Peter Robinson on Westminster and defending Ashers Bakery from the “Big Brigade” of the Equality Commission #DUP14

As things wrapped up in the afternoon at the DUP Conference, I managed to get some time with the First Minister, Peter Robinson to discuss the conference, the upcoming election and the DUP’s support for Asher’s Bakery.

I began by asking him how he felt the mood of his conference was this year?

Credit-Kelvin Boyes

Credit-Kelvin Boyes

Not surprisingly, Robinson told me that the party was in “good spirits” this year as they had a large overflow of delegates in the main hall, as well as, many successful events throughout the two days.

Now, that I had gotten the nice aspects out of the conference out of the way, I was interested to know about the upcoming election and his views on the various marginal seats that his party or a unity candidate would be fighting?

Robinson identifies three seats, Fermanagh/South Tyrone, East Belfast and South Belfast as places where they can be taken from Nationalists or Republicans or “those who support Nationalists or Republicans” and he says this is part of the conversation he is having with the UUP leader, Mike Nesbitt.

I was curious though to know what he made of Nesbitt’s offer at this conference to step down in North Belfast, for a clear run at Fermanagh/South Tyrone.

Robinson did point out that there was a lot of baggage between the DUP and UUP in Fermanagh/South Tyrone, but that with an agreed candidate last time they came within 4 votes of winning that seat and that it is a “tried and tested” method of producing success. The First Minister did point out to me that he did not question, Nesbitt’s sincerity in making the offer as he believes that both of them “want to do what is best for Unionism as a whole.”

On the key seat of East Belfast, Robinson had dealt with Naomi Long before, what advice did he have for Gavin Robinson as he attempted to take her on in 2015?

He told me that in 2010 there was “a very special set of circumstances”, but that less than a year later the DUP came back strongly in East Belfast winning nearly half as many more votes as the Alliance party, with himself topping the poll and winning the 2011 assembly election. He believes that Gavin Robinson is the best candidate for the job and can deliver the seat back to the Unionist fold.

One of the main talks of the conference was the profile given to Asher’s Bakery and the persistent plugs given to it throughout the entire event, so I asked the First Minister, why his party had given them that level of support?

Robinson told me that a situation has developed where there isn’t any great enthusiasm for recognising the rights of people of faith in Northern Ireland and that they have to be put on the back burner so that other small minority groups can have their own way. He told me that this case seems to be the “big brigade” of the Equality Commission coming into to put public resources at the disposal of those who oppose Asher’s Bakery.

For the First Minister, he criticises what on the surface appears to be an attempt to discover what the exact law is in the area as really a bid to “crush” a small family owned business. He believes that if the real intent had been to discover what the exact regulations in this area were, then equal funding should have been provided to both sides to allow them to make their case. In this instance, Robinson believes that it is important for politicians to stand up and not to leave a business to hang on their own.

Full audio here

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  • Ernekid

    Peter Robinson is a real nasty piece of work isn’t he? I fear history will not be kind to his legacy.

  • chrisjones2

    Which bit?

    I support full equality for gay people including equal marriage rights but with protections for those whose faith may be challenged if they are forced to do certain things. Live and let live.

    On most issues I despise Robinsons narrow church based politics But hes right about the equality commission. This body has itself one of the worst records for inequality in employment Fixing that is too difficult so it trundles on taking cases against the butcher / baker / candlestick make.

    I think other voices are right. Abolish the HRC give the equality commission that role too and halve its budget so it has to focus strategically. For a start what organisation needs 16 – yes 16 – commissioners for a place this size

  • Ernekid

    I suppose Peter Robinson’s legacy will be the man who was presented with a unique opportunity in 2008 to move Northern Ireland forward on a genuine cross community basis, and promptly pissed it away by pandering to the sectarian elements in his party. A man who consistently failed to show the leadership that was necessary and who accelerated the denaturing of the Northern Irish political process into little more than sectarian power playing, A man who stayed on too long and did too little when it really mattered.

    When he retires I don’t think he’ll be remembered fondly, On the other hand Martin McGuinness will be remembered as the man who laughed with Paisley and shook the hand of the Queen, the man who crossed the aisle to break down the barriers, his personal past notwithstanding.

  • Comrade Stalin

    This body has itself one of the worst records for inequality in employment Fixing that is too difficult so it trundles on taking cases against the butcher / baker / candlestick make.

    You think the EC takes spurious cases because there are too many Catholics working in it ?

  • Comrade Stalin

    If Robinson had stood up to his party and stayed the course there would have been a split, so I guess it’s more accurate to say that he put party unity ahead of everything else.

  • chrisjones2

    Absolutely not. But it has lost the run of itself on this one.

    Its in danger of winning the case on strict legal grounds and losing the war.

    And my point was and remains – it needs to sort itself out as well

  • barnshee

    “You think the EC takes spurious cases because there are too many Catholics working in it ?”

    The EC has a religious imbalance which it has failed to correct over 20 years–so make of that what you will (try an FOI if you like) Were it any other employer it would be taken to– er—- the EC.

    What has happened -as employers have “wised” up and political correctness has reduces complaints they clutch at straws– otherwise a lot of seats will lose bums,

    http://www.belfasttelegraph.co.uk/news/local-national/northern-ireland/shop-owners-14month-ordeal-at-false-racism-and-sexism-claims-30758645.html

    In today`s climate of budgets under stress a lower profile might help

  • Morpheus
  • Bryan Magee

    Deft handling by Peter Robinson of some tough questions.

  • Niall Chapman

    Well Jamie, hows tricks?