Posted By: December 27, 2014

 Brian Feeney.Irish News ( Belfast). Wednesday, December 24, 2014


THE financial patches painstakingly sewed together over the last few days may work but as for the rest, the usual rancour and finger pointing about implementation. The reason? The DUP is a divided party incapable of negotiating in good faith on anything but finance. The split in the DUP opened wide to the public view in 2014. People first got a peek in November 2006 when it became apparent Paisley was going to do a deal with Sinn Féin. The flat earthers, hot gospellers and just plain ornery bigots who joined the party, attracted by Paisley’s ranting when he was a wrecking outsider, were horrified. You might remember some senior figures, the dirty dozen, including four of the party’s nine MPs, Dodds, Campbell, McCrea and Simpson, clubbed together to sign a statement rejecting the notion of joining an executive with Sinn Féin. One roar from Paisley and they all scattered. The only man who had the bottle to do anything about it was their MEP Jim Allister who left the party to set up the TUV. However, the split over sharing power with Fenians remained and became more obvious when Robinson took over as leader in a party coup in 2008. Never enjoying the unswerving loyalty Paisley had, Robinson has been compelled to zigzag between his own diminishing group of party supporters and the growing number who want rid of him and an end to working the Good Friday Agreement. There was nearly a mutiny in February 2010 at Hillsborough when Robinson agreed to devolving policing and justice which Depooty Dawds had said would not happen in a political lifetime. That took place in the midst of Irisgate when Robinson had stepped aside as first minister for a few weeks after his wife’s affair with a teenager went public. Robinson never fully recovered his credibility since then.


Despite losing his Westminster seat in May 2010 he did have a brief period of success in 2011 after that year’s assembly election but the DUP flat earthers quickly imprisoned him again. Since then he has been unable to deliver anything at Stormont. We now know just how wide the divide is thanks to the infamous and startling Paisley interviews in January this year, and that Robinson and Dodds – “the cheeky sod”, as the ladylike Baroness Paisley of St George’s called him – unceremoniously booted Paisley out in 2008, earning the undying hatred of the Paisleyites. In that respect the most fascinating display of ‘the split’ was Paisley’s memorial service in October in the Ulster Hall, the scene of some of his most inflammatory incitements to hatred and violence. The Paisley family organised the service. Journalists noted with interest not who was present among the 800 invited but rather, who was absent: Wilson, Dodds, Morrow, Donaldson and many others who texted their displeasure to journalists. These indignities came only a few weeks after Robinson had quelled an attempted palace coup against himself by sacking two of his ministers and juggling committee chairs. In short, what Sinn Féin have to deal with is a party many of whose senior members oppose the Good Friday Agreement, don’t want to work it and wish they had the guts to do what Jim Allister did because they agree with him. Most of these people and their supporters are opposed to reason and science and think the 21st century is a mistake. They fundamentally disagree with the Northern Ireland that emerged in 1998 with its checks and balances and equality legislation. They deride, defy and subvert the bodies established under the GFA. Even if the parties agreed to establish the cat’s cradle of panels, units and agencies about flags, Orange marches and the past (and flags and marches have been pushed down the plughole) these flat earthers would pressurise the DUP into refusing to operate them just as they have done with the Parades Commission. The very fact that such a complicated set of arrangements was proposed by Haass and now again in the latest talks is a clear demonstration that the executive can’t cope with such matters because the DUP doesn’t recognise Sinn Féin’s right to an equal say over them, therefore won’t work them and know there’s no sanction for refusing.