#dup89 NIO’s DUP conference report: “many of the speeches and sentiments expressed were depressingly predictable” #20yearrule

It’s not only journalists and bloggers who write up proceedings of political party conferences. The DUP conference in autumn 1989 was attended – as it still is – by officials from the Northern Ireland Office. The record inside a particularly battered and torn orange Political Developments in NI file – CENT-3-144A – notes that “many of the speeches and sentiments expressed were depressingly predictable but there were a couple of points of significant interest”.

First it is clear that the DUP is relaunching itself in a bid to become the main unionist party; to all intense and purposes the unionist pact is over.

Despite John Taylor and Peter Robinson being labelled as “pragmatists” who could “when the chips are down … work harmoniously together”, conference proceedings included “strong personal attacks on John Taylor” though the author notes that “this abuse may however have been largely for internal consumption and part of the DUP’s efforts to distance itself from the UUP”.

Second, the DUP is going all-out for devolution. The slogan for the Conference was “Devolution – power to the people” and Peter Robinson promised that this policy would be pursued “dynamically” and “regardless of whether other parties support us or stand in our way”.

The note finishes with the suggestion that “the UUP are finding it difficult to maintain their position [and] the Party will have to do something soon to reassert themselves in the face of both the DUP relaunch and the threat of their electoral support diminishing as a result of the Conservatives”. The NIO official adds that “it is conceivable that [Ken] Maginnis’s current profile could be a prelude to him seeking to bid for the leadership of the party”.

The same file notes the departure of the first Peace Train between Belfast and Dublin in a two sentence in the 22 December 1989 briefing for the Secretary of State.

Alan Meban. Normally to be found blogging over at Alan in Belfast where you’ll find an irregular set of postings, weaving an intricate pattern around a diverse set of subjects. Comment on cinema, books, technology and the occasional rant about life. On Slugger, the posts will mainly be about political events and processes. Tweets as @alaninbelfast.

Upcoming Slugger Events

The Mccluskey Civil Rights Summer School – Guest Speaker Bernadette McAliskey
Sat, 18 Aug 2018 |  Dungannon
Book your free place…

Inez McCormack Civil Rights Women’s Conference
10am, Saturday, 8 September 2018 | Public Records Office Belfast
Book your free place…

Madge Davison Lecture – ‘Inequality and Unfairness in 2018: What Would Madge Have Said?
7pm, Tues 25 Sept 2018 | Queen’s University Belfast
Book your free place…

The End Of Catholic Ireland?
7pm, Tues 6 Nov 2018 |  Belfast
Book your free place…