The rumours of discontent within the usually closed ranks of the DUP spilled into the public domain in sensational manner with the latest intemperate outburst of party leader Peter Robinson this week. The identity of the lemmings has since been the source of much speculation, with The Irish News’ John Manley listing as the “core dissenters” the trio of Edwin Poots, Paul Givan (not Girvan) and Paul Frew- all suffering demotions in this week’s reshuffle. To this list, add Lord Morrow, who’s Nolan interview mentioned by Comrade Stalin in an earlier thread from Mick indicated a clear, ahem, lack of confidence in Robinson as leader. The Nolan team’s ‘High Noon’ audioboom is well worth a listen for an entertaining yet informative insight into the state of play within the DUP.
Of course, the House of Paisley, in mourning since the death of former party founder, Ian Paisley Snr, has a famously strained relationship with the condescending ignoramus (to quote Kyle Paisley’s description of Robinson) who orchestrated the political coup which ousted the late Paisley Snr from the position of party leader. Manley cites DUP sources as suggesting that Paisley Jnr was “behind the briefing which fuelled summer speculation over Peter Robinson’s departure.”
Having decided to so publicly -and brutally- attack his internal critics in what The Belfast Telegraph editorial described as an “incredibly ill advised tactic”, Robinson has created a new problem: how to present a united front with an election on the horizon and amidst heightened expectations that his leadership era is drawing to a close.
Robinson now faces the not inconsiderable task as leader of going to the electorate and recommending people vote for party candidates he has so publicly demeaned as ‘lemmings.’ The purported lemming ring leader, Ian Paisley Jnr, will be announced as a candidate in the forthcoming Westminster elections, and the Robinson outburst is likely to prove grist to the mill of DUP opponents within unionism, who will seize upon it to highlight the now publicly visible divisions within the lead unionist party.
Ahead of that election, the other main unionist parties are once again jockeying for position on the well-trodden and crowded ground of the Unionist Right. The spectacle of ‘liberal’ Ulster Unionist Party councillor, Alex Redpath, joining loyalists at Camp Twaddell yesterday to make the weekly ‘let them home’ address, demanding a parade inquiry lest another parade route be eternally lost to Protestants illustrates just how far from the centre ground political unionism remains (and it was touching to see in the backdrop the Protestant Coalition’s Bill Hill on hand with the PUP’s Billy Hutchinson to give Alex some support. I’m sure he appreciated it.)
This is important as it will have the effect of ensuring that the battle for unionist votes focuses on personal as opposed to political divisions. That will benefit those seeking to make electoral hay out of emerging DUP divisions in the time ahead.
Could it be that The House of Paisley has determined that the time for Icarus’ ignoble descent has arrived?