The problem with the DUP’s religous negativism…

Without doubt Peter Robinson’s speech on Thursday was as finely turned as any from a local politician in years. It marked out a precise vision and inclusive vision for all the people in Northern Ireland. Yesterday, as Chris has pointed out, his wife Iris seemed determined to take the shine off the First Minister’s newly ‘liberal’ ball.Now it would be a great tragedy if all our politicians were to bury their individual conscience for the sake of the so-called ‘greater good’. But here’s the rub. How does a fundamentalist politician deal with being a legislator and being a believer at the same time? And there is a wider problem for the DUP in particular, which, never having had such profound government responsibility it has not had to confront before. As Paul articulates here:

As the conflicts in Northern Ireland recede, it can be reasonably hoped that the influence of radical protestantism will decline. The way that a direct internal party democracy brought the Ulster Unionist Party to the brink of destruction a few years ago, the DUP may have to weather storms in which it’s own emerging aristocratic minority – those with a responsibility to serve the general will and thereby ensure their party’s electability – will come into conflict with the larger body of opinion within their party – the negativists – who know only what they are against.

I would suggest (as an extension of the previous posts) that the simplistic and disastrous attitudes to internal democracy within the Unionist parties can be explained by the dominance that evangelical protestantism has over Unionism. By thrusting radical Unionism into government, HMG may be exposing the DUP to the consequences of their own puritanism.

This political problem should not be underestimated. The fundamentalist Christians in the DUP hold strongly to the religion. And they share a sense of grievance with the current Pope that an increasingly secular world is generally going the wrong way. But that is now coming into sharp contrast with its new ambition to provide leadership for all the people of Northern Ireland. That does not just include the communion of believers (broadly Catholic and Protestant).

Mrs Robinson has heart felt and deeply held views. No one who heard the Nolan Show yesterday could doubt that for a moment. But as commenter Printemps said in Chris’s earlier thread: “The worry I have is not that Iris has her own opinions, but that she doesn’t recognise the privilege of her position, nor the damage she can do.”

If this continues, the substantial damage will be wrought on the party rather than on the increasingly confident community it appears content to be at low level war with.

Mick is founding editor of Slugger. He has written papers on the impacts of the Internet on politics and the wider media and is a regular guest and speaking events across Ireland, the UK and Europe. Twitter: @MickFealty