DUP leaders strike the right tone at their conference

The DUP had good reason to celebrate this weekend at its annual conference.

Monday, 27th November 2017, 1:55 am
Updated Tuesday, 12th December 2017, 10:14 am
Morning View
Morning View

In June, the party easily came top in the general election in Northern Ireland, pulling well ahead of Sinn Fein in terms of numbers of votes, and winning 10 of the 18 MPs in the Province.

Within weeks, it had reached agreement with the Conservatives to prop up the current government. In that deal, the DUP secured a large financial settlement for Northern Ireland which, pointedly, it earmarked for non contentious areas of public spending that have cross community support.

The party leader Arlene Foster and her deputy Nigel Dodds both highlighted that negotiation in their conference speeches on Saturday. The two senior politicians struck the right tone between celebration, a sober assessment of the current political situation and, at times, scathing – and deserved – criticism of Sinn Fein.

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They referred to the utter hypocrisy of the political wing of the IRA talking about respect, when it has behaved in such a cynical way in recent months, and when its leading members have gloried in past terrorism.

Since the conference, Mrs Foster has made a deserved criticism of Simon Coveney, who has been talking up Irish unity and who has emphatic about holding up Brexit talks.

Mr Coveney is trying to impose a border in the Irish Sea, although he has never quite put it that way.

Nothing is more guaranteed to unite all strands of unionism than such a proposed course of action. He, and Leo Varadkar, are also antagonising London with their rhetoric.

Mrs Foster was right also to highlight Mr Coveney’s insistence on a standalone Irish language act, and the hypocrisy of such an intervention when nationalists demand impartiality from London.

What a relief it is that a unionist party holds the balance of power at Westminster amid such pressure from Dublin.