DUP shifting towards the centre – that U-turn – and what Peter Robinson didn’t say in his speech

Some final thoughts on the DUP conference.

Sure there was all of the buzz and razamataz of flag waving, jeering and clapping as well as the conservative morality. It was the DUP’s best-attended conference. The overflow car park overflowed – a local church that was running a craft fair and wasn’t impressed when their car park filled up with non-shoppers! There were cars parked in the hotel’s tennis courts!

The men were well dressed and mostly wore ties. The younger ones looked more rural rather city slickers. They sat silently during the opening prayer. The bar allegedly only served journalists at lunchtime, other than a few sparkling waters for thirsty delegates.

But the strains of the old DUP saying “no” and “never” have faded away. After a shaky few months in early 2010 when the party wolves seemed to be gnawing at his leg to get him to stand aside (or at least telling the press that they were), he was welcomed on stage like a charismatic preacher at a revival meeting, about to preach the word and heal everyone’s ailments.

Remember the tortuous journey from being anti-agreement to ending up in government with Sinn Fein. From a position of being nervous and thinking twice nay thrice about doing the deal on policing and justice, Peter Robinson marks his period of leadership as one where he is comfortable standing on stage and telling the party that they have to make compromises, that they have to work with Sinn Fein, and that they have to make NI better for all its people.

Do the party members realise quite how far they’ve moved? The platform has shifted significantly. And for 45 minutes from noon, Peter Robinson today shifted them another step away from their old home (which is now occupied by the TUV).

Side note – the TUV issued a statement just before 2pm to show their displeasure about being labelled as “rats” in Sammy Wilson’s speech.

Whilst I didn’t hear it referred to in any of the platform speeches, the double jobbing issue was never far away. The Newsletter ran the story earlier this week, and it came up twice in interviews on the BBC’s Conference programme. Basically, there’s been a pragmatic U-turn on their policy of only allowing Sammy Wilson (and the party leader, if elected as an MP) to sit in both Westminster and Stormont.

This is what the DUP told me in October:

no dup mp permitted to run for council

in relation to sammy wilson, the party leader has asked him to stay on to see through the important budget process he has commenced, but this does not equate to sammy being permitted to hold two mandates indefinitely

longer term plan is for assembly members not to be councillors but will not be possible to implement overnight- important to ensure sufficient level of experience exists within local government- over time that is the objective- speed of change will be influenced by approach we see other parties adopting

Now – because the SDLP have only withdrawn one MLA (Mark Durkan), Sinn Fein have withdrawn none, and Lord Empey is planning to run for the Assembly while sitting in the House of Lords, the DUP don’t want to be the moral leaders. They see opportunities to prop up their vote – perhaps squeezing vulnerable seats like the Sinn Fein one in Lagan Valley – and ring back some of the withdrawn big-hitters on the May Assembly ballot paper.

Technically, the local constituency associations have been running the selection processes. But the central party executive have held back one position in each constituency so they can parachute in a vote winner. One MP I talked to wasn’t massively enthusiastic about returning to the Assembly, but promised that if they did it would be to serve the term until 2015 and not to quickly resign after a few weeks.

Compared to Margaret Ritchie’s performance in the Ramada at the beginning of November, Peter Robinson delivered a solid “presidential” performance today. Confident intonation and only a few jokes not getting the intended laughs. This was a personal Peter Robinson, a man of the people, only ever referring to party colleagues by their first names. And someone secure to mention DUP legacy demons like work starting on “the new Giants Causeway Visitor Centre”.

While he talked about the DUP winning back East Belfast at the next General Election, note that he’s also talked in the last week about retiring at a sensible age. So I’d say that Peter Robinson (62) won’t be running at the next General Election if parliament runs to its full term as the Condems promise.

But what was missing?

None of the speeches I heard on Saturday (or had copies of) mentioned the Presbyterian Mutual Society. For a story that runs like a daily soap in the pages – and often the front page – of the Newsletter, it was a remarkable omission.

Lots of party reps were thanked. But the mention of MEP “Dianne [sic] Dodds” from an earlier draft of the speech was removed.

There was more talk about soldiers and the military than the PSNI or the police reserve.

No mention of unity candidate Rodney Connor who “in less than six weeks Rodney put together a campaign and came within four votes of unseating a sitting MP” in Fermanagh and South Tyrone.

