Posted By: November 28, 2013

First Minister Peter Robinson since he assumed office had refused to be interviewed by the Irish News — the major Nationalist/Catholic newspaper in Northern Ireland. He finally ended his strange  boycott on Friday, November 22, 2013. Bian Feeney comments on this strange state of affairs. 


Brian Feeney. Irish News ( Belfast). Wednesday, November 27, 2013
LAST Friday Peter Robinson gave an interview which this paper had been requesting for many years. Now we know the main reason Robinson ignored the request for so long. His reason was quite understandable – he had nothing to say. It was superficial, slippery and full of easily refuted assertions.

For example, he claimed that “many from the Catholic community will be voting DUP”. For years political scientists have probed voting patterns in the north. One at least has remained constant. Fewer than one per cent of Catholics vote DUP.

It’s hard to measure the exact percentage because it’s so low it’s statistically insignificant and in polls is always within the margin of error.

Still, look at the assertion and you’ll see how silly it is. In places where a nationalist candidate has no chance of being elected like North Down, Catholics invariably vote Alliance.

They used to give the UUP a preference but the current leader has put an end to that. Elsewhere they vote nationalist. Where is the evidence that Catholics in any numbers vote DUP? It doesn’t exist. No study has ever shown such a result. Robinson seems to operate on the assumption that no one will say to him he’s talking complete rubbish. Probably he has become used to that from operating in a party where all decisions are taken on a vote of one-nil.

After his party conference he extolled the extent of his support saying all votes among MPs, MLAs and party members were unanimously in favour of him. Hmm. Sounds more like the Supreme Soviet than a democratic party.

Why would Catholics vote for the DUP?

Robinson says because it’s pro-business and its stance on moral issues would appeal to Catholics whereas on the nationalist side the choice is “a left-wing or far left-wing party”. You don’t suppose he means Sinn Fein and the SDLP, do you? The SDLP is now more Catholic than it has ever been since its foundation. Some of its fundamentalist Catholics are on the assembly’s all-party Pro-Life Group linked to the extremist Precious Life organisation. The SDLP’s recent record on so-called moral issues has been just as fundamentalist Christian as the DUP’s. The only difference is they don’t subscribe to the DUP’s preferred creationist codswallop, well, not in public anyway.

As for the accusation that the SDLP is a left-wing party, not even Robinson can believe that. The party’s three MPs take the Labour whip at Westminster. Would you say ed Miliband leads a left-wing party? Left-of-centre maybe, but the centre is now right of where Ted heath, the Conservative prime minister in 1970, was. As for Robinson’s remarks about parades and flag protests, they were complete hogwash. It has taken him a year to criticise unequivocally the damage to business provocative parades in Belfast cause. Where was he last December? Running scared.

The emptiness of his Irish News interview was matched only by the nonsense he talked in his conference speech. Unionism is at “its best when it is open and inviting, not narrow and exclusive”. Is this the same guy who ran for cover a year ago and invented the so-called Unionist Forum instead of having the guts to stand with Martin McGuinness against the crazies on the streets?

Is this the guy who prefers joint unionist candidates as in the Mid-Ulster by-election to produce sectarian solidarity to maximise the vote? So much for open and inviting.

In his interview with this paper and in his conference speech Robinson demonstrated once again his limits.

A bean counter with no sign of any vision. A man who talked on Saturday about continuing on a journey. To where, he cannot say because he has no idea. A man who signed a letter encouraging defiance of the Parades Commission yet now claims he urged people to respect its decisions.

This is a man who retains in office Edwin Poots who has lost more court cases because of his extreme beliefs than England has lost wickets to Australia. He’s the man the Guardian said who, despite those beliefs, has ironically proved dinosaurs do exist.