Standing Down

Today’s announcement from Peter Robinson that he would step down from his role as First Minister and leader of the DUP, in effect retirement from political life, was not altogether unanticipated.

The pressure had been on him for some time both in terms of his health and recurring political scandals. With the union secure, and having had Sinn Fein deputise to him for the last 7 years in a partitionist administration it had sworn to destroy, he probably feels he has achieved as much as a political career is likely to offer.

Robinson was clever in that he went out after securing a deal which leaves "the party in good shape and the union secure."  This should help nudge other less wholesome experiences into the shadows. Although an achievement which sees Stormont adopt the Tory policy of attacking the poor his party will nevertheless be rewarded at the polls in the land of the peace process where Whip us oh wise ones for our own good, seems to have a masochistic appeal for reasons not always easy to comprehend for people not into that sort of thing.

Others will be watching how things unfold in the hope that if Robinson sets an example it will not manage to make its way across the North’s sectarian divide. Tommie Gorman on tonight’s RTE floated the possibility that other leading political figures might consider their positions. He mentioned Martin McGuinness by name but conspicuously not Sinn Fein president Gerry Adams whose devotion to serving the people by being their eternal leader is now legendary. 

Mr Adams might yet take everyone by surprise. Whispers have it that the old caudillo  no longer takes to snarling at colleagues who have the temerity to suggest he has reached the end of his shelf life. They have been intimating that the Robinson decision makes Adams' continued hanging around the political scene a source of the type of stench normally associated with decomposition. Consequently, he is said to be considering his future and is expected to confirm that the moment has come and that as such he is considering stepping aside in time for the 150th anniversary of the Easter Rising in 2066. 

When asked why he might wait so long he explains that easing in a new leader is very much a transitional process and that such things invariably take time. Has not the peace process showed people that much?  Bringing new talent forward carries with it challenges of its own and as the Security Department can no longer be trusted to vet prospective leaders, other mechanisms have to be found.

As it is the hope of President Adams that the new man or woman will lead the party into the centenary of the peace process a replacement has not yet been born. Mr Adams thinks it would be most unfair to pick somebody now with the 100th anniversary of the peace process so far off in the future. However, the party leadership said it will behave responsibility and thus monitor all prospective candidates as they make their way through primary schools in order to ensure that nothing is left to chance. 

The peace process is a delicate flower, the cultivation of which can only be put into the hands of someone both sensitive and deferential enough to kiss the royal ring. Martin McGuinness was in his 60s by the time he mastered it. So the faithful are asked to continue with their patience, in the full knowledge that their reward will be in the Kingdom ... the United one.


  1. Are you sure Robinson is not resigning so he can run for office in the south and work towards the reunification of the republic with Britain - there is some precedent for this kind of move...

  2. AM
    I for one will be glad to see the back of Robinson. He is such a charmless man, perfect for such a charmless party. You have to hand it to him though he is a expert political operator. I sincerely hope big Arlene gets the job with Simon Hamilton as deputy but I doubt the bible bashers will allow that to happen, Arlene being CofI and all.

    The Shinners have a bigger problem: who could replace MMG and Adams? Do they go with non-provos? Could non-provos hold the movement together? Are they worried about an SDLP resurgence? I'd love to hear your thoughts.

    "...the reunification of the republic with Britain..." Would that be so bad...?

  3. Peter,

    I think the bible bashers will pose a problem ok. I once spoke to an observer of both Adams and Robinson over their careers and he said Adams would meet his match for deviousness, ruthlessness and sharpness in Robinson. He was proved right. The DUP trounced SF all over the ring when it came to the bit.

    I think John Mooney may have been on the money when he described the moves in place to prevent SF slipping outside the grip of the Provos. But as the Provos are now the Sticks without any of the left dimension to their politics, it hardly matters. I think they would like to break the SDLP and absorb them into SF. I think Morrison made the suggestion a day or two back that SF should absorb the radicals in the SDLP. But why would any radical in the SDLP want to go to SF? It would make more sense for the conservatives to go given SF being moved inexorably into the camp of conservative economics.

    I went to Dublin yesterday to listen to Billy Hutchinson speak in Liberty Hall. He humorously suggested that the South join the commonwealth. It will not happen even though it is a greater possibility than a united Ireland. The audience were certainly not annoyed with him. Funny thing is, in the run up to 1916 he drew a bigger and more appreciative crowd than say an anti-GFA republican would. I spoke in Dublin to a decent sized crowd last Friday. But it was not me they came to see!!

  4. With the Rising and Somme centenaries, next year will be an interesting time for politics here.

    Your comment led me to the Our Friends from Belfast ad, an interesting wee line up! I hope the PUP can break through in the north, though I doubt Billy has the charisma to do it. Almost everyone I know longs for a more progressive unionism to emerge we just need the right people.

  5. Peter,

    how about the democratic right to forget challenging the dictatorial impulse at the heart of much commemorative culture?

    It was an idea I raised in my talk in Dublin. I must post the piece.

    I am not sure Billy lacks the charisma - he came equipped with enough of it yesterday in an authentic sort of way. I mistrust charisma much like I mistrust emotion. I think the PUP lacks the political space in which to flourish. While the zero sum game of sectarian politics is so pervasive I think the PUP will always be pulled back to its baseline. Its roots are in the UVF which will limit the ability of the apple to fall far from the tree. The best that can be hoped for is that it manages to check the more aggressive elements within Loyalism while striving to serve the interests of those most deprived within the unionist community.

  6. AM
    Yes please do post it.
    You don't have to tell me about mistrusting charisma after getting burned by Basil "Nolan Show" McCrea. Your critic of the PUP is spot on. Garden Centre Prods and the UDA wing of loyalism will never accept the PUP in its current form. There are some good young people in it now though like J-A Corr and Sophie Long so maybe things will change.