Significant segments of Nigel Dodds’ speech to the DUP conference were focused on criticising Sinn Féin, something which was noticeably less obvious from the DUP conference platform a year ago at a point where the two parties were working together more closely in the Stormont Executive than ever before – just weeks before it imploded.
The DUP deputy leader said on Saturday: “Sinn Féin brought down the institutions at Stormont not because republicanism was winning, but because the Assembly hadn’t become the conveyor belt to a united Ireland they had promised their people. “Even now they are afraid to return to the Assembly to make their case and to fight their corner without the outcome of key issues being pre-cooked in advance.
“They are the ones who are running from the political battlefield pleading for others to help them out. “That is not the sign of a strong movement, but of one that lacks the confidence of its convictions … and as we all know, they have plenty of convictions,” a jibe at the number of IRA members within Sinn Féin who have a criminal record and a line which was met with a roar of approval from the conference hall.
He accused Gerry Adams’ party of seeking to “cultivate chaos” but said they had underestimated the DUP and unionist voters and that for some of his MP colleagues in June’s election “it wasn’t a case of counting their votes but of weighing them”.
To derisive laughter from the delegates, he added: “After the March election, there were those in Sinn Féin who were calling for another Assembly election… I don’t hear too many asking for one now”.