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The Blanket - A Journal of Protest & Dissent
Who Can Get Dr No to Say Yes?

Political journalist Dr John Coulter poses the controversial question – who has the ability to convert Rev Ian Paisley, the Dr No of Unionist politics, into the First Minister Yes of a power-sharing Executive?

 

Dr John Coulter • 11 November 2006

British 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 say yeah!

Blair 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.

Sinn 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 a reality.

In 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.

This 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 Minister respectively.

In 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 24 November.

But why has the Dr No of Unionism had a Biblical-style Road to Damascus conversion to constructive Unionism?

In January 1965, Paisley's supporters pelted the then Taoiseach Sean Lemass's car as it went to Stormont.

If 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.

So 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.

The 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.

As 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.

Her 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.

Two 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.

In 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.

In 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.

On 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.

One 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 Ireland Assembly.

Mrs 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.

As 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, caring husband.

The 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.


 

Read Dr John Coulter's If You Ask Me from this week's BBC Hearts & Minds.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


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Index: Current Articles



19 November 2006

Other Articles From This Issue:

The Bogeyman
Anthony McIntyre

Believe It Or Not
John Kennedy

Contra Con Artists
Anthony McIntyre

The Wrong Kind of Republican?
Ivan Morley

Equality Agenda: British Rhetoric and Reality
Martin Galvin

A Deal Done By Quislings
Mick Hall

Realignments
Dr John Coulter

Deadline? Pull the other one!
David Adams

Political Policing
Martin Ingram

It's Not The Taking Part
Anthony McIntyre

Who Can Get Dr No to Say Yes?
Dr John Coulter

Equality or Equity
Michéal MháDonnáin

Federalism
Michael Gillespie

Revolutionary Unionism
Dr John Coulter

Who Needs Enemies
John Kennedy

The King's Threshold
Robin Kirk


7 November 2006

When It's Time for Change, No One Is Irreplaceable
Mick Hall

Date Fixed For Flawed Landmark Case
Michael McKevitt Justice Campaign

Souper Sinn Fein
Eoghan O'Suilleabhain

Boo!
Dr John Coulter

St Andrews Agreement & 'the Left'
Davy Carlin

Shotgun Wedding
John Kennedy

...and to create the space for a diversity of views...
Noel Dolan

'Undo the Great Betrayal, Free the Occupied 26'
Dr John Coulter

The Wind That Shakes the Barley
Anthony McIntyre

Power & Powerlessness
Patricia Campbell

The Constantine Institute
Terry O'Neill

Mary Robinson Spotlights Human Rights Abuses in Darfur
William Hughes

Fearless Speech
Anthony McIntyre

 

 

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