Whither the DUP? On the face of it that party should now be some way down the road which the UUP has almost completed: the road to oblivion.
There are a number of reasons why this should be so. There’s the fact that the DUP is out of step with the wishes of the majority of people in our stateen, who voted 56% to remain with in the EU, while the DUP voted to leave the EU. Nor did it stop at voting for Leave in the Brexit referendum: the DUP was actively involved with promoting Leave during the referendum, and since the referendum it has propped up the Tories and made every effort to see that Brexit becomes a crushing reality.
You’d think that was enough to doom any political party – but there’s more. Behind their Brexit shoulders-to-the-while performance, the DUP have the background picture of great balls of fire, the RHI scandal. Sam McBride’s recent book is unambiguous in its cover: the leader of the DUP, Arlene Foster, is at the centre of this whole super-expensive fiasco.
Then there’s the attitude to the Irish language which Arlene’s visit to the Irish department of a Catholic school did nothing to change. One way and another, the DUP stands revealed as a party that has its face set against tolerance and liberalism, and is a party which is marching backwards while the rest of Ireland is moving forward as a member of the EU.
But all that doesn’t guarantee anything. We know from experience that there are many unionists who will vote for a party or a candidate simply to keep the other lot out. Even if it means their future and that of their children will be blighted, down goes that crucial X beside the DUP name. This is a problem which has bedeviled the PUP and other working-class attempts to channel unionist votes in another direction than that of the contemptuous DUP.
So will that mean the DUP will return ten seats in just over a week’s time? Doubtful. Most people, including unionists, will tell you the DUP have their high-point behind them. Demographics will ensure that they begin a long slide into a smaller and smaller minority position. And if John Finucane topples Nigel Dodds in North Belfast, stand by for that slide to begin earlier and to move at an accelerated pace.