And absolutely no mention of Martin McGuinness, not even of “deputy First Minister”. It was as if he didn’t exist.

Catch other coverage from the DUP Conference through three posts on Ivor’s Hand of History blog.

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  • GoldenFleece

    The DUP is attempting to become the “big tent” unionist party that the UUP was. Unfortunately for them the modern unionist is too far diverse and wise to be scared by the nationalist boogeyman…especially since a UI (if it ever happens) is far far off.

  • Happy in power with the Provos. Well done Peter and sorry about East Belfast 😉

  • mr vance will you be standing as a dinasaur candidate next year.?i cant wait to see you get thrashed again

  • 6crealist

    Your leader stated that your party were “vote gatherers, not vote splitters.”

    You’re pathetic: Robinson lost the seat because of Long’s hard work and experience – it had absolutely nothing to do with your pathetic little 1856. Jog on you hate-filled git.

  • Kevin Barry

    Definite turnaround in Peter’s fortunes since the elections.

    To be honest, I’m starting to warm to him

  • 6crealist

    Leaving aside your noxious ad hominen (I presume you are unable to argue on the basis of logic) I point you to the fact that those thousands of unionists disgusted at terrorists in government have NO home, no one to vote for, were it not for TUV. Try and think before commenting.

  • Nunoftheabove

    David Vance

    As opposed to the hundreds of thousands who are content with the arrangement and who loathe your party ? Let’s not pretend that that’s the only basis of disagreement which your small rump of voters has with the current annagement. Many of them (and those who purpoert to represent them) are simply dyed in the wool reactionaries and uber militarists who want a pre-1972 Stormont with a return to full one party unionist rule into perpetuity.

  • granni trixie

    Would it be claiming too much to suggest that Naomis win has influenced PR approach and rhetoric – did it not it show that the people of EB were prepared to vote in a moderate and that someone waving a flag and spouting extremist rhetoric was no longer enough to get out the vote. People ahead of politicans – PR merely in catch up mode?

  • lamhdearg

    A person i know has lived in east belfast 20 years in that time he has SCENE(not spoken to) Robbo four times and Long once. Hard work are not two words i link to any of them.PS on robbo of the 4 times he scene him 3 where outside a polling station and the one time he scene long was when she was lord mayor and all she was doing was drinking tea at a school open day just before election day(visit lasted 15min).

  • Nunoftheabove

    David

    No hair
    No seats
    No hope
    No surrender to the terrorist groupies of the DUP – vote TUV

    New slogan suggestion for you. If nothing else it would be slightly easier for some of your party members to actually pronounce properly than a silly slogan which contains the word ‘morally’.

  • tacapall

    David just how do you define terrorism. Does creating your own terrorist army “Ulster resistance” who tried to sell your own governments secrets “Blowpipe missile” to another country in exchange for weapons, robbing banks, importing hundreds of weapons into the country in tandem with the UDA, UVF terrorists that were then used to murder innocent catholics, is that not terrorism. Did the DUP not create Ulster Resistance complete with military uniforms and red berets at the Ulster Hall and wasn’t your own dear leader Mr Alister a leading member of the DUP at the time.

  • Rocketeer

    Mr Vance, can you please answer my question (which you have this far failed to answer on previous occasions): what policies do the TUV have in order to promote a shared society and future in Northern Ireland?

  • Comrade Stalin

    Granni, that might be stretching it a little far in fairness. East Belfast was an anomaly in an otherwise strong DUP vote that endorsed powersharing with republicans on the terms that had been in place up until that point. It showed the DUP that Paisleyism, as was, is dead.

    I think it was a bit of a mistake for Robinson to make that quip about EB yesterday. He’s going to be 66 or 67 by that time – at some point they’ll have to decide whose profile they want to build up in the constituency – and there is a lot that can happen between now and then.

  • Rocketeer

    This is an interesting point. Peter Robinson recently gave an interview for the Press Association in which he stated that he could possibly retire from the political arena by 2015. As such, it would seem unlikely that Robinson is going to personally seek re-election in East Belfast as MP for the constituency. Indeed, in an interesting interview with Ken Reid in November last year Robinson actually stated that he would prefer to focus all of his attention on his role as First Minister and thus Stormont. Also, some party members, and several MLA’s following Robinson’s defeat in May suggested that Robinson would not personally seek to run ever again in East Belfast, and that the party would seek to install a new candidate for the future. It had been rumoured prior to the Iris scandal that Robinson’s youngest son and Castlereagh Borough Councillor, Gareth Robinson would be groomed by the DUP to replace his father in Westminster but this scenario is, perhaps, a very unlikely outcome given the impact of the Iris scandal in the area, but who knows?

