Dismissive DUP tells disaffected unionists: you're wasting your time
The deputy leader of the DUP has hit out at the challenge posed by unionists considering forming a new party opposed to the power-sharing Executive at Stormont.
And Peter Robinson also suggested that the most important meeting held on Wednesday night was that which led to the sensational departure of Chelsea boss Jose Mourinho from the football club.
"There was an important meeting last night but I think Chelsea will be able to sort out who their new coach will be," Mr Robinson told the BBC yesterday.
And, believed to be referring to previous challenges from UK Unionist Party leader Bob McCartney, Mr Robinson also gave withering comments to the BBC on former senior DUP figure Jim Allister, brushing off speculation that any rival could bring the DUP down.
"We had another QC who thought he could do that in the last election and I think the electorate gave him their answer. I think they'll give the same answer to the half-pint version."
Meanwhile, First Minister Ian Paisley has also attacked the " folly" of people posing as saviours of the Union - and warned they have already been rejected by the electorate.
And the most senior DUP representative in the area where the first public steps towards forming a new grouping took place on Wednesday night, party chairman Lord Maurice Morrow, insisted the future of the Union was in safe hands under the current Executive.
Their comments came as Jim Allister, who attended the gathering of disaffected unionists near Dungannon, said all options including forming a party are being kept open.
Mr Paisley said, however: "The safeguard for the Union is a strong Democratic Unionist Party. This was achieved at the last election through the defeat of those who were prepared to go as far as to advocate unionists actually voting for Sinn Fein candidates as a protest.
"That same folly arose again (on Wednesday) night by those who pose as the only saviour of the Union. Their so-called political platform has already been rejected by the electorate and they have nothing to offer in terms of prosperity or stability for the province.
"Indeed, many are more interested in attacking and undermining unionism than developing and strengthening the Union in the longer term. Advocating voting for the Shinners in any election is the height of treachery."
Lord Morrow said: "To those people who are concerned I would appeal directly to them. Look where unionism was a few years ago and look where it is today. Unionism does not need fragmentation, rather it needs consolidation. We live in a free world where people are entitled to do what they want, but I believe these people are wasting their time."
The meeting is said to have discussed whether unionists should establish a formal party or, at least at this stage, a pressure group.
Some argue that the group should be ready to stand if Prime Minister Gordon Brown calls a snap General Election, or decides to go to the country in spring.
But others argue that a committee could act as a focal point to test the strength of opposition to the Executive headed by the DUP and Sinn Fein.
Mr Allister, who addressed the gathering of around 100 in Moygashel, near Dungannon, said yesterday it had been a constructive meeting.
The meeting, in the village's Orange hall, was also attended by former DUP councillors Leslie Cubitt and Robin Sterling and Willie Frazer of the victims' group FAIR.
In a statement, Mr Allister read: "It is clear to me from this meeting, and others, that far from abating, unease and opposition among grassroots unionists to the present DUP/Sinn Fein government is increasing. The task now is to effectively channel and direct this opposition."
Former DUP councillor Walter Millar said there was a "lot of discontentment" within unionism, especially in DUP ranks.
Limavady councillor Mr Cubitt argued that his former party is now in " complete disarray" because it had "told lies".
Mr Frazer said the meeting reflected discontent with the political situation.