Whichever candidate wins will hasten the demise of the DUP

Posted By: May 05, 2021

Unlike Jeffrey Donaldson, Edwin Poots has always been consistent. He has always been in the DUP.


Brian Feeney. Irish News. Belfast. Wednesday, May 5, 2021.


Years ago, it must have been the 1994 European election, canvassers in Belfast’s republican New Lodge Road district were taken aback by a few people saying they were voting for Paisley. When asked why, they all gave the same response. “The more votes Paisley gets, the sooner this place is wrecked.”


The same type of voter no doubt relishes the prospect of the DUP tearing itself apart in a contest merely to decide who can lead the party into more vociferously antediluvian versions of the toxic positions it already holds. That’s why it was both amusing and unbelievable to hear the unlamented Foster claim that the DUP was no longer the party she defected to in 2004. Vehemently hostile to the Good Friday Agreement, she (along with Jeffrey ‘I could live with 40,000 job losses’ Donaldson) ratted on David Trimble to join the party with the most extreme right-wingers in the UK: homophobic, racist, misogynistic, opposed to equality of status and parity of esteem for northern nationalists, a party defying the will of 72 per cent of the north’s voters, a party democratic only in the sense that Kim Jong-Un’s Democratic Peoples Republic is democratic. So how is today’s crowd not the party she joined?


The contest between Poots and Donaldson is merely one to prove who can better hold the line against the realities of the modern world, not least the out-workings of the Brexit disaster they both so stupidly advocated, and despite all evidence to the contrary still do. Only last week Donaldson was still, after five years of ridicule, claiming on BBC Talkback that he knew of magical devices to manage a trade border with the Republic (always his aim), devices which no doubt could see into lorries and work out if they were carrying sheep or cows or vegetables or people.


Poots should win easily. You might say that unlike Donaldson, Poots has always been consistent. He has always been in the DUP. He has always openly espoused nonsense, like the world being 4,000 years old. He has always opposed social change. He has always made clear that Brexit was a way of hardening the border with the Republic. Poots is a superlative example of Mark Twain’s adage, ‘Better to keep your mouth closed and let people think you’re a fool than open it and remove all doubt.’ However, for one of the most unsavory electorates in these islands, all those are sound reasons for supporting him, apart from the fact that the evangelical wing of the DUP, of which Poots is the de facto leader, is now in the ascendant.


You’ll notice that neither candidate has any positive proposals to present: values, beliefs and opposition to the protocol; no details. Code for more of the same. Vote for me. I’ll reach the end of the cul de sac faster.


These desperate maneuverings  as a result of being spooked by improved TUV ratings and pressure from loyalist bloggers who represent no one will thankfully lead inexorably to a plunge in the DUP vote. First however, they will produce a summer of political instability as the party’s new leader adopts the traditional unionist hedgehog defense. In their curled up defense posture they will claim they are being tough on Sinn Féin and tough on the causes of SF, tough on the Irish government, tough on the protocol. They will achieve nothing except to put the north’s precarious institutions in jeopardy. No one is listening. All they are doing is retreating into their own echo chamber where they will continue to amplify their imagined grievances.


With any luck this time those New Lodge voters are right. Whichever of the two hapless candidates wins will hasten the demise of the DUP. The more he shouts to keep the north unchanged and pretend it’s unchanging, the more he’ll drive unionism to collision with the inevitable reality of fundamental change.