Update-When Manley met Robinson – Irish News finally gets an interview

Yesterday was a historic day (in media terms anyway) as  Peter Robinson gave his first interview in five years to the Irish News. Why Robinson decided to freeze out the provinces top selling newspaper I don’t know but the papers political reporter, John Manley said that

there was nothing in the DUP Leader’s demeanour to suggest relations were frosty.

So we can only assume that the fences have been mended and Robinson will be giving more interviews to the Irish News in the future. In the interview Robinson admitted that he does read the newspaper.

But what I want to focus on is something he has repeated in this interview, and that is his pitch for Catholics to start voting for the DUP. Robinson believes, but does not give figures for, his assertion that many Catholics actually do vote for the party at the moment, but as Manley notes this message was slightly obscured by his party’s strong rhetoric over the flags protests.

Robinson believes that the DUP’s pro-business approach would be an attractive feature to many Nationalists who do not fit in with the SDLP and Sinn Fein’s left wing stance. In addition to this, the party’s stance on moral issues would appeal particularly to conservative Catholics who are becoming content with the idea that Northern Ireland should remain within the union.

When I read comments like this from the First Minister, I cannot help but think of Terence O’Neill who famously made the same punt about Catholics which I need not remind you did not work out very well.

These are just some snippets of the interview but the entire thing is worth a read as Manley probed him on parading and his future plans.

Do you think we will see more Catholics voting for the DUP in the years to come?

One interesting side note: Robinson pretty much gave his endorsement for Gavin Robinson to stand for East Belfast at the next election.

Interview with John Manley about his interview with Robinson


McCann meets……John Manley by Ontherecord98fm on Mixcloud

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  • JH

    “the DUP’s pro-business approach would be an attractive feature to many Nationalists”

    Their what? Can anyone give me example of this?

    A lot of Belfast traders and business-owners would beg to differ.

  • It would be remiss of any Party Leader not to read the best selling daily newspaper in The North.
    Effectively this Charm Offensive #2. Some very sensible people got excited about Mr Robinsons outreach last year. And that didnt last beyond the first week of December.
    Yet Robinson is probably right ….within a very narrow definition of “Catholic”….Catholics “should” vote DUP.
    Its not just that Catholicism is a “broad” church.
    I have sat in the same pew as John Biggs Davison and had a crisis of conscience when I thought Anne Widdicombe was going to offer me the sign of peace.
    Nor do I have any problem with being at the same services as IRA men, RUC men or Midnight Mass during IRA Cease Fires when uniformed British soldiers where at Corpus Christi Church in Ballymurphy.
    It doesn’t bother me. So I am completely open to the reality that a Catholic might vote DUP.
    In purely religious terms…some people ( I am not one of them) might think that on issues such as Abortion there is common ground with DUP.
    Robinson himself might be thinking in terms of Catholic support for Grammar Schools …well I think he would be wrong. A Grammar School Education might be incompatible with Creationism…which his party tends to support.
    Above all it seems unlikely that Robinson can square his empathy with Catholics inside a Catholic Church with the demeanour of many supporters of the Orange Order outside a Catholic Church.

    Dr McCann is obviously right to mention Terence O’ Neill. I have of course mentioned his outreach on several occasions. Dr McCann will be aware that I believe this is just one of many parallels with the 1960s.
    But there is a longer History here.
    English Catholics (then…and still) think Irish Catholics disobedient to their Religion. A previous pope had put Ireland under English rule (coincidently the Pope was English).
    And as every Orangeman knows William of Orange was supported by the Pope.
    As every English Catholic knows the English opened Maynooth and the rebels of 1798 were condemned by Troy.
    And as everyone knows the Old IRA were excommunicated.

    So what Robinson and analysts get wrong is to consider that Catholics are one dimensional. Robbo will certainly have some sympathy from right wing Tory Catholics…from the old recusant tradition. Many have a tradition stretching from Ampleforth School to Sandhurst.
    Peter Robinson deserves no praise….this is OLD POLITICS..not the New Politics that his apologists claim.
    The new buzzword is mixed or multiple identity.
    I am not merely a Catholic…I am a practising, liberal Catholic. Socialist, Republican, Nationalist, elderly, straight, healthy, married, parent, grandparent…..there is absolutely no level on which Robinson connects with me.

