Friday, speaking before a meeting held to discuss
tensions within the DUP, Ian Paisley jnr said
his colleagues should remember that the "real
enemy are republicans".
was rich, coming from that source. Throughout
his political career, Mr Paisley's father has
persisted in treating other unionists as though
they were the "real enemy".
his attitude had been more in line with his son's
belated advice, then unionism - not to mention
Northern Ireland - might well be in better shape
than it is today.
for the antics of Ian Paisley and a variety of
sidekicks down through the years, moderate unionists
might long ago have been able to establish and
maintain a powersharing administration with their
nationalist counterparts. And, consequently, might
just have managed to bring a measure of political
stability and social cohesion to Northern Ireland
when those were most sorely needed.
it was, every forward-looking unionist leader
was characterised as an enemy of the union and
relentlessly pursued with accusations of sell-out
and treachery until eventually toppled. In this
way, Ian Paisley and his cohorts brought every
political initiative to collapse.
times have changed. After finally managing to
clamber into the driving seat of unionism, it
is clear that Paisley is now eager to make a deal
of his own. Except it isn't really his own deal.
from Sinn Féin now being the lead nationalist
party, there is little difference between what
is currently on offer and any of the other proposed
settlements that Paisley spent decades opposing.
tells us that, regardless of what he has said
or done in the past, Ian Paisley didn't really
consider the more far-sighted leaders of unionism
as enemies at all, but rather as mere obstacles
on the road to his own ambition.
all of his past protestations and accusations
of sell-out, it would appear he was more upset
by the fact that it wasn't he and his party who
were making an agreement than with anything other
unionists were prepared to agree upon.
problem now for Paisley and his more pragmatic
colleagues is that not all of the DUP or its supporters
were alive to this.
of them actually believed the high-flown rhetoric
about the traitorous Ulster Unionists, the slippery
slope to Dublin, smashing Sinn Féin, never
sharing power with republicans, the necessity
for sackcloth and ashes, and all the rest of it.
within the DUP concerned at the direction the
party is taking consider themselves, with justification,
to be simply holding firm to the supposedly immovable
articles of faith to which they and their leader
have always clung.
the now dissenters vowed never to have any truck
with "IRA/Sinn Féin" they actually
reply to Ian Paisley jnr, they would argue it
is not they but the party leadership that has
forgotten who the "real enemy" are.
obviously related, not all of the current tensions
in the DUP are exclusively to do with the party's
dilution of its previous position.
an eye to Ian Paisley's age and his health problems
of a couple of years ago, no doubt some senior
members are taking the opportunity to position
themselves for a leadership bid when the occasion
arises. There is also a good deal of resentment
among many longtime DUP stalwarts at the parachuting
of former Ulster Unionist dissidents into senior
party positions over their heads.
said, this has been considerably heightened by
the fact that, virtually to a man and woman, these
past UUP members are among those pushing hardest
for Ian Paisley to run with the St Andrews Agreement.
root, everything stems from the fact that the
DUP is now charged with giving leadership (as
opposed to sniping from the sidelines) and hard
decisions having to be made.
essence, Ian Paisley is facing the same dilemma
that confronted former UUP leader David Trimble.
like the courageous Trimble, he faces down the
opposition in his party and enters a powersharing
Executive with Sinn Féin where unionism
will help direct the future of Northern Ireland,
but run the significant attendant risk that republicans
will act as a ministerial fifth column, or he
buckles under the pressure and opts for allowing
the process to collapse, hoping that blame for
the subsequent dissolution of the Assembly spreads
beyond his door.
obvious problem with this option is that it will
leave unionism politically isolated, and Northern
Ireland to be jointly managed by the British and
out the process beyond March next year, in the
forlorn hope that things might change for the
better, would probably guarantee party unity,
but it is not a realistic option.
can be little doubt that with elections in the
Republic and Tony Blair's imminent departure from
Downing Street to occupy them, next year's deadline
is at least one the two governments intend sticking
thing is certain, whatever Ian Paisley decides
to do his party will shed members and supporters.
by its very success, the DUP has been robbed of
the internal cohesion that comes with perpetual
with permission from the author.