Round-up of press reaction to DUP conference #dup14

So what did the Monday papers think of the DUP’s weekend conference in La Mon?

In an Irish Times opinion piece under the headline of “DUP leader’s subtle message of co-operation to end gridlock” Gerry Moriarty pulled out Peter Robinson’s statement – buried in his speech – about the need for the DUP and Sinn Fein to do business together.

There is still a bitter rump in the party that hates hearing that line but Robinson realised that, in the face of the current talks aimed at taking the North out of political gridlock, that message must be reinforced.

It is either that or Stormont collapses, although he didn’t spell it out in such graphic terms. And neither did the DUP leader overplay the theme of co-operation. But at least the 400 delegates would have exited the conference knowing somewhere in their subconscious that, strange and all as it might seem, the DUP and Sinn Féin are inextricably linked: they survive together or sink together.

Sammy WilsonGerry had advice for Sammy, “who like the London mayor generally goes by his Christian name” …

… his was a tired routine on Saturday. If he has serious leadership ambitions “Sammy” needs to figure whether he is engaged in burlesque or politics. But that’s the way DUP conferences work: a subtle message weaved into a greater speech from the party leader while other speakers dug into the old enemy with toilet and fairy cake humour.

Maybe Sammy will pay attention to the Belfast Telegraph survey of DUP members at conference on Saturday?

While a surprisingly high percentage of members were happy that Peter Robinson leads the party into the 2016 Assembly election, if he was to stand down, Nigel Dodds and Arlene Foster command support while Sammy Wilson is a non-runner. Perhaps  less expected was the disconnect between strident party policy and whipped voting on abortion motions and delegates’ less-fixed thinking.

Should Peter Robinson lead the DUP into the 2016 Assembly election?

  • 90% Yes
  •    8% No
  •    2% Don’t know

If Peter Robinson stepped down as leader of the DUP who would you pick to succeed him as leader?

  • 50% Nigel Dodds
  • 34% Arlene Foster
  •   6% Sammy Wilson
  •   0% Someone else
  • 10% Don’t know

Should Northern Ireland’s abortion laws be relaxed to make it easier to obtain an abortion here; made more restrictive; or kept the way they are?

  • 22% Relaxed
  •   6% More-restrictive
  • 72% Kept as they are

Irish News front page Mon24Nov2014The Irish News front page led this morning with Gregory Campbell’s speech in which he reheated and further whipped his curry yoghurt stew mélange while wrapping it with his “toilet paper” comments about Sinn Fein’s wishlist for an Irish Language Act. Social media reaction included comment from Kyle Paisley, son of the late Lord Bannside.

The party’s East Derry representative has also faced backlash on social media from Kyle Paisley … who branded him “wry-mouthed” and a “liability”.

In his analysis piece, John Manley commented:

It may be standing up for Northern Ireland [the strapline for the conference] but its members take a very narrow view of what characterises the citizens.

Big business and big farmers notwithstanding, if you’re not a Christian, heterosexual, English-speaking unionist, it’s unlikely your interests are represented here …

Take the actions of the DUP’s dour clown prince Gregory Campbell, a man seeking to extend his triple-jobbing status as MLA, MP and daily Nolan Show contributor by assuming the role of culture war battering ram …

There’s a real prospect of the DUP increasing its influence in Westminster next year in a hung parliament but on the weekend’s evidence it is debatable whether it has the maturity to use that power responsibility in the interests of all the people of Northern Ireland.

In the Belfast Telegraph, Adrian Rutherford brought reaction from Micheal O Duibh (chief executive of Comhairle na Gaelscolaiochta, the body responsible for the promotion of Irish-medium schooling) who took part in a panel discussion at the DUP conference on Friday.

Mr O Duibh … said [Gregory’s] remarks were disrespectful …

“I gave a very warm céad míle fáilte to everybody and brought across a very strong, positive message that the Irish language and Irish medium education is there for any parent who chooses it for their child.

“To bring that positive message to the conference, and then the next day to hear the comments from Gregory Campbell felt very much like one step forward and two steps back.”

