Denis Bradley, writing in yesterday’s Irish News, picked up on a very important section of Peter Robinson’s DUP Conference speech, when he said:
“The form of Government we have entered is clearly not our first choice. But as a party we will honour all of our obligations and deliver on all of our pledges. If devolution falls it will not be because unionists have failed to live up to any agreement that we reached.
There are some who say we should turn back. They try to fool people into believing there is some better alternative. But they know the options they advocate are unachievable and could not, even for a fleeting moment, be attained.
They knew back in March 2007, with absolute certainty, that the only alternative to this form of devolution was Direct Rule. A Direct Rule that they themselves declared twenty years ago to be Dublin Rule. A Direct Rule which over those twenty years turned ever greener and which the government was threatening, under Plan B, would become “a partnership” between London and Dublin.
I don’t know what that would have entailed but I know this – it would not have been in the interests of unionism. Even without the upgrade this route would have been extremely harmful.
So, even if at present a shadow may have formed over it, devolution is good for Northern Ireland and it is also good for unionism. What on earth would a return to Direct Rule have to offer unionists?
It would mean greater Dublin influence, interference and involvement in our affairs.
Unionism would once again be powerless and marginalised. However they may dress it up, this is the reality.”
So finally Robinson admits that the DUP entered the Executive not from a position of strength, but from one of weakness. They joined out of fear of Plan B. All the rest of his self-congratulatory speech becomes meaningless when you read this section. The victories he claims to have won become hollow verbiage to mask his powerlessness when faced with an ultimatum from London and Dublin.
Bradley finishes by saying that:
“If I was a betting man, I would soon be putting my money on a settlement or an agreement between Sinn Fein and the DUP somewhere within the next month.
Before too long the executive will be meeting and taking the decisions that have been piling up in the waiting tray. There will be a date about the devolution of policing and justice and there will be some announcements about the Kesh and respect, appreciation and support for minority languages.
Last Saturday was Robinson’s and the DUP’s Last Hurrah and the rest of us should be saying no more than hurrah to that.”
He may be right in thinking that the Executive will be meeting “before too long”, but Robinson has already missed several good opportunities to climb down without too great a loss of face – there won’t be many more before he has to face his nemesis next June. The odds are not looking good – Robinson does not seem to have either the political maturity or the political courage to move forward. He may end up being seen by history as a little man out of his depth. The choice is his.