“We don’t know the answer to your question..”

Managing director of Weber Shandwick in Northern Ireland, former SDLP advisor, and blogger, Conall McDevitt was also on the Politics Show today arguing that the local media coverage of the DUP and Sinn Féin has changed as the Executive deadlock continues through the current credit crunch.. Although, my own take is that the more critical coverage of MLAs has been general rather than party-specific.. Adds Conall clarifies his point in the comments zone below.

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  • Thanks for the mention Pete.

    All the major newspapers have had editorials which single out the two big parties for criticism and there has been extensive mention of the DUP and SF as the problem in the blogosphere and the column pages. This is in stark contrast to six months ago when the DUP and SF were generally getting favourable press.


  • Pete Baker

    Thanks for the clarification, Conall.

    The slot was too short for a proper elaboration.

  • ??

    All the major newspapers have had editorials which single out the two big parties for criticism and there has been extensive mention of the DUP and SF as the problem……….

    Isn`t it just Sinn Fein who is refusing to attend the executive, pretty clear where the blames lies.

  • Pete as you rightly say the 90 second slot did not allow for much detail.

    To address ??. Many will agree with your point but there has been an inclination at an editorial level to point the finger at both parties. As the old saying goes, ‘it takes two to tango’.

    Off to watch strictly on iplayer 😉

  • IJP


    Not for the first time, I agree entirely.

    However, there’s no hint from the papers that anyone else would do any better.

    There is an element of “a plague on all your houses”, which a further recognition that the DUP and Sinn Féin have the largest houses.

    Houses are probably a fair analogy, too…!


    It is mainly SF’s fault, yes.

    However, there is also no hint that the DUP is willing to shift to do a “deal” on any issue (because it has the whip hand). Until the DUP shows that willingness, there’ll be no progress (because, instinctively, the DUP doesn’t like progress). That’s how it’s also the DUP’s fault.

  • Billy


    “Pretty clear where the blame lies”

    To you perhaps. However, with the exception of the pro DUP Newsletter – the media are either blaming both parties or the DUP and it’s very clear that Gordon Brown thinks that the DUP have a lot to answer for.

    For obvious reasons, there is very little focus on NI at the moment. However, be in no doubt, the overwhelming perception outside Unionist circles and/or outside the North is NOT that the DUP are right and SF are wrong.

    Dawn Purvis was right, the overwhelming perception is that the DUP are simply trying to get one over on SF – in fact, that’s all they’ve been trying to do since day 1 of this pointless assembly.

    The 3 govts want P&J;restored. The DUP can certainly prevent that happening but, in the absence of any deal, that will almost certainly lead to a collapse of the assembly.

    Robinson’s pathetic attempt at good PR (the open agenda nonsense) fooled no-one, least of all Nationalists.

    The reality is that the DUP need to make some sort of deal on P&J;(6 months perhaps and no SF OR DUP Minister for 2 years?) or they will lose their assembly.

    Make no mistake, if Direct Rule has to be restored, it will be much more of a loss to the DUP than SF. Unionists will go back with an even worse international image and even less support outside NI – and that’s starting from a pretty low point.

    As has already been pointed out, the media are (at best from a Unionist perspective) blaming both parties. Like it or not, the media create public perception and perception is reality.

    For all the efforts of people like Pete and yourself to push the myth that the Unionists have behaved wonderfully well and those damn Nationalists are causing all the problems, it’s just not working I’m afraid.

    You see, it’s not true and no-one outside NI Unionism (and, more importantly) no-one who really matters is falling for it.

  • Comrade Stalin

    To you perhaps. However, with the exception of the pro DUP Newsletter – the media are either blaming both parties or the DUP and it’s very clear that Gordon Brown thinks that the DUP have a lot to answer for.

    It’s not clear to me at all. Gordon Brown went to specific lengths to avoid mentioning the DUP, despite the way that certain contributors have tried to spin it.

    The fact remains that the letter of the agreement at St Andrew’s is clear. By the letter, the DUP haven’t violated anything.

    Anyway, given the fact that you think that devolution is bad and that joint authority is the way to go, you obviously don’t believe in policing and justice powers being devolved. Quite way you’re persisting to argue for it beats me.

  • Billy


    What beats me is your frankly pathetic attempt to spin what Gordon Brown said.

    It was widely interpreted (by everyone except you apparently) as pressurising the DUP. Quite frankly, that is how the DUP interpreted it and they have openly said as much.

    They were very angry and have openly attacked Gordon Brown calling him “partial” and “ham-fisted” amongst other things. Peter Robinson openly admitted that his failure to attend the Labour Party conference was to show his displeasure at what Gordon Brown said.