  • …and I’m an Irish citizen.

  • Morpheus

    Northern Ireland Life and Times Survey 2012. The combined Catholic vote for the DUP PLUS the UUP was 1%.


    I think there is a helluva lot more ‘outreach’ needed from the DUP before those figures become meaningful and with a grossly disproportionate number of DUP MP/MLAs in the OO I won’t be holding my breath.

  • brian2013

    Robbo is deluded. I am an notionally nationalist, but would have no issue voting for a genuinely moderate and forward thinking unionist party. I have voted SDLP, Alliance and UUP in the past. I can’t see any circumstances under which I would vote for the DUP, which is as toxic to nationalists as the Tory party was/is to northern communities in GB .
    I also think it’s questionable whether their ‘pro-business approach’ is genuine, or whether it only applies to the right sort’ of businesses. Consideration of recent events in relation to the Giants Causeway visitor centre and the ‘Glass and Glazing Federation’ would suggest the latter.

  • Caoimhín

    As someone who would quite happily self-describe as a pro-business, socially conservative Catholic I can be quite categorical in stating that I have never considered and never will consider voting for any unionist party, or indeed any party that is ‘agnostic’ on the union.

    Partition is an open wound on the face of this country that has done and is doing lasting damage. Until that wound is healed all other “bread and butter” issues pale in comparative importance. I’ll keep biting my lip and voting for the lefty republicans in the forlorn hope that someone with the philosophy of Pearse, Collins or Lemass comes to the fore once again.

  • Charles_Gould

    Probably some low-hanging fruit out there in the Catholic community but it would be the prounion not the nationalist catholics he would be pitching for.

  • Morpheus

    I think pro-UK Catholics would rather not vote at all than vote DUP. The DUP made their bed a long time ago, they now have to lie in it.

  • foyle observer

    If the DUP want to ‘reach out’ to Catholic or Nationalist voters, they will need to rid themselves of the likes of Gregory Campbell.

    Simple as that.

  • joepublictakinginterest

    Just to chip in from the other side of town. Whatever he does to attract the Catholic vote, its easy to slip in your own back yard. The expenses issues and possibly party arrogance clangers lost him his own seat in the East. And from recent blogs, even now the party he leads are at their antics eg in Castlereagh and elsewhere. Not going down well this cloak and dagger as far as openness with the public. In my book the seemingly shady side of this now repels me. I’m looking for the right shade and would even opt for middle of the road to be rid. That said I admire his nerve of ‘appealing’ to the other side.

  • Charles_Gould

    Can’t see them anywhere saying they want to reach out to nationalists.

  • mjh

    “Robinson believes, but does not give figures for, his assertion that many Catholics actually do vote for the party at the moment..”

    It depends how Robinson defines “many”.

    Going on the last Assembly Elections it appears that around 1,000 voters gave their 1st preference to a DUP candidate and their 2nd to a nationalist or republican. These were votes given to the person not the party, because those voters chose not to transfer to the other DUP candidates available.

    Based on the transfers from the last DUP candidate elected or eliminated in a constituency it appears that up to 5,000 further voters may have voted the DUP party ticket and then transfered to a nationalist or republican in preference to another pro-Union party.

    These figures are very small, but might be enough to make the difference between winning or losing a seat in a very tight race.

    And although the numbers are small the trend over the years has been upwards.

  • Reader

    mjh: These figures are very small, but might be enough to make the difference between winning or losing a seat in a very tight race.
    Nice work. But that sort of analysis (was this just transfers that actually occurred? Or scaled up to over the quota?) make me wonder what riches there are to be derived from the entire ballot paper – the first transfers that never happened because the first preference stayed with the intended target until they were elected; or stayed with a candidate who was eliminated in the final count.
    I suppose party wonks might know some of this detail through long nights at counting centres, but it would be nice if this depth of data was available in a database.

  • foyle observer
  • Charles_Gould

    foyle observer

    He said he wanted to reach Catholics. But he didn’t say nationalists. Presumably he wants to reach out to pro-union Catholics, who by definition would not be nationalists.