“In one way it was positive that I was invited to the conference,” he added. “In another way it gives me an understanding of how Gregory feels or what his position is on the language.

“When you hear the party leader talk about a shared future, I wonder how he, as leader, can talk about that shared future when his party colleague feels it is okay to comment on the language in this way.”

In the News Letter Sam McBride reported that “the DUP’s recent internal strife remained just beneath the surface throughout the conference” while noting “Jenny Palmer, the DUP councillor who has accused party colleague Stephen Brimstone of attempting to bully her (something he denies), did not seem to share the wild enthusiasm of most party members as Mr Robinson entered”.

He also picked up on Peter Robinson’s comments that the consultation around the DUP’s “bill to introduce a pension for ‘severely disabled victims of the terrorist campaign’” had finished. On Saturday the party leader underlined that “this bill will explicitly exclude terrorists from receiving this pension support”. Sam correctly noted:

Such a move would be politically tricky to get through Stormont, given that Sinn Fein would only have to persuade one SDLP member to sign a petition of concern to veto it. And, given that the current law makes no distinction between perpetrators and victims, it could also face legal hurdles even if it became law. However, if the DUP was to secure such a law, it would be a significant achievement for the party.

Sam’s opinion piece reckoned that “on the evidence of recent weeks and Saturday’s conference, the various factions have resolved to set aside their differences until after May’s General Election”. He concluded: “Mr Robinson has made no secret of his desire to leave on a high; his words increasingly suggest that he may see the chance to anoint a Prime Minister as such a moment”.

Liam Clarke summed up hard-line vibe at the conference:

All this marks a circling of the wagons by the DUP. If all the views expressed at the weekend are honoured, it is hard to see how any DUP leader can reach agreement with nationalists once the election campaign is over.

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  • Dan

    I’d sum the DUP up thus….boring, stale and party before country.

  • barnshee

    “I’d sum the DUP up thus….boring, stale and party before country.”

    Yet they will be voted for in droves at the next election

  • Neil

    I do wonder. On one hand you have a cultural movement that by and large is non intrusive, non violent, easy to become involved in, easy to work at etc., and on the other you have a cultural movement that requires millions in policing, causes endless aggravation, inconvenience and a fair amount of violence. On one hand Fleggory demands respect for his culture while demonstrating a fairly unamusing, dull disrespect for the other side’s culture.

    He shouldn’t be too surprised then if in the ongoing talks the DUP’s stated aim of letting our/are boys ‘up the road’ (poor fellas have been living in a caravan for 18 months now) is now somewhat further off than it was two weeks ago. The idea that a great, great deal more tolerance is required to put up with the OO’s yearly antics than is required to ignore someone speaking a language you don’t understand obviously hasn’t occurred to old Fleggers there.

    Anyway, given past form we know that the DUP could agree to basically anything. They just change their mind at a later date anyway. The Shinners need to wise up

  • SeaanUiNeill

    Oh dear, barnshee, ” voting by standing order” it’s called. That’s why you are able to say it’s going to happen. This is exactly why I get the giggles every time someone says “Democracy” and “Northern Ireland” in the same sentence……

  • aor26

    Sounds like the Irish Times was very generous to the D.U.P…. if a Fianna Fail T.D publicly mocked Ulster Scots they would be rather less generous

  • kalista63

    On this and the welfare bill, talk radio has had a fair share of callers identifying themselves as unionists or DUP voters who are outraged at the party.

    Someone seems to have given them the nudge that boasting about how they will team up with Dave in May, should he win, isn’t smart when you rely on a working class vote. This weekend has seen them vaguely change the narrative to ‘what is in their community’s interest’ but that won’t wash.

    Again, with Campbell’s childish behaviour, unionists have been calling to distance the,selves from his comment. Unwisely, the party put his speech up on their site, covering the whole party in his shame. That said, watching the reaction in the room, the party had already done that.

    There used to be talk on here about unionists unable to,vote for them and then Tom Elliot (and subsequently Mike Nesbitt) took their party down the DUP path, including teaming up with groups linked to still active gangsters. Where in heaven does a unionist go to place their vote, now? As has been pointed out today, the majority of them don’t vote and I think that number is about to substantially grow.