  • The fan club descends.

    Rocketeer; We seek equal British rights to democratic government. We seek an Executive with a joined up manifesto and an opposition to hold them to it. We seek a working government that delivers on key issues, not party political projects. We seek to grow the private sector of our economy by shrinking the State here. We seek to provide an enterprise culture facilitated by effective policy. Clear? Oh, and we oppose mass murderers in government.

    As for the ad homimen trash from some of the others, well, it’s what one expects on Slugger when a robust unionist deigns to comment.

  • tacapall

    “Robust Unionist” More like hypocrite. Was your party leader not a leading member of the DUP when they created Ulster Resistance ? Were Ulster Resistance involved in terrorism.

  • Comrade Stalin

    I think the idea of putting a Robbo junior in East Belfast is out the window now, it looks too much like an attempt to hand over the family business. Then again, that wasn’t an issue in N Antrim ..

  • Say IRA murdering scum and sad Sluggeretes drone on about Ulster Ressistance, that farce from the ’70’s. I suppose it’s reflected guilt we’re dealing with – after all, if you support the blood stained record of Sinn Fein/IRA you desperately need to prove everyone is just as depraved.

  • 6crealist

    Your little “wink” indicates that you believe that the measly 1856 votes (clear evidence of a robust unionist: Forza Vancey!!) which you managed to attract ultimately lost the seat for Robinson: this clearly is patently untrue.

    You are utterly and compulsively obsessed with Robinson.

    Anyways, what’s it to be after your ill-fated fliration with UKUP and TUV: BNP, perhaps? A natural, fitting home I’d imagine 😉

  • tacapall

    Why dont you just answer the question David, Was your party leader a leading member of the DUP when they created Ulster Resistance and that group was involved in terrorist acts.

  • 6crealist

    Say loyalist murdering scum and sad A Tangled Webbers drone on about armed republicanism, that farce from the ’70′s. I suppose it’s reflected guilt we’re dealing with – after all, if you support the blood stained record of Ulster Resistance you desperately need to prove everyone is just as depraved.

  • Rocketeer

    Sorry David, you are not clear on the issue of a shared society. I am not asking you about the formation of government or the restructuring of the economy. I am asking you whether or not the TUV has any concrete policies through which to develop an equal and shared society in Northern Ireland. Please, may you answer my question and provide me with concrete policies which the TUV (if it ever obtained power, which I doubt) will pursue along with the nationalist parties in order to develop an effective means through which to advance our shared history, society and future together in Northern Ireland.

  • tacapall

    Selective Memory again from Mr Vance, Ulster Resistance – that farce from the 70s, try 1986 Mr Vance by the way wasn’t your party leader one of the main organisers of the mass resistance that took to the streets in protest against the AIA, where innocent workers where assulted and intimatated not to go to work by loyalist terrorists manning barricades from hijacked vehicles, there was also widespread violence from these Unionist terrorists, is that not terrorism either in your wee world.

  • Rocketeer

    David, I am apolitical and I do not support any form of unjustified political violence but you simply cannot describe the Ulster Resistance as a mere ‘farce’; it was an organisation complicit in the murder of innocent people during the Troubles: surely your dismissive response to Ulster Resistance is indicative of a moral hypocrisy?

  • An Phoblacht Abu

    what ever happened to the guns of Ulster Resistance?? are they still being held by the friends and fellow dissident loyalists of Mr Allister and the TUV?

  • tacapall

    Yes just how many missile launchers did they steal from shorts and what exactly were they going to do with them ? A possible attempt at mass murder in the skies ! But of course from Mr Vances point of view that was Micky mouse, Donald Duck etc hardly terrorists eh.

  • dennis

    david
    on your website you have called for more cuts than the tories – is that TUV policy?