  • mjh

    Hi Reader

    The figures are scaled up as follows (very deep breath).

    To get to the number of voters who “crossed the divide” to give a personal vote to a DUP candidate I looked at all the cases where a DUP candidate was elected without receiving transfers from any other party, and where there was also still at least one more DUP in the race. There were 8, who between them accounted for 25% of the DUP vote. 0.6% of their transfers went to CNR parties. O.6% of the entire DUP vote is 1,100. So around 1,000 voters in all.

    Those votes are full value votes.

    The number of additional voters who crossed the divide to vote the full DUP ticket is an estimate. It is derived from the 6 constituencies where the last DUP candidate was elected or eliminated leaving at least one other PUL and one other CNR candidate in contention. The candidates represented 14% of the total DUP vote and the constituencies represented 32% of the total DUP vote. After applying a formula designed to minimise the possible distorting effect of those transfers I estimated that about 3.2% of the original DUP votes had come from voters who then transfered on to CNR candidates.This gives around 6,000 votes. To avoid double counting subtract the 1,000 already calculated as personal votes and you are left with up to 5,000 who voted the party ticket.

    I too hope that there may be riches to be derived from examining the changing patterns over time. It’s a long job.

  • Charles_Gould

    mjh those figures of course wouldn’t tell us anything about unionist Catholics who vote for other unionist parties after the DUP.

  • sean treacy

    Brian,what possessed you to vote UUP.Think Elliot,Hussey,Kennedy and the even worse neandrathals that populate their ranks at council level.

  • Charles_Gould

    Hussey – I thought he was said to be a reasonable and fair minded person in broad terms?

  • sean treacy

    Charles did you not see Hussey only last week in the assembly where he gave us an incoherent diatribe about some imaginary connection between SF and the dissidents.

  • Charles_Gould

    Sean- no. I have listened to him a bit and he seemed sincere enough. However, I am no expert!

  • Hopping The Border

    Business first? Tell that to the traders of Belfast. When it comes to it, his party puts business second to flags.

    At least some of the problems Robbo will face in attracting Catholic/nationalist lite votes include:

    (1) The inability of the DUP to stand up to the UVF and the rest of the loyal mafia

    (2) The DUPs seemingly unwavering support for the Orange Order, even when it appears small elements of it are being populated/directed by loyalist mafiosi

    (3) The DUPs inability to challenge the entire flags idea, whether its creating year round red white and blue jungles to burning the flag of the neighbouring state

    (4) Gregory Campbell, Nelson McCausland, the McCreas, Poots.

    (5) The caleban/fundamentalist/bible thumping element of the DUP which seeks to impose its views on the wider public

    (6) His refusal to simply tell the truth to his electorate. Former republican paramilitaries regularly lie about the past, but the DUP/UUP equally lie about the future. There is no attack on loyalist culture, a united ireland is a possibility, although an extremely remote one, the flag won’t return except through democracy.

    I think Robbo knows where he has to go, and might be willing to go there, but the DUP uberbrattish and bible thumping elements will never let him.

  • Comrade Stalin

    We seem to have gone spectacularly off topic.

    Regarding the Irish News matter, the DUP insisted that they did not have a ban on interviews with the paper. In an interview a while back – it feels like about a year or so ago – Robinson was questioned on this, and he said his only issue with the Irish News is with one particular journalist, and he would happily do an interview with that journalist in the presence of the paper’s editor. He did not name the specific journalist but I have a feeling it was someone other than Manley. I thought at the time that perhaps the Irish News editor was (correctly) resisting a politician trying to control who gets to interview him; maybe the editor has relented.

    Regarding the DUP’s status and Catholic votes etc. I doubt they get anything like 1% of the RC vote. They may get votes from committed fruitcakes who think that the only policy that matters during elections is abortion. Danny O’Connor (SDLP, Larne) and at least one Catholic priest have suggested that they could see themselves voting for the DUP over the abortion question.

    Speaking personally, I transferred to the DUP ahead of the UUP in the past. After the events of last year I will not be transferring to either party again and I do not anticipate doing so in the future until I see some sort of sign that my vote will not be used to justify destabilizing the country, burning out democratically elected politicians or standing shoulder to shoulder with active UVF commanders.

