DUP ALL OUT FOR DEVOLUTION says NIO official in his report on the DUP’s 1989 conference. The DUP was seen to be relaunching itself as the main unionist. Analysis suggested the UUP were finding it difficult to maintain their position faced with the twin electoral threats of a resurgent DUP and Conservative growth.
DUP CONFERENCE celebrated Assembly election success and demonstrated party unity as it poked fun at the Opposition, criticised the Irish Government, and set out the DUP’s principles for Brexit negotiations. The leader’s speech was light on policy – perhaps understandable in the vacuum before specific Programme for Government action plans are announced.
There were few surprises during the Saturday sessions of the DUP conference. While the next party leader and First Minister were anointed with praise, neither Nigel Dodds or Arlene Foster were taking anything for granted and second guessing the inevitable view of the elected representatives who will shortly back their formal promotion to new roles. There was a sense of “less is more” about the agenda, with many loose cannons and critical friends “being seen but not heard”. Other than … Read more
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 … Read more
The DUP were in election mode at their annual conference this year. Gone was any outreach to soft unionist voters. Faced with a first-past-the-post election in May 2015, the DUP reverted to core values for core voters. Attendance in the main hall of La Mon Hotel for Peter Robinson’s address was a little down on the previous couple of years: the seats were all taken but there were fewer people standing at the back. New members I’d noticed a few … Read more
Peter Robinson light-heartedly suggested that DUP’s first ever spring policy conference today in Fermanagh “means that the G8 Summit has now been demoted to the second most important event in Fermanagh this year!” The full speech is available from the DUP website. The DUP leader reassured delegates that Nigel Dodds “will be back at work on Monday and happily he’s been given a clean bill of health”. He hoped that the health scare would “bring about a greater understanding of … Read more
Update: A few clarifications from the DUP: “the researchers approached us and it is a funded research programme to costs party nothing”. The funding is from the Leverhulme Trust. The questions were drafted by the researchers around a year ago, building on previous work with the Orange Order. – – – Membership survey forms were being handed out to members at the DUP conference as the party works with three English universities to slice and dice and understand the make-up … Read more
The DUP is undeniably changing. Ten years ago who would have thought that purveyors of the trade organisation representing sellers of the devil’s buttermilk – Pubs of Ulster – would be sponsoring a drinks reception at the DUP conference? Who would have predicted that a Irish government minister would be welcomed to the DUP conference and that delegates would speak highly of his understanding of the minutiae of CAP reform? Could you imagine a Conservative Secretary of State being willing … Read more
A quick post to remind political conference followers about the start of the conference season. UUP are tempting metaphors and analogies with their conference on 21 (members only) and 22 (public sessions) September in Titan Belfast. Last year Secretary of State Owen Paterson popped into the conference and said a few words on his way past; Mike Nesbitt gave a Cameron-style speech on the economy without notes challenging the party to: … become net contributors to Her Majesty’s Treasury. We … Read more
Most of the excitement regarding the DUP conference centred on Peter Robinson’s speech (or Sammy Wilson’s). In contrast Nigel Dodds’s has received less attention. The moving forward narrative was again played up with the repeated claim that the DUP are the party of Northern Ireland and the party to move Northern Ireland forward. There were swipes at the UUP and TUV as well as nationalists and republicans. Dodds’s moving forward was couched in somewhat more traditional unionist terms. His remarks … Read more
Sammy Wilson’s speech was billed as ‘finance’, but was in reality his usual mid-afternoon comic turn to pick up the spirits of the delegates who were still in the hall. You can hear the full 20 minute routine over on Audioboo (mp3 download). In one section about 5 minutes in, he was commenting on the recent Sinn Fein Ard Fheis in Belfast’s Waterfront Hall. He referred to the crèche – labelled by Sinn Fein (rather than Sammy) as ‘Long Crèche’ … Read more
Here’s the full text of Peter Robinson below. Few impressions are it was long, but I suspect that’s because he wanted to take his time to talk to his party and his base, before making the key pitch to the rest of us, which is we back a shared future, not the equal but opposite version so obvious in the must derided and criticised Cohesion, Sharing and Integration document… For those awake at the time, this was a senior theme … Read more