Thursday, 10 April 2008

When DUP Politician Met An Irish President

The year was 1991 and the Democratic Unionist Party was in no mood to extend the hand of friendship across the border.

A problem arose when Co-Operation Ireland invited a delegation from Moyle District Council to meet President Mary Robinson. The meeting was arranged for September 19.

James Rodgers DUP (back row, 1st from left) was one of the nominees and he was delighted to go as he appreciated the President's earlier decision to resign from the Irish Labour Party when the Anglo-Irish Agreement was signed over the heads of the Unionists.

Peter Robinson, DUP MP for East Belfast said: "Our view has always been that there should be no formal contacts of this kind until the Dublin Government drops its claim to our territory."
The DUP's deputy press officer, Nigel Dodds, was unable to confirm whether the Rodgers had been officially expelled, but said they should have used official party procedures to air their grievances.
Councillor Rodgers defended his position by recalling: "There were DUP councillors who met NIO ministers when the ban was in place and there was no action taken against them. I would expect to be treated the same."

The councillor blotted his copy book even further by later proposing that the council invite the President to visit the district.

Fast forward to 2008 and all has changed utterly. Ian Paisley, who'd once shunned a DUP council member for greeting a southern President who'd supported the Unionists, now finds himself sharing an office with SF's Martin McGuinness, attending meetings of the North South Ministerial Council and rolling out the red carpet in Ballymena for An Taoiseach, Bertie Ahern.