  • An Phoblacht Abu

    only catholics can be terrorists would be the main theme of Mr Vance and his TUV dissident group.
    I predict them not to win one seat in the assembly

  • Rocketeer

    TUV is not a Statist party. We do not believe it is the role of politicians to pursue leftist constructs such as shared society. We place the individual ABOVE the State. The role of government is to create an environment in which people can pursue what they want, peacefully, lawfully and in accordance with their ambitions. The sort of “shared future” drivel advanced by Aliiance and echo chambers elsewhere has no meaning so I see no reason to address it. We want an EQUAL Northern Ireland however. That’s something some parties seem scared off for some odd reason.

  • Again, the sheer POINTLESSNESS of Slugger manifest. Stick to cheerleading for the IRA -it’s all you do best.

  • tacapall

    Yes David just stick your head in the sand and hope no-one see’s the hypocrisy by people like you and your party, You’re the one that brought up terrorists in government I just wondered who you were talking about as anyone – well excluding you, who remembers the past knows the connections to loyalist terrorists those so called law abiding unionist politicians have especially the DUP and your own party leader Mr Alister.

  • tacapall

    Here you go David just in case you forgot.

    In November 1988 part of the Ulster Resistance share of the weapons was uncovered in police searches at a number of locations in County Armagh around Markethill, Hamiltonsbawn and in Armagh itself. Among the items recovered was a RPG7 rocket launcher and 5 warheads, 3 assault rifles, a Browning pistol, 10 grenades, 12,000 rounds of ammunition and combat equipment.[8] Also discovered in the arms caches were parts of a Javelin surface-to-air missile and a number of Ulster Resistance red berets.[9]

    In September 1989 a 33 year old man from Poyntzpass and a 35 year old man from Tandragee were jailed to 9 years and 6 years respectively for storing and moving weapons and explosives on behalf of UR.[10] In January 1990 a 32 year old former member of the UDR from Richill was jailed for 12 years for possessing UR arms and explosives.

    In a front page article on 10 June 2007, the Sunday Life reported that Ulster Resistance claimed to once again be active and armed. A statement released by the group claimed that it had “the capability and resources to strike with deadly force”. A photo accompanying the article showed two masked men posing with automatic rifles beside a banner which read “Ulster Resistance C Division.[13]

  • JAH

    Is TUV the only example of rats joining a sinking ship?

  • Ulick

    As SF shifts its focus to issues of national importance in the south and the Stoops pensioned off to London, the DUP are beginning to look a tad parochial flag waving on their ownios.

  • An Phoblacht Abu

    no one here is talking about the IRA, they have gone away you know?

    We want to know about TUV and their attitude to all terrorists and of course especially Ulster Resistance

  • Comrade Stalin

    David’s a regular Nurse Typhoid. Any party that he joins is quickly rendered incapable of electoral progress. Still, at least it’s a useful way to remind David – and the world – that his crackpot spittle-flecked rants dressed up as political credo aren’t popular with the electorate.

  • ThomasMourne

    Double jobbing, extravagant expenses claims, dodgy property deals, etc are all forgotten as the party faithful lap up the patronising nonsense from DUP leaders.

    A reflection of the corruption in Fianna Fail from Charlie’s days to the present day.

    And yet people vote for these clowns in their thousands!

  • mopphead

    Surely TUV’s voluntary coalition model leaves the door wide open for SF in government. In which case, all the never, never rhetoric is just yet more Paisleyesque guff

  • An Phoblacht Abu

    the TUV of course what they mean by voluntary coalition means Unionist only rule with the pesky irish as the opposition. Im surprised they havent asked for some old fashioned gerrymandering as well, after all nothing is more tradition unionist than rigging elections

  • Rocketeer

    David, your response to my question is not only disturbing but indicative of regressive and dangerous politics: how can the TUV not be concerned with a ‘shared future’, and remain so dismissive of advancing a ‘shared society’ in a country deeply scarred by decades of social injustice and devastating conflict? You cannot begin to speak of an ‘equal’ Northern Ireland without engendering a ‘shared’ and mutually respectful society: can you explain to me what an ‘equal Northern Ireland’ means, and how this differs from a ‘shared society’.

