Peter Robinson: Ignore those who are urging the DUP to just go back into Stormont

From a state of meltdown a year ago, the DUP made a remarkable recovery in last week’s election.

By Peter Robinson
Wednesday, 11th May 2022, 12:55 pm
Updated Thursday, 12th May 2022, 7:20 am
Peter Robinson is a former DUP leader and first minister of Northern Ireland
Peter Robinson is a former DUP leader and first minister of Northern Ireland

Once again the party demonstrated that it is the main voice of unionism.

Sir Jeffrey Donaldson has cemented his leadership position by his strong personal showing and withstanding the gang-up of Sinn Fein/Ulster Unionist Party/SDLP and Alliance Party who assaulted him at every opportunity.

Sadly, unionists chose to spread their votes, and many did not transfer allowing SF to pip the DUP by two seats. The outrageous unfairness of a system that allows the TUV to secure 65,000 votes and not gain a single seat is alarming.

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A handful of these wasted votes would have allowed the DUP to take an additional three or four seats.

However, as they say, we are where we are.

So, the first lesson is to ignore those voices urging the DUP to just go back into the executive.

The DUP mandate is to resolve the Northern Ireland Protocol before kick-starting the Stormont Executive.

How dare SF and their SDLP/AP and UUP allies instruct the DUP to disregard those who voted for the DUP’s programme.

Do they not understand the basics of democratic mandates?

The DUP are bound by their mandate, and I am glad Jeffrey has restated his determination to honour the mandate he has been given.

The second lesson is to expose the Sinn Fein hypocrisy of telling the DUP they cannot stand in an assembly election and then not go into the executive.

This is the same SF who refuse to go to Westminster and feel justified in abstaining permanently.

Sinn Fein seem to think it is acceptable to stay out of Westminster because they hate ‘the Brits’ but it is unacceptable for the DUP to stay out of the executive because they hate the protocol.

The third lesson is that the DUP must be the vehicle for change.

The protocol and the assembly set-up are deficient and need to be overhauled but while the prime minister must make good his undertaking to deal with the protocol it is the DUP as the motivators of change who need to lead the process of change.

It is not enough to wait for others, the DUP must push and pull to get the job done.

The fourth lesson is to ensure a return to the core foundation upon which our political structures have been constructed.

When unionist parties formed the majority the cry from the great and good was that in a divided society widespread support across the community was required.

It has been noticeable how many of those same voices are now resiling from this position.

It seems there are those who would happily jettison the cross-community principle when unionist parties are not the majority.

In the negotiations that will undoubtedly come (sooner or later) any attempt to change the cross-community support principle must be resisted.

Finally, the pathway to progress may seem difficult but the objective of a working Assembly representing and serving the best interests of everyone in Northern Ireland is entirely achievable.

It will only work if the strident attitudes of those who support the Protocol are replaced by a willingness to accommodate both sections of our community.

Telling unionists their concerns do not matter will ensure deadlock.

Peter Robinson is a former DUP leader and first minister of Northern Ireland

• Other commentary:

• Editorial May 11: Liz Truss hints at action on NI Protocol but unionists are right to be wary