Under a Red Sky: Big Drum Politics from the East

East Belfast DUP MLA Robin Newton has released a press statement in regard to the developing Red Sky – Nelson McCausland story and in the process has given credence to those identifying a sectarian agenda in the DUP’s approach to this story to date.

Here’s Newton’s statement as carried by the DUP website (my italics):

“It speaks volumes about Jim Allister and his politics that when the DUP in East Belfast is fighting to protect 400 jobs all he can do is engage in mudslinging against fellow unionists. It does not surprise me that on this crucial issue Jim Allister chooses to side with Sinn Fein and the SDLP rather than support fellow unionists.  Such an approach by Jim Allister fully explains why his party was rejected by the electorate in East Belfast in the Assembly election. 

As an East Belfast MLA, I will continue to make representations for on behalf of companies in my constituency.  I’m in the business of protecting jobs and ensuring East Belfast is not disadvantaged as a result of bias within the Housing Executive.

Jim Allister has allowed the focus to be shifted from lack of good governance in the Housing Executive and is providing cover to those elements who want to attack the Minister rather than answer difficult questions.”

Newton’s agenda was clear: portray the dispute as an us versus themmuns row, neatly tying in with similar news emerging from East Belfast recently. By stating that he’s in the business of protecting jobs and ensuring East Belfast is not disadvantaged as a result of bias within the Housing Executive,  he is clearly insinuating that there is an anti-protestant/ unionist bias within the Housing Executive, something the DUP repeated in a statement provided to BBC Newsline tonight, which suggested there was “more than a whiff of sectarian motivation” to the termination of Red Sky’s contract.  

Thus, Jim Allister is portrayed as a Lundy character for siding with the nationalists and the DUP are clearly presented as the protestant bulwark for loyalist East Belfast.

Won’t that go down well at the bonfires and subsequent parades in the East.

The final paragraph does not sit well with the first two paragraphs. Indeed, before the party adopted the sectarian line of defense implicit in the statement, it had managed to stay on message with the good governance narrative echoed in the third paragraph which now appears to have been merely a smokescreen strategy.

On a side note, with regard to the Robinson- inspired nationalist outreach initiative, it doesn’t augur well for that pitch for catholic voters….

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