The party’s economic spokesman George Dawson told the Echo that the DUP “would have to take a very serious look” at whether to participate if the event was “framed” in the kind of all-Ireland context outlined by Hain in his interview.
But Dawson vowed that his party would play a full role so long as the event was aimed simply at promoting Northern Ireland.
The conference, scheduled for next year and likely to be endorsed by President George Bush and British Prime Minister Tony Blair, will aim to attract inward investment to Northern Ireland.
The Echo’s revealing interview with Hain ignited a political firestorm because of the British cabinet minister’s prediction that “in future decades it is going to be increasingly difficult to look at the economy of north and south except as a sort of island of Ireland economy.”
DUP leader Ian Paisley called for Hain’s immediate resignation and senior Ulster Unionist Michael McGimpsey accused the minister of “green political correctness.”
The DUP’s Councilors’ Association also revoked an invitation for Hain to address the organization in the aftermath of the interview. The association’s vice-chairman, Arlene Foster, stated: “Peter Hain’s comments to the Irish Echo are an unacceptable slur.”
The row has now reached the British prime minister. Dawson said that he had written to Tony Blair to express his outrage about Hain’s remarks.
“I have described it in terms of a business executive representing a company on an overseas trade mission. If the executive said that his company was not the best, that a competitor was better, and that therefore a merger should be pursued, he wouldn’t keep his job for very long.”
Dawson reiterated the DUP’s call for Hain to resign.