…I *certainly* can’t wait for the DUP to stop at my door and say “vote for us, we were good for the economy”.

    I think I will point them to Limavady, where the Minister has not even set foot since the closure announcement of Seagate….

  • Greenflag


    ‘Robinson and Paisley have proven to be psychological manipulators of unionists’

    Well yes which is why they are/were ‘successful politicians to the extent that anybody can be given the NI political environment .

    ‘ rather than substantive policy providers of Northern Ireland.’

    Are’nt you expecting a bit much from an Assembly which has little or no control over it’s ‘revenue’ and which is circumscribed by the limitations on it’s powers by big brother across the water . Can any combination of parties in the present NI Assembly ever be seen as ‘substantive policy providers’ ? I think not . They can’t be . HMG would not approve well not for a long while anyway if ever .

    Raven ,

    ‘I think I will point them to Limavady, where the Minister has not even set foot since the closure announcement of Seagate….

    Would’nt be any different if the UUP/SDLP were in the hot seats . International business will go where it pleases . Democracies around the world are waking up to the fact but seem /appear powerless in the face of the global investment economy.

  • DC

    “Well yes which is why they are/were ‘successful politicians to the extent that anybody can be given the NI political environment .”

    Eh no because they weren’t politicians then were they??????????????????? The agreement was a negotiation of an acceptable political framework, where were the DUP. Another example, re substantive policy setting at executive level – who commands over 75% of the budget today: the UUP and SF.

    Okay next, ehm, policy – yeah?

    Okay, who left the education ministry? Answer – the DUP (taken as a given that education is the best form of social and perhaps future economic welfare).

    Right, policy, second policy question then: who has the health ministry? Answer: the UUP.

    Third policy question: Who has the Education ministry: SF! Too easy this I know.

    Time for an even easier one:

    Why are SF in control of education (for a clue see above)? Answer: Because the DUP left it for them.

    So, Sammy Wilson can wax lyrical about being cut out cold over education but please reform of education was well in the offing and spot the walker-awayers. But the DUP are brilliant at walking away, and as per the GFA and with portfolios today they walked away because they do not have answers yet at a party-political level for some of the wide ranging reform challenges needed today.

    Oh yes, ehm policy, the victims commissioners, commission, so far we seem to have paid-up acceptable applicants who are not quite employees yet because they remain without legal positions to occupy and a certain agreed job spec.

    For the next policy problem, courtesy of the DUP, please return to Slugger soon.

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  • willowfield

    Two questions:

    1. Is there an audience within organised unionism for Fair Deal’s analysis?

    2. If not, is anyone else within organised unionism – in a separate exercise – grappling with the issues raised in Fair Deal’s analysis?

  • FYI

    New wording of FAIR opinion poll! Very balanced:

    Traditional Unionist Values (TUV), do we need another party?

    1. Absolutely, the DUP have let us down.

    2. No, I support the DUP sitting with terrorists

    3. I just dont care!

    4. I vote UUP

    5. Nothing to do with me, Im a Nationalist

  • 3 Mobile

    Does any body know if TUV Councillor Willy Wilkinson is still on the FAIR pay roll?

  • Steve


    Honestly do really expect Fair to be fare?

    I know he claims to be a victims group but really hes just a political pressure group against them damn fenians

  • fair_deal

    Keep on topic please

  • One of the problems facing the DUP as it tries to engage with unionists, especially its former supporters, is that it has gained an unenviable reputation for deception within a community suspicious and resentful of spin. An example was the repeated denial that Paisley Senior had anything to do with Junior’s solo runs at St Andrews. Now Jim Allister has discovered, via a Freedom Of Information request, that Papa Doc knew about Junior’s efforts all along.

  • FYI

    The Watchman

    I wonder what an FoI request regarding 139 Holywood Road would reveal? Lucky Jim’s not subject to FoI legislation, eh?

  • fair_deal

    The Watchman

    Paisley’s departure probably impacts on the potency of that argument. BTW I fully accept the re-engagement will not be 100% successful however, I view some maybe most as engagable.

