Peter Robinson was at pains to give the impression, when interviewed by Jim Fitzpatrick on the Politics Show today, that the DUP was going secular – appealing to all, apparently. He talked about the post-conflict Realpolitik that was all about issues that mattered to people, rather than the constitutional issue.
Now, what has motivated this new-found secularist political outlook could be debated. Perhaps he realized, after losing his East Belfast parliamentary seat, that old Unionism wasn’t cutting it any more. Moreover, Robinson’s personality is such that party-political reasons were sought to explain his Westminster demise, rather than any failings in his own personality. Apart from DUP apparatchiks, most people find him prickly, a tad sleazy, and vastly aloof and enervated from real world issues (having occupied a political cocoon for decades).
My particular issue with the man is his hypocrisy. He talks about the DUP’s desire to appeal to “Nationalists” and yet DUP rhetoric is the stuff of the social right and, often, the fiscal left. But an even more fundamental stopping block to secular progress is the bizarre, reactionary and anti-modernist views of his front bench team.
For example, how can Robinson seriously suggest that his Party could appeal to the modern minded when it has, within its midst, people of the ilk of the Reverend William McCrea, Nelson McCausland and Edwin Poots? After all, these intellectually depraved acolytes help define the Party’s policy positions.
The “Reverend” William McCrea gave a graveside oration, in 1975, for two of the men responsible for the Miami Showband murders. He has also shared platforms with Loyalist thugs and was convicted for riotous assembly in 1971. And yet Robinson, at this weekend’s DUP conference, made a particular point of highlighting his fondness and affection for McCrea – a man that many of us consider the most obvious manifestation of the DUP’s political psychosis.
Nelson McCausland, in his capacity as Culture and Arts Minister, made clear earlier in the year, that he felt the Ulster Museum should have exhibits that reflect the “views of the people of Northern Ireland” rather than support an understanding of science. He also believes that the Protestant people of Ulster descended from one of the lost tribes of Israel. (Very lost, I’d suggest, if it ended-up here).
Edwin Poots is a young-earth creationist (this means he believes God made the earth, and all the organisms therein, a few thousand years ago). He also opposes Darwinian evolutionary theory.
And yet, despite the rag-bag collection of looners in his political midst, Peter Robinson feels that his is the Party for Northern Ireland – representing an opportunity for a new secular dawn.
I think not.