  • Charles_Gould

    I would not be surprised if they got 1% of the Catholic vote but 1% is a very small number.

  • To be frank DUP and Sinn Fein are understandably toxic to Catholics and Protestants respectively and while there are mavericks, they delude themselves with talk of outreach.
    The UUP is toxic to me.
    I dont know or care if SDLP is toxic to anyone…I tend to think of the best form of Outreach is to not do Outreach at all….be yourself.

    Which is why NI21 is the only non-nationalist party Id even consider.
    DUP being themselves is unattractive…and not just to Catholics.

  • Alias

    “Do you think we will see more Catholics voting for the DUP in the years to come?”

    That depends on whether or not the tribes can be led to stop playing a zero-sum game where gains for one tribe come at the expense of losses for the other. It will also require removal of the consociational form of government so that voters can vote for non-tribal issues such as economic or social policy, selecting the party according to whichever set of policies they favour. It’s a bit of a Catch 22 situation, however, since you need trust of the other tribes’ elders before you’d agree to reform the current system of government and you won’t get that trust until you reform the current system. Robinson, in fairness to him, is moving in the right direction.

  • Coll Ciotach

    I can only talk about myself but if I am anyway indicative of traditional – not conservative – Latin Mass attending, Vatican 11 dismissive Catholic, I would never in my puff consider voting DUP. I do not vote for either SF or SDLP either, but I would sooner vote for them than any unionist party.

    I am Catholic first then Irish, I will not betray either.

  • MrPMartin

    Has anyone seen Mr Hussey’s constituency office in Campsie, Omagh? It looks like an BNP gift shop. Oversized flags adorn the windows and pictures of the queen

    He’s not a politician but an inarticulate hefferlump of bigoted inarticulation that has an unfortunate constituency amongst the slack jawed peasantry

    And for balance, SF offices/shops are little more than provo giftshops. Same slack jawed peasantry in the green side too

  • Charles_Gould

    Mr PMartin: Being an equal opportunity snob doesn’t make the snobbery any better.

  • aquifer

    Robbo is making an effort to reduce sectarian antagonism, which if it works, will favour the SDLP over Sinn Fein. (and leave dissidents looking more marginal) With SF poised to get the majority in Belfast Council this is a matter worth attention.

    Putting himself as pro-business is also interesting, in that capitalist Catholics have nowhere to go votewise. This might have been UUP territory formerly, and lately NI21 may make a pitch, but Robbo is not going to allow either a breath.

    If Robbo is not going to stand for Westminster this is also interesting, as he may want to avoid fallout over the Flegs issue, and a possible and dangerous personal defeat by Alliance. Is he trying to ensure that SDLP voters do not vote Alliance just to poke him in the eye? If Alliance consolidate a balance of power in Belfast City Council and make it work voters may read this across to the Assembly later.

    Of course it may be just that it has been too long since the last Irish Times interview of the first minister of N.Ireland.

  • aquifer

    Sorry that should be Irish News, another quality paper

  • Charles_Gould

    I see that Father Tim Bartlett a leading figure in the Catholic Church, will address the DUP conference.

  • Comrade Stalin

    I see that Father Tim Bartlett a leading figure in the Catholic Church, will address the DUP conference.

    Let’s hope they don’t get drunk and start singing “there’s no pope in Rome”.

  • Morpheus

    Speaking of the DUP conference, any truth to the rumor that Dodds got up to give his speech with ‘The Famine Song’ as his entrance music?

  • Re Father Tim Bartlett.
    He is not the priest who suggested voting DUP.
    Nor is he doing a Rev David Latimer at Sinn Fein.
    He is one of a group of clergymen and women on a wider “outreach” mission.

  • Gerry Lvs castro

    I personally think Robinson should be worrying less about the negligible Catholic DUP vote and more about the votes, or lack thereof, of moderate Unionism.

    It may come as a shock to some, but huge numbers of Unionists have little or no interest in the OO, flegs or religious fundamentalism, three issues which the DUP appear determined to push at every opportunity.

    Less than 10% (and falling) of the pro-union community are OO members. The flag protests are essentially over a democratic vote and are an embarrassment to all concerned. And while abortion is admittedly a thorny issue, do the DUP really think their stance on creationism, gay marriage and gay issues in general is a vote winner?