  • slug

    FD an interesting and timely blog.

    Surely FD it will be important to focus on policy issues that relate to the Stormont departments.

    One of the reasons to vote DUP will now surely be to get as many departments in DUP ministers as possible. There are issues such as whether DUP is good for small businesses, grammar schools, farmers, high quality jobs, low rates, efficiency savings such as a reduction in the number of departments etc. These type of bread and butter things will be more important now and this also gives the DUP a chance to distinguish itself from SDLP, Alliance, and SF which seem to favour higher tax.

  • Queen’s YU

    Well done to Michael Shilliday on being elected as president of NUS-USI this afternoon.

  • fair_deal


    ‘Bread and butter’

    Hence “Beyond the everyday and strategic politics,”.

    As regards the DUP and governance it is all part of it “A narrative is the story people develop based upon your actions and statements”. This includes the actions of ministers.

    Say your narrative is “Modernising Ulster” but you block a series of reforms the narrative breaks down. It’s all related.

  • George

    I will leave the nitty gritty of the narrative to the unionists but would query whether the DUP could be any more successful in its ability to attract unionist votes.

    The 33.7% achieved in the 2005 Westminster was the highest by a unionist party in a general election since the UUP in 1992 (34.7%).

    No church is so broad that it can attract the entire spectrum.

    The highest Westminster vote the UUP got in the last 30 years was 37.8% in 1987 with it generally fluctuating in the low to mid-30s.

    If previous unionist voting patterns are anything to go by, we have pretty much arrived at the high water mark of the DUP.

    It will be outside events as much as anything else that will dictate whether the DUP remains this high in the polls or suffers slippage (to the right and left at different stages) like the UUP before it.

  • “It is essentially a ‘self-interest’ narrative – the DUP don’t care about you and your concerns; they just want to enjoy power and its trappings.”

    There’s some truth in that, FD, but Paisley’s admission that the DUP was ‘forced’ into a deal is probably the key.

    Just look at the behaviour of Dodds and Foster shortly after arriving in office. They ignored the ministerial code and tried to ‘award’ the new Giant’s Causeway Visitor Centre to Seymour ‘out of that DUP mould’ Sweeney and Seaport NI limited.

    More recently Sweeney has apparently breached planning controls and hinted that he could have closed part of the Causeway Coastal Path that forms part of the Ulster Way.

    What was Foster’s reaction? She is ‘minded‘ to take no further action on Sweeney’s razor-wire entanglement in an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.

    I also understand that some of the boarded up properties in Bushmills belong to Sweeney.

    Foster’s department has also yet AFAIK failed to resolve the blockage on the coastal path between Whitepark Bay and Ballintoy Harbour.

    Dodds is the minister responsible for tourism but it looks as if the tourists are just going to have to whistle before the two DUP ministers get their acts together.

  • fair_deal


    I would accept the general principle of your argument and I am a believer that 2 competitive parties is good for Unionism.

    However, the continuing failure of the UUP to define itself is a problem for the broad electoral strength of Unionism. So some task that should fall more to it may end back on the DUP’s list.

    Also there are maybe a few % who just would not vote for Paisley or the party while he was leader.

    Also a truly successful narrative should hopefully impact on Unionist turnout – new voters rather than switching.

  • fair_deal


    “it looks as if the tourists are just going to have to whistle before the two DUP ministers get their acts together.”

    Maybe they are taking their inspration from the National Trust and Moyle Council.

  • “Two questions:

    1. Is there an audience within organised unionism for Fair Deal’s analysis?

    2. If not, is anyone else within organised unionism – in a separate exercise – grappling with the issues raised in Fair Deal’s analysis?”

    That made me spit out a quantity of coffee.

  • FD, it appears to me that they were just taking their orders from the DUP leadership. Will things be any better/different under Robinson?

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  • The DUP must get real.They can’t go on ignoring their not only their closest neighbour- The Republic but the nationalist community who live in Northern Ireland.
    Until they start addressing nationalists as equals then we can take them seriously.