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Speech by Peter Robinson at the Launch of the DUP's 2005 Election Manifesto, (21 April 2005)

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Text: Peter Robinson ... Page compiled: Brendan Lynn

Speech by Peter Robinson, then Deputy Leader of the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP), at the Launch of the DUP's 2005 Election Manifesto, (21 April 2005)


"Eighteen months ago unionism was in the doldrums. Morale in our community was at its lowest ebb ever. Concessions to republicans were an almost daily occurrence. The UUP leadership of unionism was reeling, stupefied, rudderless and deeply distrusted. They were regarded as the party of flops and failures. They still are.

Back then there was a strong, united pan-nationalist front. London, Dublin and Washington were actively facilitating Sinn Fein/IRA. Government pressure was on unionism to advance the republican agenda. Adams and McGuiness were strutting the world stage as statesmen. The IRA was being spoken about as if it was a charitable organisation. They felt their day had come.

The unionist electorate had had enough. They stepped in,dumped the UUP and mandated the DUP to take over the leadership of unionism.

So here we are just eighteen months later and the picture has completely changed. The pan-nationalist front has been smashed. The concessions have been stopped. London, Dublin and Washington for the first time ever backed unionist proposals requiring prior, verifiable and transparent decommissioning. The government again agreed with DUP insistence for the ending of all paramilitary and criminal activity with an assessment period in order to test compliance before entry to any Executive. Adams and McGuiness are now regarded as pariahs – even Ted Kennedy’s door was closed in their faces. The IRA is reviled in a way never previously expressed locally, nationally and internationally. Republicans are in the doghouse.

There is now a new pride and confidence within unionism. Unionism possesses the high moral ground. Unionists do not want to go back to the bad old UUP days. Republicans are on the back foot and we should not allow the UUP to rescue them again.

Last December republicans could not meet the entry conditions which the DUP had set and they walked away from the negotiations with the government. Yet, while they were involved in those negotiations they were at one and the same time organising the biggest bank robbery in history. Within days republicans murdered one of their own supporters, the IRA cleaned up the murder scene and to this day Sinn Fein/IRA has been engaged in a cover-up operation while feigning to desire justice for the family. These events show, in bold relief, the mindset of republicans. They are not ready or capable of making the transition to democratic politics.

We have not excluded any party. Sinn Fein has excluded itself. The DUP cannot foresee when, if ever, republicans will genuinely and fully measure up to the entry conditions we agreed with government. We are adamant that we will never participate in setting up any government with a party which is unable to meet the agreed entry standards.

We have made this firm commitment in our manifesto and equally we have insisted we are not prepared to stand still. Northern Ireland needs good government and we will seek progress immediately after the election with those who completely embrace peaceful and democratic politics.

The option of a voluntary coalition is open to the SDLP and while they are playing coy now, perhaps after the election, when their bravado is tempered by the electorate’s response, a higher level of reality might cause a re-think. If, however, Mark Durkan wants to force terrorists and criminals into government there will be no devolution. That deal is dead Mark, and you know it.

Follow that strategy Mark, and you will deprive a whole community of devolved government. You will also be ensuring that the only achievable and attainable strategy for unionists to follow will be to improve the accountability and acceptability of Direct Rule by integrating Northern Ireland more closely and seamlessly into the Westminster structures.

Let everyone be clear about our intentions. We will not share power with gunmen or gangsters and we will not hang around waiting for them to reform. To save us all time and energy this morning let me address the issue of "whatifery".

If you ask us, "What if, at some later stage, republicans meet your requirements and do become involved in exclusively democratic politics; will you join them in government?" We say to respond to that question would require us to contemplate an hypothesis which is not simply suspect and implausible but quite frankly requires us to suspend intellect, judgement and logic.

The DUP say come back and ask us if ever it happens. It is up to republicans to convince our community, over an extensive and sustained period, all the republican movement’s illegal activity is ended. For our part we do not suppose it will happen. They are too entangled with, and imprisoned by, paramilitarism and criminality. It is not up to us to defy common sense and spend our time entertaining far-flung and off-the-wall propositions and chasing moonbeams we will keep our feet on the ground and work towards sound and realistic goals. For the first time in decades unionists are able to go to the polls with confidence and give electoral endorsement to leadership that’s working."


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