Robinson: “This speech of Robinson’s seemed bolder…”

There has been a lot comment expressing doubts about Peter Robinson’s sincerity re bringing Catholics into the party. But Gerry Moriarty has the critical factor. It can be read against delivery:

There wasn’t much meat on the bones, so to speak, but Robinson definitely set out a broad vision for the party that includes seeking to bring Catholics into the DUP, and more generally to persuade more of them to hold with the North’s union with Britain.

In a sense it was a mirror image of how Sinn Féin says it wants to persuade unionists of the benefits of a united Ireland. But this speech of Robinson’s seemed bolder because if there is not practical follow-up to his pledges then his talk of energetically working to create “one community” will become a running political joke – a pledge that will haunt him and the DUP.

  • Neil

    But this speech of Robinson’s seemed bolder because if there is not practical follow-up to his pledges then his talk of energetically working to create “one community” will become a running political joke

    Which it will. He’s made a thing of these Catholic Unionists (which we have to take it on trust they at this point exist) and attracting them to the DUP then followed up with his hissy fit over the prisons, and for the grand finale has big Sammy do the whole ‘let’s laugh at the Republican dead’ sketch.

    The DUP(lictous party) are again talking from both sides of their mouths. It seems clear he’s been playing to his hardline gallery this past few weeks, which to me makes the timing of his Catholic Unionists daydream seem all the more strange. Maybe he should have got all his anti-Republican bluster off his chest first then started pontificating about these Catholic Unionists that apparantly exist.

  • Mick Fealty

    You nicked that straight from Newton in Talkback! 😉 but If I may continue in that direction, if Sammy is going to play the joker he needs to invest in better material.

    SF gave him his opening but he ripped it apart upon entry. It felt like a return to the eighties.

    If it is not the BBC it will be Alan with his Audioboo. People listen and make up their own minds if he and his party are sincere. If words and actions depart from one another.

    We know how the leadership is thinking, because we can read it back to 2006 consistently, which is good for a democratic party to do if it wants to move its long term position.

    It’s good also because it sets them a standard and allows us to call them to account when they fall short.

  • BluesJazz

    Anyone have the full text of O’Neill’s 1968 speech to put it in context?

  • Drumlins Rock

    Mick, read through the entire speech there, had ignored it as hype up to now but wanted to see if there actually was substance, roughly the “shared community” bit was less than 1,000 out of his 5,000 word speech, which was more substancial than I expected.
    The usual shared community etc. phrases were used in many ways, but very much focused on the Catholic Unionist idea at the core, no harm in that as a place to start but could Peter work with an Irish Catholic Republican Unionist (Irish as in Gealic culture, Catholic in active religious sense, Republican as wishing for a GB & NI elected HoS, Unionist as wanting fuller integration with the mainland!) don’t think thats what he had in mind.

  • Drumlins Rock

    BTW. the much bolder speech was John McCallisters in Newry.

  • unicorn

    I think that there’s another element to the whole “Catholic unionist” and we’re all individuals and must decide whether to support the union or oppose it as individuals type rhetoric.

    Next year we’ll be getting the census results which will show something like 51% Protestant community background, 45% Catholic community background and 4% other / unallocated. It is in the strategic interests of Sinn Fein, much like other identity politicians such as the Jesse Jackson’s and Lee Jasper’s of the world, to claim that their voice is the voice of everyone in that 45%, that they are their representatives, when they might next propose to have post boxes red and green striped like a barber’s poll or whatever.

    In contrast it is in the interests of the DUP to point out that 1 in 10 of those 45% choose to call themselves British before they call themselves Irish, at least 1 in 5 would vote for the union over a united Ireland, and by some evidence in recent years even 1 in 2, that less than 60% of Catholic community background people who bother to turn up to a polling station actually vote for Sinn Fein and about 1 in 10 of total CCB voters don’t vote for the SDLP either. Of those CCB people who could turn up to a polling station less than 30% vote for Sinn Fein.

    In that way Peter Robinson’s rhetoric serves a certain purpose even if he doesn’t gain a single Catholic vote out of it. It reminds us that the census is not a measure of preference in symbols or personal identity, and that the whole mapping of religion onto identity and constitutional preference is in fact a very lopsided one.

