Want to hear a joke? “The DUP’s agenda dominates the political process”!
The fantasy world of the DUP and its voters came crashing down around them in the space of a few days last week. In their delusional world – which became even more heady when the DUP outpolled the Ulster Unionist Party to become the chosen representatives of the unionist people - the DUP are masters of the universe and the UUP “sell-out” would not only end but be reversed.
The first laugh came when Bob McCartney decided to help the DUP by standing aside in North Down, assured by Peter Robinson that it would be a generation before the DUP would consider sharing power with republicans. As it turned out, it was in North Down that the Lady Sylvia Hermon of the UUP retained her seat!
Paisley told the electorate that voting for him would ‘stop the rot’. There would be, “no more concessions to the IRA and no more rewards for IRA/Sinn Fein…
“The only way that IRA/Sinn Fein can be defeated is if the DUP is declared by the majority of voters to be Northern Ireland’s largest party and the authentic voice of Northern Ireland… This can become Ulster’s finest hour. May God define the right.”
His manifesto claimed: “Today it is the DUP’s agenda that dominates the political process with London, Dublin and Washington accepting our demands as fundamental prerequisites. The pan-nationalist front has been fractured and Sinn Fein is more isolated than ever before.”
He promised the voters that a mandatory coalition with Sinn Fein under the D’Hondt system of voting, “or any similar arrangement”, was out of the question. The party opposed the reduction of police numbers and moves to scrap the reserve and campaigned for the retention of smaller police barracks, particularly in rural areas.
Back in December the party demanded that IRA decommissioning be filmed. Certainly, after the Northern Bank robbery and the killing of Robert McCartney the DUP appeared to have the support of the British and Irish governments for this demand, which had been rejected by republicans as an attempt to humiliate them. Or “wear sackcloth and ashes in public”, as an ebullient Paisley had put it.
However, with the formal announcement from the IRA of an end to its armed campaign republicans in one fell sweep gained the upper hand, turned the tables on their critics and exposed the fraud that the DUP had pulled on its voters.
Sean Kelly, who should never have been re-imprisoned, was immediately released in what was clearly a political move by the British government which actually usurped the role of the Sentence Review Commission.
The disbandment of the Royal Irish Regiment – to the humiliation of Paisley - was announced on radio.
The dismantling of security structures began almost right away.
A decrease in troop deployments and an end to British army support for the PSNI was announced.
In a slap in the face to Paisley (who had been justifiably demanding increased representation on the Policing Board in accordance with his party’s electoral strength) the British government announced that it had asked the nineteen current members of the Policing Board to continue to serve into next year. The pretext was for reasons of stability and continuity but clearly it was also hoping that there might be a thaw in Sinn Fein’s attitude to the PSNI.
The DUP’s Sammy Wilson described this announcement as “an attempt by the government to ensure that it has got a board that will drive through the agenda which is required to placate Sinn Fein on policing.”
As the BBC’s political correspondent, Mark Devenport, put it: “Whatever the security chiefs say, disbanding the RIR is a political plus for Sinn Fein and a minus for the DUP. The DUP has also taken hits in relation to the extension of the current Policing Board, the release of Shankill bomber Sean Kelly and the abandonment by the governments of any support for photographs of decommissioning.”
Furthermore, Devenport said, “The party is bracing itself for the legislation in the autumn on ‘on the runs’.”
To the tribute of the Republican Movement and its friends the organisation brought home ‘the Colombia Three’, safe and sound, immune from extradition, in what must have been a sophisticated and anxious undertaking which garnered the usual hysterical outcry from unionists.
Then – to the backdrop of unionist complaints about an ‘embryonic all-Ireland government’ - Taoiseach Bertie Ahern announced that his government is considering giving MPs from the six counties the right to sit on Dail committees in relation to the North and the outworking of the Belfast Agreement, as lobbied by Sinn Fein.
A few months ago the DUP met with the Irish government, thus compromising one of its fundamental principles about the South having no say in the affairs of the North. But it now looks likely that in the future it could well be dealing with an Irish government which includes and is influenced by Sinn Fein ministers!
At the weekend the British government published proposals that the requirement in the North to register annually for elections is to be dropped – as demanded by Sinn Fein. Instead it is leaving it up to the Chief Electoral Officer to decide when the rolls need refreshed and is also proposing that people should be able to get on the register up until eleven days before an election.
All of the above creates an appreciative context for the second joke of the week: news that Ian is being tipped for elevation to Queen Elizabeth’s Privy Council, which would make him a Right Honourable Member – or eejit, depending on your point of view. To butter up the household it is also being suggested that Mrs Ian Paisley, Eileen, could be on her way to the House of Lords.
There, Lady Erin no doubt will be able to tell the world in her maiden speech how much the DUP’s agenda dominates the political process!
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© 2007 Irish Author and Journalist - Danny Morrison