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Last Updated: Thursday, 28 September 2006, 12:00 GMT 13:00 UK
Paisley warns against 'bullying'

By Mark Devenport
Political editor, BBC Northern Ireland

As fringe meetings go, the DUP leader Ian Paisley's first appearance at a Labour conference turned out to be one of the more bizarre.

On again, off again, it finally went ahead on the last day of the conference when ministers had to work hard to persuade tired delegates to show up early in the morning.

ian paisley
Ian Paisley does not think the deadline will be met

Although Labour had invited Ian Paisley, the DUP had to find a sponsor.

After various media companies declined, a Belfast Chinese restaurateur came to Ian Paisley's aid.

The DUP leader thanked the Man Lee House, although us reporters were disappointed that he did not also pay tribute to its associated eaterie, the Fookin Noodle Bar.

Sponsorship wasn't the only complication - getting accreditation to a Labour conference is no mean feat.

Ian Paisley was happy that he got an Orange pass, but less happy that it identified him as a member of the Ulster Unionist party.

He joked he'd once been a member but has seen the light.

The DUP leader thanked the Man Lee House, although us reporters were disappointed that he did not also pay tribute to its associated eaterie, the Fookin Noodle Bar

Once the jokes were over, the DUP leader set about warning the government not to push him around.

Ulster men and women, he advised, don't take well to threats and bullying.

The deadline of 24 November 24 was an unrealistic, "designed only to square" Labour's "other domestic requirements".

Peter Hain responded by denying his tactics amounted to bullying.

But he insisted the politicians could not keep going around the same circle forever.

Ian Paisley said most people in Northern Ireland did not think the November deadline will be met.

But he did not box himself in quite as much as his party colleague Lord Morrow, who told assembly members to forget about the date.

But the DUP leader did make it clear that if there is a deal, he would want it endorsed by a fresh election.

The Paisleys accompanied the secretary of state and other ministers back to Northern Ireland but it's far from clear whether they are all travelling in the same direction politically.

Making his way between venues, Dr Paisley was asked by London reporters obsessed by the Labour succession who he is backing for prime minister.

After pausing he responded: "I'm looking for an Ulster prime minister."

Was this a reference to the possibility of the DUP leader doing a deal then serving a short term as first minister before handing over to his deputy Peter Robinson?

Before anyone reads in too much, they should also be aware that he cautioned Labour MPs that he was "not seeking any legacy in some quick fix".

After munching some sweets whilst watching Peter Hain and the Belfast headmistress Betty Orr make their contributions from the conference hall podium, the Paisleys accompanied the secretary of state and other ministers back to Northern Ireland.

They shared the same cavalcade and the same plane heading towards the same talks back at Stormont.

But it's far from clear whether they are all travelling in the same direction politically.

The BBC Northern Ireland news team is at the Labour Party Conference in Manchester.

BBC Northern Ireland's Political Editor Mark Devenport and London correspondent Ruth McDonald will be keeping web watchers updated on all the goings on.




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