  • Mick Fealty


    Perfectly put!!

    The appeal to the individual makes sense too, since the DUP aim is to break up a virulent long term campaign to break the Union.

    It just so happens that this also lines up rather seamlessly with the Protestant conception of individual rights that underwrites the Anglican constitution of the UK.

    The Republican trajectory is towards keeping the division, the separate but equal meme so that… well, I am not sure that strategy has yet been exposed to such public scrutiny.

  • Chris Donnelly

    The Republican trajectory is towards keeping the division, the separate but equal meme…

    Hard to sustain that assertion Mick, not least since Irish nationalists and republicans have gone considerably further than Robinson and political unionism in seeking to legitimise the political and cultural expressions of ‘the other.’

    At present, Robinson’s strategy appears to be to ignore the political and cultural aspect of Irish nationalism and yet still hope to be able to find traction in terms of electoral support amongst northern catholics.

    Whatever that is, it certainly isn’t a stand against political and cultural apartheid.

    Not ‘separate but equal’, more ‘together as unequals’?

  • Frustrated Democrat

    On replection PR was not seeking Catholics to join or vote for the DUP, he was trying to establish more liberal credentials to try and attract moderate / liberal unionists away from UUP/Alliance. His ambition is to take over the whole of the non nationalist vote in NI.

    A pity the image of the flag waving, ‘we shall not be moved’ and rabble rousing Wilson/Dodds were allowed to get into the media and spoil the plan.

  • Red Lion

    Frustrated Democrat

    I expect Peter Robinsons ‘softening union’ plan is a long term one, and a work in progress. To that end expect next year to have less rabble rousing from Dodds etc, and less union jacks etc, as the old timers within the party probably toe more of a line. And if his vision bears fruit at the next election then expect hardliners to generally soften further, and only then will PR be in the position , and have a further mandate, to put more ‘meat on the bones’ of his vision.

  • Red Lion

    ps as well as trying to attract the unionist apathetic vote and/or a catholic vote, which i’m all for, mainstream unionism would do well to proactively try to engage the working class unionist vote, especially in some areas of Belfast.

  • dennis the menace

    CD seems to assume that all catholics buy into the terrorist loving nature of sinn fein. no one is saying that nationalists cant have their irish language or their fiddly dee music

    It is nationalists however, who are telling protestants which roads and areas they can walk down. they are enforcing a religious and cultural apartheid

  • dennis the menace

    Red Lion , maybe you can tell us who the working class unionists voted for. It certainly wasnt for the PUP/UVF

    and is the voting turnout in working class areas that much different from other areas?

    I know of some middle class areas that barely hit 30% at the assembly election

  • “Hard to sustain that assertion Mick, not least since Irish nationalists and republicans have gone considerably further than Robinson and political unionism in seeking to legitimise the political and cultural expressions of ‘the other.’”

    Please do elaborate. It would be worth reminding people of Sinn Fein’s success in ‘Unionist outreach’.

  • Chris Donnelly

    CD seems to assume that all catholics buy into the terrorist loving nature of sinn fein. no one is saying that nationalists cant have their irish language or their fiddly dee music

    It is nationalists however, who are telling protestants which roads and areas they can walk down. they are enforcing a religious and cultural apartheid

    Oh dear. Let’s start at the beginning…..
    1. All catholics don’t ‘buy into’ Sinn Fein. Indeed, if you knew many catholics then it’d be clear to you that opinions amongst catholics vary to a considerable degree over many things.

    There are those who support Sinn Fein and those who don’t. Kind of like the fact that there are protestants who vote DUP and those who don’t.

    “no one is saying that nationalists cant have their irish language or their fiddly dee music”

    I’ve just picked myself up off the floor after reading that one! How gracious of you. Maybe this bold and generous declaration will make its way into a DUP election manifesto one day. Begorrah!

    “It is nationalists however, who are telling protestants which roads and areas they can walk down. they are enforcing a religious and cultural apartheid”

    Thanks for bringing up this one, Dennis, as it illustrates just how hard it will be for the DUP to square their unquestioning support for the fundamentalist position of the Loyal Orders with any new found desire to attract electoral support amongst catholics.

