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The Blanket - A Journal of Protest & Dissent

Reading the Tea Leaves

Do recent statements from the DUP leadership indicate the party is becoming integrationist by forsaking its life-long devotion to devolution now that it has a sizeable Westminster team?

Dr. John Coulter • 19 August 2005

DUP boss Ian Paisley has warned there may not be movement on devolution for up to two years, whilst his deputy pours cold water on the notion of speaking rights in the Dail for Northern MPs and MEPs.

Can these statements be dismissed as the DUP shooting from the lip again with its usual negative rhetoric, or could we actually read something more constructive in terms of a change of political direction?

In reality, given the concessions to republicans following the IRA's 'dump arms' statement in July, the DUP needs a carrot to lure it, not a stick to beat it back into legislative government in the North.

So why wait until January and the re-emergence of the November 2004 deal between the Paisleyites and Sinn Fein? Why not make Ian Paisley Secretary of State in the Northern Ireland Office with Mark Durkan as his deputy?

Since it became unionism's leading voice, the Paisley party has always been wary of upsetting its volatile religious fundamentalist hardliners. It's all right to speak at community festivals in predominantly nationalist areas of the North and the Republic, but not to TDs in Leinster House.

Indeed, it will have to do some very clever tip-toeing and side-stepping if the fundamentalists are not to take the hump over talks with Catholic Church leaders.

The DUP's modernising spin doctors can sell these supposed talks with the Catholic Church hierarchy as part of a ploy to use Archbishop Sean Brady to put more pressure on the Sinn Fein to disband the Provos.

Nevertheless, it seems the DUP now has a Plan B should the fundamentalists refuse to give their blessing to any proposed deal with the republican movement which would see a legislative Assembly returned to Stormont with Big Ian safely installed as First Minister.

Since it was formed in 1971, the DUP has always been a devolutionist party, with a 'bring back Stormont' mentality. Direct Rule from Westminster, or talk of an Ulster Unionist-style integrationist policy were largely viewed as political boogie men by Paisleyism.

But now the DUP also has an ace card which it previously never owned in the political pack - a significantly increased Westminster team with the possibility of two more seats in another four years' time if there are agreed DUP candidates in South Belfast and Fermanagh South Tyrone.

The Paisleyites also want their fair share of peers in the House of Lords. A Blair Government may continue to staff the NIO with mainland Labour MPs whilst Paisley is still DUP boss.

However, if the Assembly collapses permanently beyond mere suspension, a Gordon Brown Government may well be tempted to staff the NIO with Ulster MPs from the DUP and SDLP.

This is assuming the DUP cannot move ahead with Sinn Fein because of the issue of IRA decommissioning and criminality. Indeed, with such a commanding lead over the UUP in the Commons, the DUP will be sorely tempted to take the Ulster Unionists' former 1980s policy and call for its MPs to be installed as NIO Ministers.

Even in this scenario, Sinn Fein could toss a spanner in the works by deciding to take the oath of allegiance and its Westminster seats. Martin McGuinness may well become education minister again, not in a Stormont Executive, but as an NIO minister with portfolio.

However, whether the DUP is in government at Stormont or through the NIO, the Ulster Unionists must still become the voice of radical opposition, holding the Paisleyites to account on their decisions.

A Radical Right UUP will have to remain there until the passing of Paisley senior when the dogfight for his successor begins.

Through his powerful persona, Paisley has managed to keep the rival wings of his party in toe. Without his physical presence, however, the modernisers who want to cut a deal with Sinn Fein, will go head-to-head with the religious fundamentalists who traditionally view the Pope as being part of the empire of the Anti Christ.

At some point, a post Paisley DUP will split, with the outcome likely to be the fundamentalists forming their own version of the Protestant Reformation Party. At this point, the Ulster Unionists must be prepared to form a pact with the DUP modernisers to fend off the influence of the fundamentalists.

Eventually, the UUP will have to formally merge with the DUP to form one organisation, known simply as The Unionist Party.

It is in the immediate post Paisley era that Ulster Unionism's liberal wing will come to the fore as a vital tool in the negotiations to merge the two parties.





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The Blanket - A Journal of Protest & Dissent



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Index: Current Articles

29 August 2005

Other Articles From This Issue:

Historic Censorship Battle Set for High Court

Evident Steps Needs Support
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Reading the Tea Leaves
Dr John Coulter

London death shows North policing problems not unique
Eamonn McCann

Mo Mowlam
David Adams

A Snapshot of Gerry Fitt
Fr Sean Mac Manus

The Big Picture in Colombia
Mick Hall

Fred A Wilcox

Times Are A-Changing
Michael Youlton

Blame Vulture Capitalism, not God, for Pat Robertson!
William Hughes

Fundamentalist Holyman: The Singing Bigot
Anthony McIntyre

Of Lesser Imps and Demons
Eoghan O’Suilleabhain

No Victory So Sweet
Anthony McIntyre

17 August 2005

Changes Needed All Over
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Get Tough Now
Dr John Coulter

What for the Future?
Mick Hall

Why has Gerry Adams never finished Ulysses?
Seaghán Ó Murchú

Bombing London is No Longer Good News for the IRA
Anthony McIntyre

The Conflict Encapsulated
David Adams

No More Second Class Citizens
Paul Little

Nothing Has Changed
Anthony McIntyre

Venezuela: Lessons of Struggle
Tomas Gorman



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