Premier Tony Blair may well spend quite a few
hours pacing the floors of Downing Street as he
awaits final confirmation of an historic Paisleyite
statement the Big Man from the DUP, he
successfully negotiated the Northern Ireland parties
through last Friday's major deadline in the Irish
political jig known as the St Andrews Agreement
as they gave the verdicts of their consultation
processes with rank and file members.
Fein has already voiced qualified support for
the deal, but it will be the definite blessing
of Ian Paisley himself which will signal if the
next deadline on 24 November will be a myth or
spite of some stormy consultation meetings with
its grassroots, the DUP gave a dim green light
to a commitment to proceed with the Scottish deal,
provided some more negotiating is done.
all paves the way for Paisley and Sinn Fein's
Martin McGuinness to be formally nominated as
the Northern Assembly's First and Deputy First
reality, its not a case of 'if' the Big Man allows
himself to be nominated, or by 'whom', but 'when'.
The pro-deal faction within the DUP has the upper
hand; the party's so-called dissidents have had
their political backsides kicked, so now its a
case of playing brinkmanship with Sinn Fein until
why has the Dr No of Unionism had a Biblical-style
Road to Damascus conversion to constructive Unionism?
January 1965, Paisley's supporters pelted the
then Taoiseach Sean Lemass's car as it went to
you'd said then, that 40 years later those loyalists'
political messiah would be on the verge of entering
a power-sharing Executive with the Provos' political
wing, you would have been locked in an institute
for the criminally insane.
why the change after a generation of 'never, never,
never' politics? Its been suggested the secret
of Paisley's personal strength is the strong influence
of his wife of 50 years, Eileen, now Baroness
Paisley of St George's.
Rev Ian's voice may be best known booming around
the globe, but there are persistent rumours her
soft political whispers in his ear may be the
guiding hand in the DUP boss's quest to become
Northern Prime Minister.
Ian Senior reaches the age of 81, Eileen
to whom the Big Man is totally devoted
would not want her husband's legacy to be he sold
'Loyal Ulster' down the treacherous path of joint
authority with Dublin.
background influence can never be underestimated.
While Ian Senior was still just a Hell-fire fundamentalist
preacher, Eileen had already got herself elected
to Belfast City Council in 1967. It would be three
years later in 1970 Big Ian would claim his first
electoral scalp when he won the Bannside by-election
in the original Stormont Parliament.
months later in June 1970, Paisley scored his
second electoral triumph when he clinched the
the previously safe Ulster Unionist Westminster
seat of North Antrim in the General Election
a Commons seat he has held ever since.
spite of all these victories by her husband, she
continues to be viewed as the guiding hand behind
his steady rise to power, leaving him just one
step away from the ultimate accolade Prime
Minister of Northern Ireland.
the meantime, she still writes a highly influential
column entitled Woman to Women in The Revivalist,
the monthly journal of Ian Senior's Free Presbyterian
Church of Ulster, founded in 1952.
13 October, Paisley rushed back to the North from
the St Andrews Agreement Press conferences to
celebrate his golden wedding anniversary, prompting
considerable speculation it has been Eileen, the
secret Iron Lady of the DUP, who has converted
Dr No into the pending First Minister Yes.
incident which I witnessed copper fastens the
devotion which Ian Senior has for his wife. It
took place during the election count in Ballymena
Town Hall in October 1982 for the then Northern
Paisley reportedly bumped her head in the building
and was taken to the caretaker's room to recuperate.
Ian Senior halted all Press interviews until he
was sure Eileen had recovered.
one of the reporters seeking his comments that
day, I recall the anxious look on his face as
Eileen was treated. The mask of the tough Big
Man of Unionism slipped to reveal a concerned,
impression is that Paisley Senior will not be
bullied by any man into a power-sharing Executive
with Sinn Fein. But rest assured, the Baroness
will play a key role in his final decision.