  • dennis the menace

    again chris, you assume catholic means nationalist..very narrow minded of you

  • BluesJazz

    Actually, the Church of Ireland (Anglican) is a ‘Catholic’ church, just not the Roman variety. That might explain why PR left out the ‘Roman’ bit. He’s looking for wooly ‘high church’ Anglican types.

  • socaire

    Can any of the ‘rabid’ unionists who scriven on this blog actually put down what they think would happen if there was a United country in the morning? We”ll presume that it was bloodless and that democracy was accepted by all. What do you think would change? Would there be no more Corrie? No soccer? No Sun? I think things would be much more relaxed. Orangemen would be a genuine tourist attraction and would be encouraged to walk where they liked. The English language as she is spoke would be tolerated (to mostly facilitate Sinn Féin) and we could all be friends.

  • ‘a pledge that will haunt the DUP and him’
    I said in in a forum myself yestrerday, Mick. PR is going out on a limb here and will be a hostage to fortune if his colleagues conduct and attitude continuew as now without reproach from him. If their speeches are anything to go by it’s going to be rough ride for FM. Dodds’ speech [I can’t tell from the BBC news item if it followed PR’s speech], but if it did, shows he [Robinson] is on his own in the party with this new found liberalism.

  • BluesJazz
  • BluesJazz

    9 December 1968

    Terence O’Neill

    Following an escalation of the civil-rights campaign in the autumn of 1968, the British government put pressure on the Northern Ireland government to introduce reforms in local government in Derry and the allocation of public housing. These concessions failed to halt the civil-rights marches, and a growing number of Ulster unionists were expressing opposition to British intervention in Northern Ireland affairs. O’Neill’s speech was aimed at the silent majority and the Unionist Party. Although the televised speech attracted 125,000 letters of support, in May 1969 he resigned as prime minister, having failed to reconcile demands for further concessions from the civil-rights movement and the growing intransigence among Ulster unionists.

    SEE ALSO Economic Relations between Northern Ireland and Britain; Northern Ireland: History since 1920; O’Neill, Terence; Ulster Unionist Party in Office

    Ulster stands at the crossroads. I believe you know me well enough by now to appreciate that I am not a man given to extravagant language. But I must say to you this evening that our conduct over the coming days and weeks will decide our future. And as we face this situation, I would be failing in my duty to you as your prime minister if I did not put the issues, calmly and clearly, before you all. These issues are far too serious to be determined behind closed doors, or left to noisy minorities. The time has come for the people as a whole to speak in a clear voice.

    For more than five years now I have tried to heal some of the deep divisions in our community. I did so because I could not see how an Ulster divided against itself could hope to stand. I made it clear that a Northern Ireland based upon the interests of any one section rather than upon the interests of all could have no long-term future.

    Throughout the community many people have responded warmly to my words. But if Ulster is to become the happy and united place it could be there must be the will throughout our province and particularly in parliament to translate these words into deeds.

    In Londonderry and other places recently, a minority of agitators determined to subvert lawful authority played a part in setting light to highly inflammable material. But the tinder for that fire, in the form of grievances real or imaginary, had been piling up for years.

    And so I saw it as our duty to do two things. First, to be firm in the maintenance of law and order, and in resisting those elements which seek to profit from any disturbances. Secondly, to ally firmness with fairness, and to look at any underlying causes of dissension which were troubling decent and moderate people. As I saw it, if we were not prepared to face up to our problems, we would have to meet mounting pressure both internally, from those who were seeking change, and externally from British public and parliamentary opinion,

    which had been deeply disturbed by the events in Londonderry.

    That is why it has been my view from the beginning that we should decide—of our own free will and as a responsible government in command of events—to press on with a continuing programme of change to secure a united and harmonious community. This, indeed, has been my aim for over five years.

    Moreover, I knew full well that Britain’s financial and other support for Ulster, so laboriously built up, could no longer be guaranteed if we failed to press on with such a programme.

