Robinson reaching out to nationalists … just not through the Irish News

Peter Robinson has “declined every request for an interview from The Irish News over the past two years”

In an editorial titled “Robinson ways contradictory”, this morning’s Irish News [behind a paywall] accuses the DUP leader of speaking with forked tongue when he calls for votes from the Catholic and nationalist tradition to maintain the link with Britain.

The first minister said that the time had come for all our citizens to stop seeing everything through the prism of religion and maintained that the economic collapse in the Republic was unappetising for northern nationalist voters.

Mr Robinson said: “I think the more stable our structure, the more peaceful Northern Ireland is, the more it works as part of the UK, then the more people will think ‘Why on earth would we change?’”

While the paper notes “the first minister’s increasing attempts to present himself as a modern, inclusive and liberal unionist are fascinating”, it notes that “the source of the only recent and much-discussed threat to the stability of our institutions” was Robinson’s own threat to quit over “vague and distant changes to the royal emblems of the prison service were not to his satisfaction”.

Is appealing to non-traditional unionist voters in a London-based paper mere grandstanding? If the DUP are serious, why do they refuse to be interviewed by the Irish News?

It will also have been noted that he put forward on Saturday was effectively an appeal to Catholic voters in Northern Ireland through The Times of London but has declined every request for an interview from The Irish News over the past two years – a period when he has been able to repeatedly facilitate all the other main Belfast-based media outlets.

In addition, the only leading political party which felt unable to contribute last month to this newspaper’s major assessment of the state of devolution on the fifth anniversary of the St Andrews Agreement – the initiative which eventually brought Mr Robinson to power – was the DUP.

Mr Robinson’s refusal to engage with readers of The Irish News – drawn from a range of backgrounds but mostly within nationalism – may not come as a particular surprise but it is at odds with his regular assertion that he wants to reach out to all sections of our divided community as first minister.

The editorial finished:

Mr Robinson is in many ways an impressive and astute politician but – on the basis of his approach to date – it is difficult to believe that he is serious about achieving an entirely redefined relationship between nationalism and unionism.

Maybe something he’ll address in his DUP conference speech this coming weekend.

PS: I wonder if there will be Union Flags on every other chair again at conference this year to wave during the televised address?