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"Democratic Unionist Pharisees"

Unionist revisionist Dr John Coulter challenges the DUP to explain why voluntary coalition with Sinn Fein is on the agenda for 2006, yet the same solution with the SDLP was rejected in 1976

Dr John Coulter • 22 February 2006

How many lives could have been saved over the last 30 years if the Paisleyites had done a deal with Bill Craig's Vanguard to bring about a power-sharing deal with the SDLP?

Maybe the DUP should be renamed the Democratic Unionist Pharisees, after the Biblical hypocrites as we approach the 30th anniversary of Black Wednesday – 3 March 1976 – the day a meeting of the Constitutional Convention was called to discuss a return of Stormont, but ended in uproar.

Do you ever get the feeling we've been along this road with the Paisleyites before? Less than a week after this fateful meeting three decades ago, the then Labour Northern Secretary Merlyn Rees axed the Convention.

However, the British Government should not be forced to make the same disastrous decision as Rees. Instead of falling into the Paisleyite pitfall, there are enough pro-Agreement MLAs at Stormont from the UUP, SDLP, Sinn Fein and Alliance to make the Executive work.

The complete hypocrisy of the situation is that when Craig in '75, then leader of the second largest unionist party, Vanguard, suggested a voluntary coalition with the SDLP, he was betrayed by the UUP ultra Right-wing and the Paisley camp.

The '75 Convention elections had seen the Unionist Coalition, commonly called the Treble UC, romp home with 46 of the 78 seats. The UUP had 19, Vanguard 14 and the DUP third with 12. The other seat was held by an Independent Unionist.

Craig had been the sole UUUC Convention member to back a voluntary coalition. If the Paisleyites and moderate UUP members had supported him, a legislative power-sharing coalition with nationalism would have been in place within days.

As for the terror threat posed by republicans and loyalists, the Labour Government would probably have ordered 'open season' on the IRA and UVF using the SAS, making the Loughgall and Gibraltar massacres, in which 11 Provisionals were shot dead, look like a Sunday School picnic.

Take a look at a recent DUP utterance on the Paisleyite party website under the heading 'voluntary coalition' - “The DUP contends, as it did in Devolution Now, that a Voluntary Coalition is the best form of devolution for Northern Ireland.”

Why the about turn and support for Craig's original proposal after 30 years of sectarian slaughter in the North? Maybe it's case that rather than put community harmony first by backing Craig, the DUP knifed him in the back because the Paisleyites saw an opportunity to split Vanguard and assume the mantle of Second Biggest Unionist Party behind the UUP?

The Paisleyite tactic obviously worked as within a matter of months, Vanguard fragmented with its ultra Right-wing forming a breakaway movement under the leadership of Ernest Baird, but the fledgling United Ulster Unionist Party as it became known, stood no chance against the DUP in the hearts and minds of grassroots unionism.

If the Paisleyites had pushed in '76 for an agreement with the SDLP, they wouldn't now find themselves in the dilemma of having to cut a deal with Sinn Fein because the republican movement would have been crushed by rampant London and Dublin governments.

Ironically, the DUP's modernising wing now finds itself in the same political pothole as Craig's Vanguard coalitionists. If they make the deal with the republican movement, the DUP will fragment.

If they don't cut a deal with Sinn Fein, Tony Blair may well have the courage to move the Assembly forward without the Paisleyites – but offering Executive seats to any DUP MLA who has the guts to stand up to the fundamentalists.

As for a workable blueprint, the jungle drums suggest the DUP will be asked by Blair to adopt a strategy similar to the UUP document, Interim Administrative Arrangements for the Governance of Northern Ireland, given to Downing Street last February.

It promoted the idea of an initial scrutiny-mode Assembly before full powers were given back to Stormont.

As for the payment of MLAs, the UUP blueprint said: “Assembly members would be paid at the rate 40 percent pro rata of their salaries, with the remaining 60 percent pro rata being related to their attendance at all plenary and all relevant committee sessions of the Assembly.”

Quite simply, it's a better model of the 'no work, no wages' suggestion from Northern Secretary Peter Hain. If the DUP don't want to play ball with the other Assembly members, then they don't get their pay.

And to make sure there were no mistakes as to who should not be paid, the UUP document stated: “Such attendances would be notified to the public by advertisement after the end of each calendar month.” If this was policy, then the days of 'a silent collection' for the DUP are over.

So the Paisleyites urgently need to take note of their deputy leader Peter Robinson's advice when addressing the party's Ballymoney branch in North Antrim in October 2005 - “If the government can create confidence in the unionist community then, and only then, can the focus shift to negotiations about the political changes needed to bring about the return of devolution.”




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Index: Current Articles

28 February 2006

Other Articles From This Issue:

Gratefully Remembering
Eoghan O’Suilleabhain

Another Unjust Execution?
Maria McCann

Sinn Fein Be Warned - The Truth Will Out
Martin Ingram

Who Will Be Left?
Aoife Rivera Serrano

Irish Republican Socialists Show Solidarity with the Cuban Revolution
Willie Gallagher

Queens, New York City, Republicans decry Irish parliamentarian's inappropriate intervention on U.S. immigration bill
Patrick Hurley

Bush's Double Standard
Fr Sean Mc Manus

"Democratic Unionist Pharisees"
Dr John Coulter

A Society That Failed to Protect Its Children
Anthony McIntyre

Unreal Paradigms
Mike Marqusee

The Letters page has been updated:

Dublin Riots


Moon Man?

Independent Workers Union rejects Sunday Times allegation of involvement in Dublin riot
Noel Murphy

20 February 2006

Try separate the wood from the trees:
MI5, Sinn Fein/IRA and the intelligence war

Paul Maguire

Sinn Fein Set To Win … The Neanderthal Derby
Anthony McIntyre

21st Century Vision?
Mick Hall

The Real Betrayal?
Dr John Coulter

Cowardice on Cartoon Controversary
David Adams

Meeting Marielos
Anthony McIntyre



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