Belfast Telegraph

What price did Peter pay to keep his party onside?

Who calls the shots in the DUP over the Hillsborough Agreement? Is it Peter Robinson - or his party executive, asks Lord Maginnis

It's strange how quickly time goes by when the DUP is having fun. Two weeks have passed since the Hillsborough junket and still the lights haven't been switched off - or should that be 'on'?

So maybe it's time for Peter Robinson and the DUP to come clean about their so-called 'agreement' and tell the people of Northern Ireland what they think it means - and, just as importantly, what they intend it to mean for devolution and the parades issue.

Mr Robinson has been quoted telling journalists there are no "smoke and mirrors" to the deal and that the DUP and Sinn Fein are totally committed to it.

In an attempted return to his old bravado, the First Minister also takes a swipe at SDLP politicians for "whingeing and gurning" from the sidelines. From the sidelines, indeed! Who conspired with Sinn Fein to have them, and other Assembly parties, there?

Two weeks ago we had a 'Blackadder' performance, with Peter playing Baldrick, the man with the 'cunning plan' to ensure Sinn Fein compliance with a DUP agenda. Last week the farce was over and he was back in 'assumed statesman' mode, suggesting that nothing is concealed and that people should take Hillsborough at face value.

Peter's u-turn is perhaps explained by Dr Paisley's intervention and his warning that "all this talk of clever tricks and cunning plans" had the potential to wreck Hillsborough.

If that is the case, then one welcomes a first step toward clarification. One can at least agree with Ian Paisley that "sleight of hand will never build community confidence".

However, no amount of Robinson bluster can conceal the fact that much of the smoke and confusion surrounding this deal has been generated by the DUP to enable Peter Robinson to keep his divided Assembly party onside.

Ahead of the Assembly vote on the transfer of policing and justice powers, the DUP leader must now let the rest of us in on the secret side deal with his party dissidents.

Reports have suggested that the price extracted for their support for Hillsborough is a post-dated letter of resignation from the First Minister, to be cashed-in if the DUP decides at a later date that Sinn Fein has reneged on whatever has been arranged. If we are being asked to back the DUP-Sinn Fein deal, we are surely entitled to know in what circumstances that resignation letter would be put into effect. We also need to know who would make that decision.

Again, according to reports, the decision would be taken by the DUP executive, which would mean that the First Minister could be dumped even if the DUP Assembly party wanted him to remain in office for the sake of their jobs.

In any walk of life prudent people like to know who they are doing business with and it is a legitimate point of public and cross-party interest to ask where the power of decision now lies in the DUP.

In clarifying this, the DUP can also end the confusion about what they think happens, or what they intend should happen, after the devolution vote next month.

Some DUP MPs suggest they have a 'twin-track strategy' that ties devolution to 'delivery' on parades at some future date.

Inconveniently for the DUP, Gerry Adams and Martin McGuinness have already made it clear that the new mechanism for addressing the issue does not guarantee any different outcome in the matter of disputed parades. This led Peter Robinson to accuse Gerry Adams of breaching the 'letter', as well as the 'spirit', of the Hillsborough deal.

Now that he's once again assuring us of his confidence in the deal, maybe the First Minister could also tell us if that breach has been healed - and precisely how.

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