By Anne Cadwallader
BELFAST – The Rev. Ian Paisley’s anti-Agreement Democratic Unionist Party, celebrating its 30th anniversary this year, is inviting anti-Good Friday agreement members of the Ulster Unionist Party to quit and join its ranks instead.
The party’s deputy leader, Peter Robinson, told the conference in Newcastle, Co. Down, last weekend that the UUP had deserted its principles and was a “party of the past” that would be eclipsed at the next elections.
Robinson contrasted the packed lines of chairs at his party conference to the low turnout for the UUP two weeks previously, when only 250 of an expected 500 delegates gathered in Belfast and only about 100 remained after lunch.
He predicted the DUP would replace the UUP as the North’s largest unionist party, when it would be able to force a renegotiation of the agreement. Robinson said he was looking forward to the next election and had a message for Sinn FTin and the SDLP: “Your days of dealing with pushover unionism is over. The DUP’s day has come.”
Speaking of the UUP conference, he said of the UUP: “Their numbers had thinned. Delegates were in somber mood. Their gray faces, furrowed brows and slumped shoulders told the story. . . . There he was, the dejected leader of the depleted ranks of a defeated party. The empty seats cried out more eloquently than any speech delivered. David Trimble, you are history.”
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Robinson said Trimble, the North’s first minister and leader of the UUP, was flouting the Trades Description Act by calling himself a unionist. “What sort of unionist would agree to the destruction of the RUC?” he said. “What sort of unionist would agree to the release of unrepentant murderers from jail?”
“What sort of unionist would agree to unaccountable all-Ireland bodies with executive powers? What sort of unionist would agree to place the representatives of armed terrorism in government? What sort of unionist would be suckered into accepting the IRA’s phony token scam in relation to decommissioning?
“If David Trimble is a unionist, then bin Laden is an American patriot.”
In a characteristically pungent leadership speech, Paisley said, “Ulster’s democratic freedoms have never been more under threat” and the DUP “continued to be the single greatest obstacle to thwarting the plan of Ulster’s enemies to take us through the gates and into a United Ireland.”
“Who would have believed that at the start of the 21st Century the Provisional IRA would be sitting in the heart of the Government of Northern Ireland?” Paisley asked. “Who would have believed that the Dublin Government would roll across the border in a fleet of black Mercedes cars into Northern Ireland dictating policy to the people of Ulster through the North-South Ministerial Council?”