In June 2008 this blog was somewhat scathing about the DUP's plans to establish a 'Unionist Academy', which it claimed would promote "the unionist culture" and the "advantages of the union"; encourage "unionist learning in the community" and provide a forum for unionist strategising and policy-making. Intended to be a think-tank rather a bricks and mortar establishment, it would offer a forum where DUP "policies can be formulated" and would also be an educational vehicle.
The DUP announced that this 'academy' would be set up in September 2008. It wasn't.
After a year of silence on the 'academy', on 21 July 2009 the DUP's nemesis, Jim Allister (channelled through TUV Secretary Karen Boal), asked: "Where are the DUP's Academy and Equality Unit?"
By sheer coincidence, no doubt, two days later the DUP leader, Peter Robinson, made his first reference to the 'academy' in over a year: "My plans for the development of a Unionist Academy are at an advanced stage and will be made public soon."
Needless to say, no mention was made in Robinson's statement of the TUV prodding, but it is abundantly clear that his mention of the 'academy' was a direct result of the TUV's questions. Yet more proof that the DUP is almost obsessive in the attention it pays to the TUV, and proof also that the DUP recognises the danger that Allister's brand of ultra-unionism poses to the DUP. Time is running out – the DUP has failed to ward off the Allister threat since it first appeared in Dromore in February 2008. The DUP were humiliated then, and humiliated again in June this year in the European Parliament elections. And the next few elections, coming closer and closer, pose an even bigger threat – if the DUP cannot deal with the TUV by the time of the next Westminster elections (April 2010?), they risk being mortally wounded, and risk suffering the same fate that they, in their turn, inflicted on the UUP.