less than 100 days to go to Super Friday, DUP boss
Ian Paisley is the North's Man of Destiny.
there is no agreement on a power-sharing Executive
by 24 November, Northern Secretary Peter Hain will
chop the salaries and allowances for all 108 Assembly
member a sure sign that Stormont will be
the 100-day political clock ticks away, Paisley
remains firmly in control of his party. In spite
of all the evidence his MLAs are beavering away
on the Preparation for Government Committee, Paisley
alone will make the final decision on any green
light for an Executive with Sinn Fein.
real crunch will come on 23 November 24 hours
before the deadline depending if Paisley
remains as firmly in control of the DUP.
October marks the 35th anniversary of Paisley forming
the DUP at an Ulster Hall rally in Belfast in 1971.
Now in his 81st year, the Big Man of Unionist politics
and Protestant fundamentalism will surely be deciding
what his legacy to the Northern community will be.
by his 'Never, Never, Never'-style vintage Paisley
speech at this year's Twelfth, there is not a snowball's
chance in the flames of Hell of a DUP/Sinn Fein
power-sharing Executive on the cards by the November
negative speech sparked tough criticism of the DUP
leader's political stance from one of the most influential
Northern Protestant clerics Dean Houston
Dean McKelvey's sharp rebuke of Paisley in a letter
in the Belfast Cathedral Digest was to spark a groundswell
of public opinion against the DUP boss, it would
be the only lever which would forcibly nudge him
into an Executive.
Achilles' Heel is that the Unionist electorate would
turn against him personally. As the hours tick away
steadily to Day Zero, his party will paw over every
opinion poll to monitor the level of support for
the DUP boss.
constant rumours his two main political confidantes
are his son, Ian Junior, and the Free Presbyterian
Gospel-singing cleric and South Antrim MP William
McCrea, Paisley has always been a politician who
makes his own decisions.
the McKelvey letter became a bandwagon of criticism,
Paisley could become worried if the polls confirmed
the public would abandon him personally if he did
not make a deal with Sinn Fein.
question of Paisley's legacy revolves around two
scenarios. Does he want to be the man who was shackled
by the iron straitjacket of his own making this
Twelfth, collapsed the Assembly, and sold Northern
Unionism down the drain to joint authority with
will his legacy be of the man who became bigger
than his own negative history to date, formed an
Executive and gave Northern Unionism hope for the
Paisley is in total control of the DUP, what is
equally clear is that the so-called modernising
wing around deputy boss Peter Robinson has been
neutered in terms of political influence.
in recent weeks since the start of the July summer
recess at Stormont, a small group of DUP people,
dubbed the new realists, have been steadily emerging.
are believed to have their ears close to the rank
and file Unionist family. The so-called new realists
recognise the dilemma Unionism will find itself
in if Stormont is chopped and joint authority imposed.
this respect, the opinions of popular Foyle MLA
William Hay and East Londonderry MP Gregory Campbell
are fast gaining ground among the new realist wing.
the new realists could convince Paisley he faces
a coup from the Unionist people if there is no Executive,
this could be the one and only chance to shock Paisley
out of his present 'not an inch' corner and into
a power-sharing scenario.
the Sir Reg Empey-led rival Ulster Unionists will
be looking to their former dissident MP Jeffrey
Donaldson to possibly save the day.
senior UUP MLA has told The Blanket: Wee
Jeffrey has already split one party; why can't he
was bold enough to continually stand up to then
UUP boss David Trimble in the years following the
Belfast Agreement before eventually defecting to
the Paisley camp where he has become a voice of
this final 100-day era, if Donaldson could convince
enough DUP MLAs to defect to a United Unionist Coalition
with Empey's UUP and David Ervine of the Progressive
Unionists, Hain and Tony Blair may be prepared to
give the new Unionist Rainbow grouping a chance
to form the Executive.
Paisley camp is petrified a deal with Sinn Fein
will split the DUP, with the hardline religious
fundamentalists leaving to form their own radical
even Paisley would be prepared to face down his
own religious Rednecks if he feared the overall
Unionist electorate was going to desert him.
is likely discussions to form an Executive will
go right to the wire on 24 November when one of
three outcomes will happen:
will finally buckle under the poll pressure and
form the Executive;
won't budge and Stormont collapses to be replaced
by joint authority;
Hay or Campbell can convince the new realists in
the DUP to defy Paisley and either lead a coup themselves,
or force Paisley senior into an Executive.