  • JAH

    I don’t think the Unionists have a monopoly on vote early vote often in Irish elections of any kind. It was only when SF broke the golden rule and had some Protestant dead voting SF rather than Unionist that it started to die out in the North. Coincidently so did large electoral turnouts…

  • JAH

    What’s new? Stormont is a local Govt. Strikes me as exactly the position to take rather than pointless alliances with UK mainland parties. Or ROI ones.And as it gradually moves to the centre (and dare one suggest that the Stormont administration is going to probably go as soft left as their Scottish and Welsh and soon ROI brethren) then it actually fulfils its mandate of being responsive to local affairs.

    Like the DUP or not, they are reading the electorate. I wonder if GA’s desertion might reveal the opposite in SF?

  • Nunoftheabove

    It wasn’t the 70s for a start – bit of basic familiarity with the history would help you make a berk of yourself slightly less often.

    I don’t think it’s reflected guilt that a great many people hate your party, I think it’s common sense and indicates the extent to which your poisonous hate-mongering is at variance with the electorate. They rightly dismiss you.Your Partridge-esqe, under-sexed, penile deficient, bald-man syndromic, sectarian, ghoulish hard right demagogy is all too transparent.

    Some of us don’t need to prove that you’re as depraved as anyone else – you do it for us and with more ease than you appear capable of possibly knowing.

  • Nunoftheabove

    Ha ha ha, everyone who hates the TUV is a provo – if that’s the level of appreciation you have for the electorate it’s no wonder they repeatedly slam the door in your face, kid.

    The TUV’s far right politics (and indeed most of their bald, bitter, plainly opportunistic BNP-aspirant representatives) are regarded by most people as absolutely abhorrent, why don’t you listen when they articulate this in the ballot box David ?

  • madraj55

    Well said NOTA The only reason the Terminally Useless & Vile Party is still in existence after Grim Allister’s humiliation by Ian Og is they know that if the y wrapped up their tents officially, the derision they would get, would eclipse that which they’re already getting. Sunny Jim knows the game is up, but hasn’t the guts to telll his racist sidekick Vance.

  • madraj55

    Exactly Ulick. Note the contrast on Monday last, while in the Dail the soveriegn Parliament was debating serious matters, the toy parliament at stormont were debating the 70th anniversary of Cragoavons death. the bigot who got to be NI’s first PM. Stormont’s a joke.

  • Not quite, TUV is a democratic Party and IF Sinn Fein can get another Unionist Party to share power with it, we will oppose this in the normal democratic manner. What is so wrong with that? We will never share power with the Provos, of course, but if Robinson wants to, let him say so and do it.

  • LOL – pathetic republicans trolling about UR when “I can’t believe it’s not the IRA” seek to maim and kill tanked up by Provo expertise. Slugger – it’s a pro-terrorist in government love-fest where reason is gone and all that prevails in venom towards those who advocate decency and democratic.

  • Folks – let’s try to stick to the topic! It’s not a knock David Vance / discuss Ulster Resistance / debate ATW’s attitude to Muslims thread. It was about the DUP widening their voter appeal by shifting towards the centre and looking at what they didn’t say at conference.

    There was no sign of the DUP’s ex-leader Lord Bannside, nor the speaker Willie Hay, at conference.

  • Nunoftheabove

    You’d waste everyone’s time by trying to explain it, I suspect. Not least as you’d be unable to do so with either clarity, coherence or certainly any courtesy.

    Nobody much is that bothered with your ideas as they know the rancid far right place which they – and you and your fellow travellers – are coming from, so you’d be best to either adopt some ideas which the electorate finds palatable or even listenable, and return to position them with us when you’ve learned some manners.

  • mopphead

    You say you “oppose” SF in govt, yet you propose a form of coalition that would easily include SF. Hmmmm

  • Jj

    Do you think their absence was deliberate, Alan? Is this the first conference Ian P Snr didn’t attend?

  • Nunoftheabove

    David

    Is that final sentence actually finished or are you just unaware of how poor your grammar actually is ?

    And do please feel free to amuse us further with your serially failed attempts to acquire some minor shareholding in the commodity of decency.

  • Nunoftheabove

    David

    LOL, That’s an eventuality we won’t mercifully get to grapple with. The electorate don’t want your poisonous reactionary garbage, that much we do know my old son.

    I must say though that I’m still half-impressed that you have the nerve to show your face in public after that shellacking Nolan gave you on the radio pre-election David. Not so gifted at the oul’ sums in school then mate, huh ?

