Ulster MPs’ votes have proved crucial in defeating the UK Government’s proposed military intervention in Syria.
In the House of Commons on Thursday night, MPs voted by 285 to 272 - a majority of just 13 - against military action.
The Government had put forward a motion in favour of military action if it was supported by evidence from UN inspectors that the Assad regime had used chemical weapons against civilians.
Had the DUP, Alliance and SDLP MPs for instance voted for, rather than against, the government then the vote would have been carried.
First Minister Peter Robinson has joined the growing chorus cautioning against a rush to bomb Syria, urging “caution, not bravado”.
In an article written for Friday’s News Letter from Florida, where he is on holiday, the DUP leader said that while the use of chemical weapons had been “barbaric”, the Syrian opposition was every bit as brutal as President Assad.
Mr Robinson’s comments follow those of Scotland’s First Minister, Alex Salmond, who warned on Wednesday that the case for attacking Damascas “has not yet been made”.
But, whereas Mr Salmond might be expected to be sceptical about such intervention, having fiercely opposed the Iraq War, the intervention of Mr Robinson — who as an MP supported the Iraq invasion — demonstrates how wary many from right across the political spectrum are about entering the Syrian civil war.
Writing in the News Letter, Mr Robinson warns about the potential of Israel being involved in a wider regional war but stresses that if there is a coherent strategy airstrikes could be justified.
“I do not believe for one moment that the removal of President Assad will lead to a peaceful Syria for its people. I am not remotely satisfied that those coming behind an Assad regime would be one iota better. They have been as indiscriminate in brutalising the people of Syria as President Assad.” he said.
Alluding to Iraq, he said that “missile attacks will not lessen the pain of the ordinary Syrian people”.