Peter Robinson’s postcard from his holiday to the Belfast Telegraph is carried on page 29 of this morning’s paper.
Breaking his silence since issuing the eleven page
U-turn clarification letter on 15 August, the First Minister’s latest intervention signals that the summer is over and the parties are at last back to school. (You can read the full text on the Belfast Telegraph website.)
In spite of all the challenges that have been faced at home, we have proved that we can successfully sell Northern Ireland to investors across the world … That is a demonstration of what can be gained when politicians work together for the benefit of everyone in the place we all call home. While there is much to be proud of, these last few months have also demonstrated the challenges that lie ahead. We have come a long way, but there is still a considerable way to go.
The media and political class are scolded.
For the Press, it is the tendency to insist on absolutes. To a section of the media, our Executive cannot face a challenge, or have to deal with a difficult situation; for them, the Executive must be in crisis, facing disaster, or plunging into the abyss. However, the reality is that there is space between harmony and extinction.
For a section of the political class, such difficulties are opportunities to exploit, regardless of the impact on wider society and the political process of which they are part.
Implicitly referring to the change of DUP approach to the Maze Peace and Reconciliation Centre, Peter Robinson writes:
Let’s just say applying a sensible condition is not a U-turn …
… and I’m not quitting. I’ll be working on behalf of the people of Northern Ireland when many of those who predict my political demise, including those windbag commentators, have left the stage.
“Windbag commentators” aside, he may want to extend that to include members of his own party, officials within the corridors of OFMdFM, and more …
Reflecting on the events of the summer:
While some of the events of recent months have been deeply depressing, we have, thankfully, so far avoided any loss of life and, in spite of much media hype, the political institutions remain secure.
He says this “is a significant achievement” but “a ‘cold peace’ where people share the land, but little else, is not the way forward.
There are some on the loyalist side who have no strategy, just shibboleths and an ability to identify where wrongs, or difficulties, lie, but with no concept of how, in a deeply divided society, to right those wrongs, or overcome the difficulties.
There are those on the republican side who think continuing the conflict, or revelling and grotesquely celebrating terrorist crimes from past conflicts, will further their partisan goals.
Briefly returning to the NI top team’s trip to New York this week, Peter Robinson writes::
This week, in New York, we will meet companies which would not have even considered Northern Ireland as a location a decade ago. Yet now we have succeeded in bringing proportionately more jobs and investment into Northern Ireland than anywhere else in the UK. [Ed – what about Ireland?]
In the remainder of this Assembly term, the First Minister highlights:
- completing the reorganisation of local government and the Review of Public Administration;
- competing the reform of the bureaucratic education structures;
- modernising out health service and making it fit for future demands;
- doing all in our power to ensure that the [UK] Government agrees to devolve the powers to reduce Corporation Tax
- finalising welfare reform in a manner that removes the Coalition’s sharp edges.
There’s an element of self-deprecating humour when he remarks:
I keep my ear to the ground. I know there are some in the Press who consider me abrasive and obstinate. My political opponents (and even some of my own colleagues) find me confrontational and inflexible. Perhaps they are right. Other are much less complimentary.
On completing “the process we are engaged in”:
I am convinced that, within the unionist community, there is a desire for peace and stability and I judge that the nationalist people share this outlook. I will not be pushed or played into allowing the process to be anything other than balanced and fair … A peaceful future can only be built on mutual respect, tolerance and an unwavering commitment to the rule of law and the democratic process. No section of our community can be excluded from that shared future.
The new Assembly term offers the opportunity to find ways of solving problems, rather than apportioning blame. If others also choose to take that path, then my party will not be found wanting in the months and years ahead.
The tone and content is that of the First Minister rather than the DUP leader. He’s in charge and in control. Not a single explicit reference to the Haass talks. No mention of the Unionist Forum. Nor the reform of NI Housing Executive, social housing and the procurement problems with contractors.
Peter Robinson’s comment piece obviously lacks the challenge of an interview. [It also uses more commas per sentence that even I can squeeze in.] The BBC’s Mark Devenport is back in his old stamping ground of New York this week. OFMdFM normally complain that overseas trips aren’t fully reported back home, with the emphasis on hotel expenses rather than investment opportunities. Perhaps the First Minister and deputy First Minister will grant him an interview while they’re there?
Update – Peter Robinson gave UTV’s Tracey Magee an interview in New York today.
Alan Meban. Tweets as @alaninbelfast. Blogs about cinema and theatre over at Alan in Belfast. A freelancer who writes about and reports from civic, academic and political events, reviews cultural performances, chairs discussions, and live-tweets, streams and records lectures and conferences. He delivers social media training, coaching and consultancy, produces podcasts, is a member of Ofcom’s Advisory Committee for Northern Ireland, FactCheckNI board member, and is a member of the Corrymeela Community.