    These supposedly important issues are largely irrelevant to most, crucially to younger voters. At a time when a UI is debatably further off than at any stage since partition, the DUP present themselves as a party obsessed with flags and marching. In an age of tolerance, they promote an attitude on sexual matters in broad agreement with the Catholic church and in terms of basic science, they come pretty close to embracing the flat earth society.

    Huge swathes of constitutional Unionists stay at home on polling day. Is Robinson going to attempt Unionist outreach any time soon?

  • Charles_Gould

    I wonder what Father Tim Bartlett talked about? Abortion and gay marriage issues?

  • Charles_Gould

    I see that Malachi O’Doherty who is also from the Catholic community was there with him.

    An audio file of what Father Tim and O’Doherty said is here:


  • Comrade Stalin


    The DUP are not going to debate tricky subjects like abortion or gay marriage in front of the cameras.

    Malachi would probably resent being described as being “from the Catholic community”. I know I would.

  • Charles_Gould

    Interesting to note that despite coming from a perceived Catholic background, Malachi O’Doherty was *very* warmly received by the attendees.

  • Charles_Gould


    Father Tim talked about the need for what he called “porous boundaries” and how what was needed was a bit more generosity and respect. A message that said that there were problems but more *true* christian values would help them.

    Malachi got two great cheers from the audience. The first was when he said that he had lived many places in the world and that coming back he realised that there were many peoples who were much stranger than Ulster’s protestants; he then got a second cheer when he said he wouldn’t have voted for the GFA again.

  • Charles_Gould

    Father Tim also pointed out that most nationalists did not support violence, he lamented the attempt to rewrite that, and he pointed out that there was a tragedy in unionism that it didn’t in the past offer catholics an equal society.

    A worthwhile conversation.

  • The vast majority of DUP people are ordinary decent people and would naturally welcome guests, no matter what the background. Thats hospitality.
    And when the “narrative” of the conference …the managed “story” is the presence of Fr Bartlett and O’Doherty then the delegates would be on message.
    Was Fr Bartlett involved in a Q & A Session? …as rev Norman Hamilton was at SDLP Conference in 2010?
    Or was Malachi O’Doherty involved in Q &A as Davey Adams was at SDLP Conference in 2011?
    I commented in both years that these were mistakes as I dont think delegates really need a lecture from people with no real interest in the Party.
    The SDLP do better with their own voice.
    The DUP would be poorly advised to pay too much attention to the voices outside the Party…even if the optics look good.

    In relation to Malachi O’Dohertys “perceived community background” ….Didnt he write a memoir on his young days? (So Id assume he has already referenced his background?)

  • Charles_Gould


    Perhaps because the DUP is in need of wiping out its anti-Catholic history and origin, inviting such people along to conference serves greater purpose than such invitations at the SDLP conference, as the SDLP does not have an anti-protestant history or origin.

  • I wasn’t really making a point about the fact that they were there.
    I was making a point about the extent of their interaction with the Conference.
    In the case of the SDLP …Rev Hamilton and Davey Adams were in Q&A sessions and did make contributions that were not exactly on message with SDLP thinking. To that extent SDLP were prepared to have a dialogue with outsiders. Frankly I think there is a time and place and a Party Conference is inappropriate.
    What I am unclear about is the extent to which Fr Bartlett and O’Doherty offered a critique of DUP policy….or if merely “being there” was the message.
    While the “institutional churches” have been criticised by Conflict Resolutionists for not doing enough to promote reconciliation …individual churchmen (“mavericks” if you like) have been praised for their vision. Personally I am a little skeptical but dont doubt the sincerity.
    I would think Fr Tim fits that category.

  • Charles_Gould

    Fr Tim seemed to make two main points in the audio-file:

    *he has a thesis about “porous boundaries” and how christian values, tolerance, etc is the way to go. This vision seemed be one of the two tribes being maintained but with softer edges and greater tolerance between them.

    *he was critical of unionism in the past for being discriminatory on job opportunities and so on. In that sense he was in “lecture” mode. But I don’t think he directly criticised DUP policy today.

