Posted By: October 02, 2014

ALLISON MORRIS. Irish News. Wednesday, October 1, 2014

PETER Robinson’s attempt to reign in control of the DUP was never going to be an easy task.

The internet went mad as the DUP leader played musical deckchairs on the Titanic, pushing the Paisleyites further away from the lifeboats while throwing a rubber ring around a few of those on the fringes of the DUP dissidents.

Politics is all about power – who has it, who wants it, whose power base in on the decline and whose is on the rise.

Edwin Poots is a man whose star faded long ago but then in recent months Peter Robinson’s hasn’t exactly been dazzling. Speculation that Poots was to be ousted as health minister has been rife for some time while the affable Jim Wells has been the minister in waiting since the last election. While no-one can deny that Poots threw himself into the most difficult portfolio in the assembly and put in the hours, his inability to leave his religious beliefs at home has done little to enhance public confidence in the local administration.

His outdated, verging on homophobic, stance on gay men donating blood as well as same-sex adoption was an embarrassment.

Here was public money wasted on legal challenges to deny people their basic human rights while nurses are close to burn-out and cancer patients are denied life-saving drugs.

His recent handling of the reduced health budget along with several controversial interviews given to the Stephen Nolan radio show had left him in an untenable position. He’d threatened to resign knowing full well he was about to go overboard anyway.

Knowing all this the morning after the tactical “reshuffle” he very deliberately went on to the Radio Ulster flagship show and tried to retire his party leader live on air in a vengeful act of biblical proportions.

However, it may well prove to be his undoing. His ‘performance’ on Nolan will be remembered much like the death throes of a dying animal – as an act of sheer desperation. Also feeling Robinson’s wrath for acts of disloyalty this week was Nelson McCausland. I”m not ashamed to say I’ll miss Nelson. You never knew when he was going to mess up next.

The man who has been in more parties than Lindsay Lohan should really have resigned after the Red Sky/Housing Executive debacle but this is the assembly where you would have to do a Michael Stone at the revolving doors of Stormont before you would get the boot.

Even when his own committee found he had deliberately misled them about meetings with a party donor he remained in office, protected by a system that ensures no-one is ever held to account.

His refusal to build new much-needed homes for families in north Belfast has contributed to some people spending up to three years in hostel accommodation.

Like his denial of the existence of dinosaurs despite overwhelming scientific proof he also denied that Catholic families were in greater housing need in his own constituency.

His inability to separate his religious beliefs from his ministerial role has halted modernisation of licensing laws essential for he growth of the tourism and hospitality sector.

He refused to apologise to building firms he wrongly accused of massive overpayments while it was claimed his special adviser told NIHE board member and DUP councillor Jenny Palmer to vote against removing a contract from Red Sky.

He will be replaced by Mervyn Storey, again a well-liked and affable assembly member, popular with the press in his former role as chair of the education committee, he is unlikely to commit the same gaffes as his predecessor.

However, both new ministers still sit to the far right of the party and both hold strong religious views that will ease the concerns of the Free Presbyterian contingent.

Robinson has been very careful not to throw the baby out with the bath water but it remains to be seen if his tactic aimed at quelling dissent by re-distributing power will succeed.

The party leader didn’t spend years in Ian Paisley’s shadow to give up on power so easily. This is a fight to the finish.

In his darkest hours he must stare over the fence at his Sinn Féin neighbours with envy, their grass is green, their leader for life in Gerry Adams made of Teflon. Regardless of what happens in his political or private life, no matter how many times he is discovered manipulating the truth about his past and no matter how detached from reality he appears his position is safe.

He’ll only retire when he feels like it and not when he should which was about three years ago. The chances of a senior member of his party pre-empting his demise on the Stephen Nolan show is about as likely as Nelson McCausland taking communion at Clonard monastery.