DUP leader Ian Paisley has said that the DUP will “not be talking to the IRA now, tomorrow or ever” and that general election results in the North of Ireland represent the “burial” of the 1998 Good Friday Agreement.
The DUP leader was speaking outside the British parliament in London where he and his party’s other members of parliament were sworn in. The party made significant gains in elections last week at the expense of David Trimble’s Ulster Unionists, gaining four new MPs and over fifty local councillors.
The DUP leader also sent a message to Britain’s new Direct Ruler in Ireland, Peter Hain, warning him that any intention by him to “confront the unionist people” he would fail.
Mr Paisley said his first priority would be to ensure fair DUP representation on all government authorities in the North.
This would ensure the people had “independent Ulstermen representing them, not paid government lackeys,” he said.
The returned Sinn Féin MP for West Tyrone, Pat Doherty, also at Westminster with newly-elected Newry and Armagh MP Conor Murphy to reclaim the party’s hard-won office facilities, accused Dr Paisley of “his usual bluster”.
“Mr Paisley should remember he talks for the DUP, not anyone else,” said Mr Doherty.
He said the DUP leader “cannot claim the mantle” of talking for the entire electorate and was not in a position to lecture the incoming Direct Ruler.
“He only speaks for the DUP,” said Mr Doherty. “His party got 34 per cent of the people’s vote. We got 25 per cent. The SDLP and Ulster Unionists got about 17. If he wants the [Belfast] Assembly back then he is going to have to work with all the parties.”
Mr Doherty also criticised the SDLP members for taking their seats in the House of Commons and for affirming their allegiance.
He said he, as an Irish republican, could not “swear any allegiance to any foreign monarch”.
“We are serious about Irish unity,” he said. “The focus must be kept on Ireland.”
Sylvia Hermon, the sole returning Ulster Unionist MP was also at Westminster for the first day of the new parliament, claiming that the DUP vote had peaked.
She said that thorough and radical reform of her party was now essential to prevent it becoming irrelevant.
“Unless we change, and change is difficult when there isn’t a safety net - unless we change we as a party are dead in the water.” She warned colleagues against adopting a more hardline position in order to challenge Dr Paisley.
“If we try to move on to DUP territory, they will gobble us up and spit us out. You cannot outdo the DUP.”
Mrs Hermon refused to be drawn on the question of putting herself forward as the next party leader.