    O’Doherty was critical of the whole assembly system, and the two main parties DUP and SF. He thinks the system perpetuates division. So in that sense he was critical of the DUP for the way they push all the buttons in tribal electioneering. However, he put these points in a somewhat soft way so it didn’t seem like “lecturing”.

    Neither of them are friends of the DUP but perhaps it made the conversation more interesting than if they had been?

  • jagmaster

    The DUP was founded by a rabid anti-Catholic fundamentalist preacher who believes the Pope to be the literal anti-Christ. Many Catholics still remember Paisley heckling the Pope at Strasbourg in 1988 and for other offensive anti-Catholic utterances.

    Despite the DUP’s more welcoming image, I suspect a lot of Catholics think it still contains members who share Paisley’s viewpoint.

  • Comrade Stalin


    The DUP have evolved to the point that they’re able to be polite to RCs. But that’s all.

  • Morpheus

    “I suspect a lot of Catholics think it still contains members who share Paisley’s viewpoint.”

    Can you name any DUPers that don’t?

  • Thanks for that Mr Gould.
    In the case of Fr Tim….its a speech which could have been made by any one of a group of broadly “Christian” clergymen and women….who give the public impression of having more in common with each other than their respective churches.

  • Politico68

    I have no doubt that Peter really believes in the possibility that cultural nationalists (CNs) might be persuaded to vote DUP. The problem for him here does not lie in the shady forests of religious identity but in the open fields of social democracy. In so far as the population might be split down national identity lines, the split also serves as a dividing line between those who lean towards a neo-liberal ideal and those that feel more drawn to a social democratic model.

    The experience of the CN community for the last 100 years where political representation is concerned has always been left of centre. One could argue of course that they may not be left enough for some people but that is actually not the point; the extreme right wing attitude of the DUP is off-putting, not so much because of the Unionist Tag, or indeed their pro capitalist stance but more because of the percieved lack of empathy regarding social issues.

    There is something ‘angry’ and ‘unforgiving’ about the DUP. Even if individuals within the party are perfectly kind and caring people; as a collective, the perception is of a party that is intolerant and lacking in compassion.

    Cultural Unionists(CU) have had this type of political representation for decades. This is not to say that the CU community is heartless and uncaring, it is merely to point out that their political representation has always been of the ‘right persuasion’ and as such, habit forming voting patterns are hard to break in both communities. So rather than looking at if from a Catholic / Protestant perspective; Peter Robinson needs to attract ‘soft’ left voters in order to shore up support for his party. The only way to do that is to initiate a change of ideal but while people like, Campbell, Poots et al are on the DUP ship it is unlikely to occur.

    Robinson and others are happy it seems to scream about the fact that Catholics are not going to vote for a UI, and that most of them dont even see themselves as Irish. He needs to be careful here in my view. It sounds somewhat ‘in your face’ and childish when we dont really have facts that are reliable to explain either of the above. We wont know how many Catholics will vote for a UI because there hasnt been a vote and it might be fair to suggest that it could be far easier to convince a CN to vote for unity that to vote against it.

    Equally, the ‘Northern Irish’ may not take to kindly to being lumped into any category by Robinson or anybody else who view the fact that they didnt claim to be British or Irish as proving something that as yet is unmeasured.

    Robinsons problem is squarely within the Unionist Block, he cannot hope to attract enough votes from the liberal left before the next election and with a new Unionist Party springing up practically every day now, the threat to his party’s support base is very real. CNs not voting for the DUP will have no serious affect on the Party’s vitality. But, CPs diverting their preferences to some of the smaller Unionists parties will be an epic disaster.

  • Neil

    Robinson’s annual ‘the taigs love us speech’. Kind of rings hollow a few weeks later when the printing presses start grinding out leaflets, while Greg the Geg is doing his usual and Ruth’s attending fleg protests and fantasising online. 😮 Expect the next unicorn cull imminently.

  • Neil

    The smileys on here suck btw. If it’s not a 🙂 or a :d it’s pointless.

  • brian2013


    It was a while ago, pre-Elliot’s leadership when the UUP looked and sounded less like Diet-DUP. I certainly wouldn’t vote for them now.