  • Rocketeer

    Hi David, I neither a republican nor a nationalist: I consider myself to be apolitical, and I do, very much have a problem with the Ulster Resistance and your apparent moral hypocrisy. Loyalist terrorism is exactly the same as republican terrorism: inexcusable.

    And, just incase you did not see my reply to your message earlier and since you have failed to answer, I shall post it again for you to consider…

    David, your response to my question is not only disturbing but indicative of regressive and dangerous politics: how can the TUV not be concerned with a ‘shared future’, and remain so dismissive of advancing a ‘shared society’ in a country deeply scarred by decades of social injustice and devastating conflict? You cannot begin to speak of an ‘equal’ Northern Ireland without engendering a ‘shared’ and mutually respectful society: can you explain to me what an ‘equal Northern Ireland’ means, and how this differs from a ‘shared society’.

  • Stephen Blacker

    I would imagine the reason Lord Bannside and his wife were not at the conference was because of their hectic activities with the House of Lords etc. He is not young anymore and that cold would drain anyone!

    I am not surprised with Willy Hay not showing, no doubt he was busy doing Speaker stuff but the antics of the DUP horde in the Chamber can only be discribed as childish. The abuse of process must also be embarrassing tto the Speaker when the DUP uses “Petition of Concern” in an unprincipled way to achieve selfish party gain at the expense of the integrity of Stormont itself.

    As regards Peter Robinson, he has proved himself a brilliant politician. He has survived a traumatic year both personal & political, he has learned a lesson that he cannot play two masters, the old way and the new way. He had to stop looking over his shoulder at the TUV and stick with the task in hand – making a shared future work.

  • Progressive Unionist

    With the UUP lost at sea, it’s good to see Peter Robinson’s DUP with it’s vision of a strong, progressive self-confident Unionism building a shared Northern Ireland – and an inclusive anti-sectarian education system (it’s nuts nuts nuts nuts nuts nuts nuts nuts nuts nuts nuts nuts nuts nuts nuts nuts nuts nuts nuts nuts nuts nuts nuts nuts nuts nuts nuts nuts nuts nuts nuts nuts nuts nuts nuts nuts nuts nuts nuts nuts nuts nuts nuts nuts to educate NI’s next generation separately from each other.)

    A few years ago I wouldn’t have thought I’d say this – but the DUP are showing true leadership for Unionism in helping build a shared society, whereas Tom Elliott is just nowhere and scrabbling around with Jim Allister for the scraps of hardlineness.

    As someone who’s supported the UUP for many a year, it’s sad to say, but it may be the DUP who’s carrying the progressive non-sectarian banner forward from now…

  • JH

    David, would voluntary coalition not possibly result in a completely nationalist government? In a hung parliament, which it would be, the party with the largest share of the vote gets the first chance to form a government. In the last two elections that has been Sinn Féin.

    SF are most likely to form a rainbow coalition with SDLP and Alliance since they share most in common with them. That would put the DUP in opposition and the TUV might not even get a look in.

    Are you not concerned about the risk of most ministries being held by people who are actively against the existence of the state itself and the newly empowered first minister post going to an ex-IRA commander?

    Or would you want some kind of mechanism by which the largest Unionist party is first to form the government?

  • Rocketeer

    You are right Alan, sorry for diverting the topic of the thread.

    I have to say that I was very impressed by Peter Robinson’s speech, which I thought demonstrated a strong, confident, positive and forward looking message, which should be welcomed.

    It would appear that Robinson, the ‘eternal pragmatist’ within the Democratic Unionist Party, is indeed endeavouring and, thus far successfully, moving the DUP beyond its traditional areas of concern towards the ‘middle-ground’ of Unionist and local politics.

    What I found particularly striking about the DUP conference was not only the intense level of excitement exhibited by the ‘grassroots’ and party representatives but rather the evident and genuine depth of care displayed by many of the delegates towards Robinson, which I had not quite expected.

    During the Iris Robinson scandal in January, Suzanne Breen of the Sunday Tribune predicted that Peter Robinson would not survive long within the DUP because she believed that whilst he always had the mind of the DUP, he never had its heart: I think that the warmth extended towards Robinson during the conference demonstrates a real shift of opinion and power within the party insomuch that Robinson is, as Martina Purdy has suggested, no longer a feared leader but rather a loved leader.

