Politics Explained

Is this the end of the DUP?

Despite 50 years of relative success, Sean O’Grady argues that there isn’t an easy way out of the party’s current crisis

Friday 18 June 2021 14:40
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<p>Edwin Poots leaves the DUP headquarters in Belfast on Thursday, prior to standing down as the party leader following an internal party revolt against him</p>

Edwin Poots leaves the DUP headquarters in Belfast on Thursday, prior to standing down as the party leader following an internal party revolt against him

The best way to understand a political crisis is to try and get inside the deranged minds of those doing the panicking. Obvious, I know, but sometimes neglected in all the grand theories and psephological calculations. Thus, to understand when and why a party gets rid of its leaders, it’s usually because MPs are terrified that they will be annihilated at the next election, rather than due to that much consideration of principles or the national interest. At its crudest, the minister, MPs and other elected representatives are frightened of losing their jobs, which they’re rather fond of (and they are often underqualified for alternative careers). So, too, with the Democratic Unionist Party.

For the last couple of decades, the DUP has enjoyed a pretty tight grip on unionism and on a leadership position in Northern Ireland, albeit within the often unstable framework of a power-sharing executive. Now, though, it is faced with threats that must sometimes feel existential. The party’s obduracy and truculence, and some failures in office (such as an expensively bungled green energy scheme), has pushed moderate elements within unionism towards the centrist Alliance Party (originally unionist, but rather agnostic with it). There is a trend there.

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