Sammy bending under pressure

Sammy Wilson, Environment minister and sage, has attracted UK national media attention for his views on the environment, as closely monitored here by Pete. A Times profile recounts the cavorting, the bike fine, the guy with the jester’s licence etc., all of which made Sammy quite endearing. But as noted, Sammy and his colleagues in power are a different matter. The Times piece is significant as it turns a UK national spotlight on the DUP fundamentalist culture that was overshadowed by the twists and turns of the peace process. Now the national media, casting out the odd hook into the changing NI story, has landed the likes of Sammy, Iris, young Ian and the bold Mervyn.

The new DUP runs the risk of turning the past tragedy of NI into present farce and this is doing them no good at Westminster. At home, the verdict is less sure. If they pursue a course emboldened by fundamentalist Republicans in the US and the tiny band of creationists in GB, will hard-won support from the middle of the road unionists start to leech away? Ironically it was big Ian himself with his unique authority who yanked his wild men to heel saying in terms: “ I do the big jokes and stunts around here.”

There are some signs of a gingerly climbdown under pressure. Sammy himself in his website is recanting as bit. Nigel Dodds defends the ball as well as the man.

The key issue is that the programme for government has been implemented with the targets that are in there and we will continue to do that.”

But the Times’ charge remains to be answered

“Power has gone to their heads, and some senior DUP members, including Wilson seem to be revelling in their new-found notoriety”.

They have to learn that for all their striving down the years, power in Northern Ireland is quite a small thing and that “our wee province” ( or more quaintly, “this country” ) is neither self-sufficient, nor a DUP fiefdom. Even in their own terms, that message is what is ‘meant by “unionism.”

Former BBC journalist and manager in Belfast, Manchester and London, Editor Spolight; Political Editor BBC NI; Current Affairs Commissioning editor BBC Radio 4; Editor Political and Parliamentary Programmes, BBC Westminster; former London Editor Belfast Telegraph. Hon Senior Research Fellow, The Constitution Unit, Univ Coll. London