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Party losing touch with grassroots.

Byline: MAURICE FITZMAURICE

A DISSIDENT unionist yesterday warned the DUP is out of touch with its grassroots and its leader's days are probably numbered.

Speaking in the wake of Peter Robinson's decision to take six weeks off as First Minister, Traditional Unionist Voice leader Jim Allister said: "I suspect that the DUP's attempted show of unity today was choreographed to provide a soft landing for the beleaguered Mr Robinson.

"His immediate stepping aside as First Minister may well be a precursor to his departure as DUP leader at a moment more of his own choosing.

"If, on the other hand, the DUP is genuinely behind Mr Robinson, then they are more out of touch with opinion than I appreciated.

"The damage done to the Robinson brand is transferred to the DUP brand by such unequivocal support."

Sinn Fein Junior Minister Gerry Kelly said the pressure is still on to deal with policing and justice.

SYMPATHY He added: "While there is absolute sympathy for what is happening in families, the key is where are we going politically? "We need to deal with that crisis, we need to move that ahead."

SDLP leader Mark Durkan said the decision to step aside will not do away with the need for further inquiries.

He added: "Peter Robinson's decision to step aside sees a change in his position from Friday when he felt he did not need to go anywhere - either in office or in his party.

"Now he has seen reason to move it is hard to see how he can come back and if he does he will certainly be diminished."

Ulster Unionist leader Sir Reg Empey said the move will solve nothing. He added: "Appointing Arlene Foster does nothing to address the public confidence crisis in devolution - in fact, it intensifies it.

"Having undertaken the role of acting First Minister in the past, I am aware that this position is occupied in a purely caretaker capacity. At this crucial time we now have two lame-duck First Ministers, neither of whom can make the decisions necessary to ensure proper, working devolution."
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Publication:The Mirror (London, England)
Date:Jan 12, 2010
Words:348
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