    I am aware, of course, that some foolish people have been saying: “Why should we bow the knee to a Labour prime minister? Let’s hold out until a conservative government returns to power, and then we need do nothing.” My friends, that is a delusion. This letter is from Mr. Edward Heath, and it tells me—with the full authority of the Shadow Cabinet and the expressed support of my old friend Sir Alec Douglas-Home—that a reversal of the policies which I have tried to pursue would be every bit as unacceptable to the Conservative Party. If we adopt an attitude of stubborn defiance we will not have a friend left at Westminster.

    I make no apology for the financial and economic support we have received from Britain. As a part of the United Kingdom, we have always considered this to be our right. But we cannot be a part of the United Kingdom merely when it suits us. And those who talk so glibly about acts of impoverished defiance do not know or care what is at stake. Your job, if you are a worker at Short’s or Harland & Wolff; your subsidies if you are a farmer; your pension, if you are retired—all these aspects of our life, and many others, depend on support from Britain. Is a freedom to pursue the un-Christian path of communal strife and sectarian bitterness really more important to you than all the benefits of the British welfare state?

    But this is not all. Let me read to you some words from the Government of Ireland Act, 1920—the Act of the British parliament on which Ulster’s constitution is founded.

    Notwithstanding the establishment of the Parliament of Northern Ireland . . . the supreme authority of the Parliament of the United Kingdom shall remain unaffected and undiminished over all persons, matters, and things in [Northern] Ireland and every part thereof.

    Because Westminster has trusted us over the years to use the powers of Stormont for the good of all people of Ulster, a sound custom has grown up that Westminster does not use its supreme authority in fields where we are normally responsible. But Mr. Wilson made it absolutely clear to us that if we did not face up to our problems the Westminster parliament might well decide to act over our heads. Where would our constitution be then? What shred of self-respect would be left to us? If we allowed others to solve our problems because we had not the guts—let me use a plain word—the guts to face up to them, we would be utterly shamed.

    There are, I know, today some so-called loyalists who talk of independence from Britain—who seem to want a kind of Protestant Sinn Féin. These people will not listen when they are told that Ulster’s income is £200 million a year but that we can spend £300 million—only because Britain pays the balance.

    Rhodesia, in defying Britain from thousands of miles away, at least has an Air Force and an Army of her own. Where are the Ulster armoured divisions or the Ulster jet planes? They do not exist and we could not afford to buy them. These people are not merely extremists. They are lunatics who would set a course along a road which could only lead at the end into an all-Ireland Republic. They are not loyalists but disloyalists: disloyal to Britain, disloyal to the constitution, disloyal to the Crown, disloyal—if they are in public life—to the solemn oaths they have sworn to her majesty the queen.

    But these considerations, important though they are, not my main concern. What I seek—and I ask for the help and understanding of you all—is a swift end to the growing civil disorder throughout Ulster. For as matters stand today, we are on the brink of chaos, where neighbour could be set against neighbour. It is simple-minded to imagine that problems such as these can be solved by repression. I for one am not willing to expose our police force to indefinite insult and injury. Nor am I prepared to see the shopkeepers and traders of Ulster wrecked and looted for the benefit of the rabble. We must tackle root causes if this agitation is to be contained. We must be able to say to the moderate on both sides: come with us into a new era of co-operation, and leave the extremists to the law. But this I also say to all, Protestant or Roman Catholic, Unionist or Nationalist: disorder must now cease. We are taking the necessary measures to strengthen our police forces. Determined as we are to act with absolute fairness, we will also be resolute in restoring respect for the laws of the land.

    Some people have suggested that I should call a general election. It would, in my view, be utterly reprehensible to hold an election against a background of bitterness and strife. I have spoke to you in the past about the groundswell of moderate opinion. Its presence was seen three years ago when we fought an election on a

    manifesto which would stand inspection in any Western democracy and we swept the country on a non-sectarian platform. Those who would sow the wind by having a bitter election now would surely reap the whirlwind.