    It isn’t the way that “certain contributors tried to spin it” – it’s the way that the media, the public AND THE DUP perceived it. If I want to know what the DUP think about something, I’ll listen to them not you.

    Whether or not the DUP are violating the “letter” of the St Andrew’s agreement has long since become a symptom of the problem not the problem itself.

    Frankly, I don’t care if either P&J;is devolved or we go back to Direct Rule. The fact is that either of these will be a blow to the DUP much more than SF.

    I have no idea what your agenda is. However, you seem to believe that the current impasse is widely seen as SF’s fault – (outside NI Unionist circles, it certainly is not) and that, if we go back to Direct Rule – it will be seen as SF’s fault (again wrong).

    As has already been said, apart from the Pro DUP News Letter, the media are either blaming the current impasse on both parties or the DUP.

    Due to the current economic woes, there is obviously little interest in this outside NI.

    However, the 3 govts want P&J;devolved. There is a lot more support outside NI for the Nationalist point of view than for that of NI Unionists.

    Whatever way you try and dress things up, it is Unionists (the DUP in particular) who are standing alone on this issue.

    It must be clear to you by now that SF are not going to back down on this.

    Either the DUP reach some sort of compromise with them on P&J;or the assembly will collapse.

    Despite your protestations, this will ensure that local Unionists will not be entrusted with power for a long time and NI will be run from London with considerable and increasing influence from Dublin.

    For many Nationalists, P&J;is simply the final straw. The DUP to date have simply rejoiced in kicking back anything that may benefit the Nationalist community.

    If they start playing the game and genuinely participating in partnership govt, that’s fine by me.

    However, if they’re not prepared to do so (and to date they have not), then why should Nationalists continue to waste their time playing the DUP game at Stormont?

    You seem to delude yourself that Unionism and the DUP are being seen as the good guys here and Nationalists + SF as the bad guys.

    Good for you but it clearly is not the perception of the wider world (outside NI Unionism) nor is it the perception of those with the real power and influence.

    I haven’t seen any signs of panic from Nationalists or Nationalist politicians. Hardly the case for Unionists and the DUP. That’s because they are not stupid – they know the political reality of the situation and that is that they are very much on their own.

  • Hogan


    It depends on your interpretation of how many are fooled by st andrews?

    Eventually SF are going to have to waken up to two facts.

    IRA weapons are off the table
    IRA violence is off the table

    Now i know that given that these were the two aces they held up their sleeve for a decade of peace processing, knowing they had to give them up to get into bed with the reactionary unionists that they knew they were the natural mirror of may be difficult but that was the deal they negotiated up to st andrews!

    You cannot assume nationalists will reward them for negotiating a deal that built in vetos for unionism.

    The SDLP did the deal in 1998 why? because they knew that they had created a momentum of Irish Govt, US Govt, Constitutional nationalism and republicanism to guarantee delivery on anything they negotiated.

    It seems as though SF seem a little more isolated at this point, with no more sweeties in the jar to give away, everyone else seemsmore concerned with winning elections and saving banks and half their electorate’s pension funds.

    Funny that eh?

  • Hogan

    You of course completely ignore international political context in your response and tell us all how decommissioning had nothing to do with the fact that it was announced less than 14 days after September 11th?

    The problem is that even you don’t think a slugger audience is more gullable than an ard fheis.

  • Turgon

    The second part of Conal McDevitt’s comment was in my view the most interesting. Yes the media may be saying a plaque on all your houses and maybe some in international opinion may blame the DUP. However, the only international opinion interested in the current climate are the somewhat simplistic flag waving wing of Irish America and the few remaining idiots who seem to think that the IRA was embarked on some sort of revolutionary socialist struggle. Everyone else has more pressing issues.

    The real question is what the voters are thinking. I doubt SF will lose many votes over what is happening.

    I am even more doubtful that the DUP will lose votes to the UUP over the current impasse. People would fear that the UUP might sell out: I suspect the only way the DUP may lose significant support is to the TUV. People in Northern Ireland when asked tend to say “isn’t it dreadful why can they not agree” and then vote as hard line as possible to give their side the strongest possible negotiating position.

    Think about it: What did the DUP lose from refusing to participate in the last assembly? Absolutely nothing indeed they destroyed the UUP. Only a little before that they had been getting hopeless results in opinion polls.

    I think Conal McDevitt was simply too polite to say that to the interviewer. I suspect he is well aware of it.

  • Rory

    Thank you, Turgon, for telling us what Conall McDevitt was really thinking. He must be delighted to find a champion like you who is able to express his thoughts so much more clearly than he can himself.

  • barnshee

    “I suspect the only way the DUP may lose significant support is to the TUV”

    Correctthe DUPERS are now looking over their shoulder at the TUV untilthey are sure that the TUV are beaten docket they will not move. The UUP ? who? doomed