DUP leader Robinson has Adams and Allister on his mind
First Minister concerned about threat from party’s former MEP, Jim Allister, leader of the anti-Belfast Agreement Traditional Unionist Voice
Jim Allister: sees himself as a serious contender rather than a unionist vote splitter. Photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill
Two people may have been preying on Peter Robinson’s mind as he launched his party’s manifestos for the European and district council elections in Belfast yesterday: Gerry Adams and Jim Allister.
In relation to the Sinn Féin president there’d be no surprise if the DUP leader mused how a few days in the slammer can bolster one’s electoral prospects.
Certainly there is no danger of apathy among republicans. That was clear from the Gerry Adams rally in west Belfast on Monday night, where Sinn Féin activists were pumped and primed for the campaign.
If unionist candidates and supporters are not also energised, then, in the elections to the North’s 11 new “super councils”, Sinn Féin at 24.8 per cent from the 2011 local elections could close the percentage gap on the DUP, which was at 27.2 per cent in those elections.
But first and foremost the First Minister would have been concerned about the threat from the party’s former MEP, Jim Allister, leader of the anti-Belfast Agreement Traditional Unionist Voice.
The three outgoing MEPs – Martina Anderson for Sinn Féin, Diane Dodds for the DUP and Jim Nicholson for the UUP – are favourite to be returned to Europe in this election, and in that order.
But it is far from impossible that a Sinn Féin surge, along with very generous green to green transfers, could cost either Dodds or Nicholson her or his seat, with Alex Attwood of the SDLP the beneficiary.
In this election there are two nationalist candidates – Anderson and Attwood. But there are six pro-union candidates representing the DUP, UUP, TUV, Ukip, NI21 and the Conservatives
At the launch Robinson reminded unionists how “shredding” the vote posed a real threat to the two outgoing unionist MEPs, although he was confident Dodds was in less danger than Nicholson.
As far as Robinson is concerned the big shredder is Allister.
In the last Euro poll Allister won 66,197 votes against 88,346 for Dodds.
Nicholson won 78,489 votes.
On these figures it’s clear that Allister sees himself as a serious contender rather than a unionist vote splitter.
So, it’s a testing time for Robinson, the DUP and unionism generally.