|Address||20 Castle Lodge |
Tullyear, Banbridge, BT32 4RN, Northern Ireland
|| August 20, 1958
|Contributor||Easily Offended Man|
Nov 14, 2019 04:58pm
|Info||Nigel Dodds was born in Derry on 20 August, 1958, he was educated at Portora Royal School, Enniskillen (whose other famous alumni include Oscar Wilde) and St. John’s College, Cambridge. Upon graduation, he returned to Northern Ireland and after further training was called to the bar. |
His family were heavily involved in the Loyal Orders and Unionist politics; his father, Joe, has been a long standing DUP member of Fermanagh District Council. Dodds himself entered municipal politics in 1985, when he was elected to Belfast City Council for the religiously and socially mixed Castle electoral area in the North of the City.
Dodds soon rose to prominence as a particularly articulate and analytical member of a party not always known for its pronounced intellectualism. He was elected for two one year terms as Lord Mayor of Belfast (an honorary position) in June 1988 and June 1992. He was elected to the Northern Ireland Forum in 1996 and topped the poll in North Belfast in both sets of elections to the reconstituted Northern Ireland Assembly in 1998 and 2003.
The troubled and fragmented constituency of North Belfast, with its kaleidoscope of rich and poor, Catholic and Protestant areas, had historically been strong territory for the DUP, with Johnny McQuade representing the constituency in the British House of Commons from 1979-1983. However, the DUP had stood down in favour of the Ulster Unionist Party in UK General elections in the late 1980s and 1990s. In 2001, Dodds challenged sitting Ulster Unionist Party MP Cecil Walker, despite the dangers of ceding this culturally mixed constituency to a Nationalist. However, after a series of faltering TV performances in which Walker appeared to be going senile, Dodds won just over 40% of the vote, and a comfortable 6,387 majority over Sinn Féin's Gerry Kelly, with Walker being pushed into a humiliating fourth place.
Dodds was Minister of Social Development in the Northern Ireland Executive from 21 November, 1999 but resigned on 27 July, 2000, then served again from 24 October, 2001, when the devolved institutions were restored, until resigning on 11 October, 2002, shortly before the executive and the Assembly were suspended.
Dodds was perceived as a quietly effective Minister, carrying out important reforms on the control of public sector housing, but was dogged by allegations that formulae allocating funding to deprived areas were being skewed against Nationalists. Not only was Dodds Minister for Social Development, but an unprecedented four of his five Assembly colleagues from North Belfast sat on the relevant Assembly committee – reflecting the chronically high levels of poverty in this part of Northern Ireland.
Dodds also courted controversy during the Holy Cross dispute which took place in the Ardoyne area of his constituency. In June 2001, after a dispute between local Loyalist and Republican activists over the flying of Loyalist paramilitary flags in an interface area, Loyalists began to blockade the nearby Holy Cross Primary School, a Catholic Primary School which was left behind a peace line in a Protestant area at the beginning of the troubles. After the school holidays, protests resumed in September and continued into early 2002. While there were undoubtedly causes for grievance on both sides of the Ardoyne peace line, the sight of grown men and women shouting abuse at girls as young as four was a public relations disaster for the predominantly Protestant community of Upper Ardoyne as well as Unionism more widely. Dodds undoubtedly appreciated the magnitude of the mistake Upper Ardoyne residents were making, but felt that he had to support his section of the community. Many Nationalists feel that Dodds did not play a courageous enough rôle in challenging his own community over what was, for them, a simple case of young girls being allowed to attend school in peace. Dodds’ supporters counter that he was instrumental in eventually allowing the dispute to be resolved peacefully.
Dodds’ strong evangelical views also raised disquiet within the Nationalist community during the Holy Cross dispute. Dodds and local Catholic Priest Aidan Troy were key figures in the talks surrounding in the dispute, both clearly wanting to see the dispute resolved, yet each retaining influence with hard line elements. Dodds refused to use the title “Father”, referring to “Mr. Troy” instead, even behind closed doors. This struck most Nationalists, indeed most non-Evangelicals, as a rather bizarre calculated insult, although it was almost certainly the result of unbending principle rather than personal animosity.
Personal tragedy nearly struck the Dodds family on 20 December, 1996. Dodds was visiting his sick son in the Royal Victoria Hospital in Belfast when a group of IRA gunmen ambushed him in the corridors. No-one was hurt, and the attack disgusted many even in Republican circles. Despite his role in the Holy Cross dispute, Dodds is not a hate figure among Nationalists in the way that colleagues Ian Paisley and Peter Robinson are. This seems to stem from his relaxed and less histrionic style of speaking, particularly on television.
Although Peter Robinson remains favourite to succeed the ailing Ian Paisley as leader of the DUP, Dodds is increasingly mentioned in despatches as a serious contender for the post. His intellectual capacity and standard of education are unparalleled within the DUP, and he also manages to bridge the urban, secular, working-class and rural, evangelical wings of the Party.
Nigel Dodds is married with one son and one daughter, and lives in a rural area outside Banbridge in County Down