Earlier this evening the First Minister issued a statement, though it appears it has been issued as the leader of the Democratic Unionist Party or unionism and not as a leader of all in Northern Ireland.
It appears to be largely an attack condemning those that wish to see a return to direct rule as a way to protect Northern Irish sovereignty. However, what is telling is the language that the first minister uses to try to prevent people from seeking that road.
One thing he says is:
“This is the Direct Rule that left unionism powerless and put Sinn Fein in the driving seat with a Dublin government fighting the nationalist case while the British government remained neutral.”
Of course this cannot be him speaking as First Minister in an office he shares with a Sinn Féin deputy First Minister. A position that has been decided upon democratically by the people of the Northern Ireland to enable Sinn Féin to take on a power sharing role with the DUP. It does seem a rather strange argument to put, especially as under devolution the Westminster government also remains neutral on issues that are devolved, including what position each council takes on when to fly the Union Flag (which is devolved below Stormont level).
But more telling is in the last paragraph, the crescendo to end his appeal:
“Let them explain to the people the benefit of Water Charging and higher Regional Rates which would automatically follow Direct Rule. And are they content to have Westminster impose same sex marriages and abortion on demand on our community? Such folly. Have they so quickly forgotten the decisions of direct rule in the past?“
So, not only is the First Minister wanting to maintain all services without taking a cut or looking at alternative revenue streams, such as the water rates in the rest of the UK, he is also playing two big cards. Remember his playing to a crowd here, he is talking to people who have already threatened elected representatives and spokespeople. So he stirs those people up further by saying that direct rule will lead to abortion and equal marriage.
There are already accusations that Peter Robinson was trying to make political gain out of this flag decision in a bid to win back the Westminster seat of Belfast East. He is now trying to make further political gain in unrelated areas without due care to the repercussions
It is not quite as direct an incitement to homophobic attacks as his wife made, but in light of the people he is trying to address in this issue he has placed another fear into the arena. Somethings which have no direct correlation to the flags protest women’s right to choose and LGBT rights are now what the First Minister has thrown into this
He is trying to fight fire with lighter fluid, this is the not the act of a leader.