There are no positives for unionism in Poots’s election   

Posted By: May 20, 2021


Brian Feeney. Irish News. Belfast. Wednesday, May 19, 2020.


Let’s be clear from the outset. There is nothing to commend the election of Edwin Poots as DUP leader.


Some have sought to find good points about Poots and searched to find chinks of light in the gloom that surrounds his takeover. For the DUP in particular and Unionism in general there are none. For Nationalists there is however the certainty that Poots’s arrival at the top of the DUP will hasten the demise of that party’s majority in the Assembly.


Some have claimed absurdly that Poots is a “practical and pragmatic politician”. He’s not. Any apparently ‘pragmatic’ decision he took was only after he’d been dragged to it kicking and squealing by the courts as in the case of his ban on gay blood donation, or because there was absolutely no alternative, as in perinatal cardiac treatment. And don’t talk about accepting an Irish language Act which he opposed resolutely despite being agreed in St Andrews in 2006. He only agreed in 2018 because it’s so anemic as to be meaningless, but where is it?


Poots remains mired in the squalid worldview that has been the DUP’s hallmark since its inception. Look no further back than his disgraceful and baseless accusation last autumn that most Covid infections were in nationalist districts. Then he got Covid.


Examine his pitiful acceptance speech last Friday addressed only to Unionists. No mention of Nationalists, no mention of the partnership required of him by law to administer the executive. He sketched an incredible one-sided skewed history of The North in that speech with no reference to loyalist terrorism or the outrages inflicted on Catholic communities in 1969 in Belfast, in part fomented by the first leader of the DUP, the arch sectarian demagogue Paisley. Poots’s was a speech that could have been made fifty years ago.


Consider the machinations to ensure his election by the most hardline antediluvian members of the Assembly. You can always depend on Jim Wells, champion attention-seeker brought back into the fold to vote for Poots, to spill the beans. In a deal to defeat Gregory Campbell, who supported Donaldson, Poots supporter Paul Frew dropped out of the deputy leader contest to guarantee the two votes that elected Poots. Wells spoiled his own vote because he wouldn’t support either Campbell or Paula Bradley who duly became deputy leader. We don’t know who the other person was who spoiled their vote for the same reasons.


Now, it’s not anything unusual for that sort of wheeling and dealing to happen in politics. Indeed, it’s the norm. What is unique is that it was on the basis of what Wells calls “social and moral views”. Essentially it means Poots was elected by the evangelical wing of the party, the homophobes and misogynists and flat-earthers, so let’s hear no more talk about pragmatism. These bible-bashers expect great things of Poots but he will disappoint, not because he isn’t committed to their views, but because he won’t be able to deliver. All he’ll be able to deliver is a new sense of victimhood as the DUP sinks.


Don’t forget this is a deeply divided party and as Poots brings in his supporters to prominent positions he will reinforce that division. At least those who supported Donaldson might have made an effort to sound reasonable and steer away from the “Jeremiah” Jim Allister line. Now, these people will be cast into exterior darkness and there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth (Matthew 8.12 Catholic bible) for it is the Alliance party that will benefit from Poots. No sensible, liberal, educated young Unionists will vote for a party led and run by backwoodsmen, and despite Paula Bradley, they will be men.


It will remain eternally beyond their grasp that the return to “fundamental party values” will reinforce the trend that for every vote they lose to the TUV they lose three to Alliance.