    Perhaps this is a premature assessment, but there is no doubt that Robinson is a changed man: a much more confident, calmer and likeable personality of whom many have now warmed to both within and beyond the DUP. Certainly, I have been extremely impressed by his performance in recent months both as DUP leader and as the First Minister alongside Martin McGuinness of whom he has evidently worked hard with to develop a positive and constructive relationship for the betterment of everyone in Northern Ireland.

    I was greatly encouraged by Peter Robinson’s interview on the Politics Show this morning in which he declared that the DUP is no longer a party of protest; that it is now rapidly moving towards the centre ground of politics in Northern Ireland and evolving beyond Unionism. It is, as he readily admitted, now concerned with matters beyond the mere constitutional issue of Northern Ireland, of which he considers finalised.

    The fact that Robinson is now investing significant political capital in middle ground and positive policies should surely encourage and invite new disaffected voters to place there trust in an increasingly moderating party. What I like about this, as it were ‘new’ DUP is the fact that many of my friends, who are nationalists, are now viewing Robinson in a much more favourable light because they believe that he is sincere in power-sharing with the nationalist community and respectful of nationalist concerns.

    So yes, I believe that Robinson – perhaps free from the chains of Paisley – is moving the DUP towards a better and more positive position within Northern Irish politics: a move which will surely encourage a diverse range of voters. I have never had a particularly positive view of the DUP prior to 2006 but I have to admit that Robinson’s recent behaviour is causing me to rapidly reassess my view of his party and in particular of his own political leadership.

    It was once said that Robinson was a coward because he lacked the conviction to posit a more positive Unionist message, and perhaps because of the near death of his own political career he is finally taking the courageous steps to diversify and develop the party beyond its traditional support bases. I think he deserves enormous credit.

    I too was wondering why the Paisley’s were not present for Peter Robinson’s speech: I thought that Paisley SNR was particularly conspicuous by his absence. It has been suggested that there is still some bad vibes between the Paisley’s and Robinson, and that the latter was disappointed in Paisley SNR’s lack of support during the Iris scandal, and the subsequent less than veiled attacks upon his leadership in recent months via the Newsletter. Whether this is true or not, I do not know but irrespective of the Paisley’s, it would appear that Robinson is rapidly becoming his own man and at last escaping Paisley’s shadow.

    Lastly, thanks Alan for providing such a in-depth, considered and intelligent assessment of the DUP conference; were you also suprised by the warmth extended to Peter Robinson?

  • Mark

    Peter Robinson would have made a great republican !

  • Granni Trixie

    When suggesting that PR’s conversion to moderation was influenced by how people in EB voted in last election (for Naomi), I did so tentatively. From subsequent comments here I am stronger in this view even if DUP supporters do not wish to acknowledge that PR is only keeping up with the electorate.

  • I enjoy the terminological inexactitudes being pointed out by Sluggerspawn. I mean, this really is the place to visit if one wishes to engage in refined debate. Apart from the abuse heaped upon unionists who do NOT see any reason to appease the IRA, I see little other reason to visit this site thee days. A cold house for unionists, unless of course they are “progressive” and “embrace shared future idiocy.

  • ThomasMourne

    Some time ago, on a different topic, I asked what a ‘progressive’ Unionist might be.
    Still haven’t found out.

  • Rocketeer

    Hey David, just incase you did not see my reply to your message earlier and since you have failed to answer, I shall post it again for you to consider…

    David, your response to my question is not only disturbing but indicative of regressive and dangerous politics: how can the TUV not be concerned with a ‘shared future’, and remain so dismissive of advancing a ‘shared society’ in a country deeply scarred by decades of social injustice and devastating conflict? You cannot begin to speak of an ‘equal’ Northern Ireland without engendering a ‘shared’ and mutually respectful society: can you explain to me what an ‘equal Northern Ireland’ means, and how this differs from a ‘shared society’?

  • slug

    I suppose, Thomas, a unionist who has progressive values. That usually means centre left.

  • Ghost Bear

    lol seems someone threw the toys out of the pram; sluggerites you’re famous in right-world now! 😉
    I’d admit there are many smartass commentators here, but I think the description of slugger as a ‘hate-site’ is somewhat unfair…

    http://www.atangledweb.org/2010/11/29/greener-than-the-hulk-but-lacking-the-wit/