Fionnuala O Connor: Peter Robinson's revisionism still puts the blame on the media

Peter Robinson insists that suggestions he was critical of Arlene Foster and Sammy Wilson were media inventions

DO DUPers sigh with satisfaction when party big names assert themselves with bad temper and, often, mockery of questioners?

Maybe so. For many the media are a bad lot, bought and paid for, although most in truth are not paid nearly as much as many listeners and viewers believe; Stephen Nolan, Miriam O'Callaghan, Marian Finucane and John Humphrys most of us are not.

This is an unusual moment, with big decisions taken well above the heads of voters here, or half-taken, or taken subject to tinkering, even reversal.

The uncertainty looks certain to last for the indefinite future. How supporters might judge their spokespeople is intriguing as the DUP in particular becomes steadily more irked by the mildest, most obvious of questions.

Leader and former leader have both been hitting the theme of a malign media. Second nature always for republicans as well, but an article of faith in a party founded by a man who liked to write off the "pestiferous scribbling rodents".

Today's DUP lead-person just about holds her temper in a style she has made her own - in which she gives her most detailed interviews to the state broadcaster of the 'foreign country' across the border and either scorns the locals completely or throws them leftovers.

This is a woman on the back foot for more than a year. She could do with public support that had a ring of genuineness about it.

Instead her predecessor has exercised his own fabled sarcasm by having a go at both her, and at Sammy Wilson, his one-time closest friend in the party.

"You need to be careful not to allow the most vociferous voices in your party lead you;" Peter Robinson surely meant Sammy?

His comment on the issue that broke last February's draft deal was: "I couldn't care less about the Irish language.

"Let them speak it until they are green, white and orange in the face, as long as it doesn't encroach on me."

Criticism, surely, of the successor whose mishandling caused that breakdown?

Nope. Instead this was "an obsession with some people in the press who want to get at Arlene".

What Robinson said he thought when he heard that Wilson had called the business lobby for the Theresa May deal "puppets" was, "There goes Sammy".

Vociferous Sammy? "I am talking about people in every party. There are always people who are passionate and outspoken in politics."

The East Antrim MP was "probably one of the best commodities any political party could have".

Any supposed clash was a media invention, Robinson insisted from the sheltered halls of Yale.

The only original snippiness he failed to withdraw or re-interpret was his sneer at Irish, and Irish-speakers, his "Let them speak it, so long as it doesn't encroach on me".

So much for leadership, and its essential elements of courage and imagination.

What must the DUP faithful make of it all, including Robinson's participation in Yale's programme on the 20th anniversary of the Good Friday Agreement?

Convenient, even fortunate, perhaps, that yet again the malicious media go after apparent spite about his successor rather than focus on his willingness to mark the GFA, which he and his own predecessor tried so hard to block.

Watching the DUP's second leader holding forth from across the wide Atlantic fairly tested memory, sense of proportion, perspective. How much has changed?

A solid argument can be made that only rank-and-file republicans have been through shifts as major as those in the party founded by Ian Paisley.

But where republicans talk up their own moves as advances, with pride, even conceit, unionists huddle in dismay at the mere suggestion their own stance has changed.

Back in the summer when Robinson thoughts on border polls were leapt on by old unionist enemies, RTÉ's Tommie Gorman, Arlene Foster's favourite interviewer, wrote a neat sentence on the melodrama of the Paisley-Robinson succession, the outcome for their party: "Who would have foreseen their relationship collapsing, Ian Paisley having a family-only funeral and their successor as DUP leader reduced to the de facto role of First Lady of Fermanagh?"

P Robinson's best title now is honorary Professor in Peace Studies at the Queen's University of Belfast.

Invites with academic frills will no doubt keep on coming. Robinsonian revision is overdue on that long ago cross-border venture with cudgel-carrying chaps, the march through Portadown with his red beret on.

Who can wonder at grassroot unionist unwillingness to re-think their politics.

Best not to imagine what they think.

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