    And now I want to say a word directly to those who have been demonstrating for civil rights. The changes which we have announced are genuine and farreaching changes and the government as a whole is totally committed to them. I would not continue to preside over an administration which would water them down or make them meaningless. You will see when the members of the Londonderry commission are appointed that we intend to live up to our words that this will be a body to command confidence and respect. You will see that in housing allocations we mean business. You will see that legislation to appoint an Ombudsman will be swiftly introduced. Perhaps you are not entirely satisfied; but this is a democracy, and I ask you now with all sincerity to call your people off the streets and allow an atmosphere favourable to change develop. You are Ulstermen yourselves. You know we are all of us stubborn people, who will not be pushed too far. I believe that most of you want change, not revolution. Your voice has been heard, and clearly heard. Your duty now is to play your part in taking the heat out of the situation before blood is shed.

    But I have a word too for all those others who see in change a threat to our position in the United Kingdom. I say to them, Unionism armed with justice will be a stronger cause than Unionism armed merely with strength, The bully-boy tactics we saw in Armagh are no answer to these grave problems: but they incur for us the contempt of Britain and the world, and such contempt is the greatest threat to Ulster. Let the government govern and the police take care of law and order.

    What in any case are these changes which we have decided must come? They all amount to this: that in every aspect of our life, justice must not only be done but be seen to be done to all sections of the community. There must be evident fairness as between one man and another.

    The adoption of such reforms will not, I believe, lose a single seat at Stormont for those who support the Unionist cause and indeed some may be gained. And remember that it is with Stormont that the power of decision rests for maintaining our constitution.

    And now a further word to you all. What kind of Ulster do you want? A happy and respected Province, in good standing with the rest of the United Kingdom? Or a place continually torn apart by riots and demonstrations, and regarded by the rest of Britain as a political outcast? As always in a democracy, the choice is yours. I will accept whatever your verdict may be. If it is your decision that we should live up to the words “Ulster is British” which is part of our creed, then my services will be at your disposal to do what I can. But if you should want a separate, inward-looking, selfish and divided Ulster then you must seek for others to lead you along that road, for I cannot and will not do it. Please weigh well all that is at stake, and make your voice heard in whatever way you think best, so that we may know the views not of the few but of the many. For this is truly a time of decision, and in your silence all that we have built up could be lost.

  • Mick Fealty

    That the thing madra it’s not new. Though it seems to be news to Sammy Wilson. The base material in Northern Ireland is changing, and the PR system facilitates slow rational transformational change.

    I don’t expect to see the kind of generational shift we saw in the move of voters from the SDLP to SF. There are much fewer at stake. But in this game margins matter.

    He’s laid down the vision, now he needs to persuade those internally that still think the can play the old games in the old way.

  • Mick Fealty

    Dennis, you want a red to go with that yellow?

  • BluesJazz

    O’Neill didn’t transform the narrative with his speech. Paisley (and Craig) elbowed him off stage. But Robinson’s speech is almost a recital of O’Neill. Plus ca change.
    The strikening thing in the Captain’s speech is how much we rely on London for money. Even more so now than then.

  • Reader

    Frustrated Democrat: A pity the image of the flag waving, ‘we shall not be moved’ and rabble rousing Wilson/Dodds were allowed to get into the media and spoil the plan.
    A few years ago Willie McCrea and Gregory Campbell would have been winding people up. Now it’s just Dodds and Sammy Wilson.
    Progress may be slow, but there’s progress nonetheless.

  • OneNI

    What is this ‘vision’ ? That we all unite behind a catch-all ‘Unionist’ party that has no clear views on social and economic issues. A party for all that defines itself only be being pro Union and against nationalism? That sets itself up as the ‘defenders of Ulster’ who do their best to ‘extract’ the best ‘deal ‘ from Westminster. A party that deliberately keeps itself aloof from the politics of the Union.
    Its a recepie for UUP Mark 2.
    This is not ‘unionism’ but parochialism. Albeit a parochialism that wants to be seen as less sectarian

  • JoeBryce

    Terence O’Neill: vilified at the time, utterly, horribly vindicated by history. I remember him dimly; what I have read of him since seems to me to be most impressive, a sort of unionist Garrett Fitzgerald. Watching his speech now sends shivers up the spine. Paisley thundered but the Captain was the true prophet.