  • Morpheus

    It should be sending alarm bells ringing that that the future of the union lies in the hands of apathetic voters

  • Ernekid

    Its a shame that John McCallister was unable to get a vehicle for moderate unionism off the ground thanks to Basil McCrea’s ego and his own hubris.

    If NI21 had actually managed to tap into a strand of mainstream moderate unionism instead of trying to be the ‘Next Big Thing’ then they might not have crashed and burnt so spectacularly.

  • tmitch57

    Actually I think that the two main unionist parties are counting on Alliance saving their bacon when a referendum on the border finally comes.

  • tmitch57

    Alan,
    Nice post, but you forgot to mention the question in the BT poll about the DUP succession question. It look likes Sammy is out of the running and Nigel has a considerable lead on Arlene. It would appear that the House of Dodds is the rising dynasty in the DUP after the Paisleys and the Robinsons have had their turns.

  • kalista63

    I agree to an extent. I saw some of their stuff on health and education and it seemed to be right wing. I was talking to a guy from a protestant background at the weekend and he was saying that, yes, he’s a unionist but he’s left wing, supports Palestine, doesn’t believe religion being part of politics etc.

    He seriously objected to the assumptions made about him, when declared a unionist, by HIS OWN community.

  • Tacapall

    When and if a referendum does come the result is a forgone conclusion, our overlord will only allow a border poll if he or she believes there is a possibility of a positive result.

  • SeaanUiNeill

    I had a friend when I was in Film in London, an old socially aware MacMillan style Tory who used to ask me (a Communitarian Anarchist!) just where such as he had a political home since the Thatcher Putch. We found a great deal in common in what might be described as the “Art of being Ruled.” Such people have no-one to vote for in modern politics if they are honest and recognise that “voting for the party my father voted for” now means voting for a very different, much wilder creature to that the father knew.

    Thank you kalista63, for a very sensible (in both senses) posting! The sheer sillyness of much of what the DUP does in presenting itself to the public quite shocks me. The Campbell issue, something I see as having a very unpleasant undertow in how utterly the demand for the Irish language to be ended is seemingly acceptable, is simply one very public instance. And as you say, with the UUP concerned about the political dangers of the long split Unionist vote, this drags them also down to the same level when they allign with their nemesis in the face of SFs usually more world-public conscious self presentation.

    And, as you say, “Where in heaven does a unionist go to place their vote, now?” I take it you mean a Unionist who wishes to maintain a British identity that holds for a moderate and tolerant evaluation of those views one does not hold! All too many, in Norfolk’s phrase from “A Man for all Seasons” follow what is moving rather than look to deeper things. And as you say the recognition that no one on offer actually represents anything you honestly think does effectivly disenfranchise incressingly more and more decent people who cannot lie to themselves about what their proposed leaders really mean. I see this as a positive thing, rather than Morph’s characterisation of this as apathy. It suggests to me the begining of an actual change, rather than the maintainance of old tired things by half hearted voting.

    I personally think that a United Ireland is something that would offer us all a much richer cultural soil, but like my grandfather’s old mentor Francis Joseph Bigger, I want all of those decent tolerant people sharing the island with me to feel that they have a wecoming home in this, and should not have to loose anything they feel is truly precious to them. In any reversal of roles, I’d not want the terrible mistakes made in the treatmnet of the minority during partition to ever be repeated. Alas, this is what the likes of Gregory seem to be demanding from the future!

  • SeaanUiNeill

    As in Scotland, Tacapall! And just look at how they panicked when the result was in doubt! But such a delight that they accidently gave those Scots not mired in Stockholm syndrome the ralling call of “Again the ’45”!!!!

  • SeaanUiNeill

    it is such a pity that a cross community socially aware concensus could not be forged across the “tribes”!!!

  • streetlegal

    Dodds is in fact now leading the DUP in all but name. The DUP strategy for the negotiations is a Dodds strategy – the very same strategy for which he was the driver in the Haas talks this time last year. Simply to keep talking and talking through all of the deadlines – but refuse to conclude any agreement with Sinn Fein.