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New Hero, and a Legacy

Political journalist and Unionist Revisionist Dr John Coulter reflects on how DUP deputy supremo Peter Robinson should be the new hero of Unionism, and analyses the legacy of the late Charlie Haughey to Loyalism

Dr John Coulter • 19 June 2006

Cometh the hour, cometh the man … hail the new Northern political saviour – Peter Robinson, the DUP’s deputy boss.

For weeks I have lost sleep he lacked the will to face down Big Ian’s ruling fundamentalists, but Big Pete is now striding around the corridors of Stormont like a man who knows his mission.

Just as the late Enoch Powell was the best Prime Minister Britain never had, it would be a bitter, crying shame in the troubled history of the North if Robinson never became First Minister.

Robinson has just returned from the United States and the word on the hill – and I mean Capitol Hill in Washington – is that the East Belfast MP and MLA is definitely the Bush administration’s blue-eyed boy.

Forget Paisley senior and the rest of the religious puritans. The Yanks and Brits both believe – correctly – that Robinson can deliver on a power-sharing Executive at Stormont.

His fan club in the DUP, dubbed the modernisers, came within a picture thickness of cutting a deal with the Shinners in November 2004 when Big Ian was slap bang in the middle of his supposedly near-death experience.

But back bounced Paisley, and promptly jumped over any deal. Until last week and Robinson’s latest American sortie, there was a bigger chance of Trinidad and Tobago winning the World Cup than a DUP/Shinner Executive by November 24.

The word on Stormont hill is that the DUP doves have suddenly sprouted political muscles and could be about to kick the fundamentalist hawks into touch.

Judging by the body language of two leading hawks – Ian Junior and singin’ Billy McCrea – the modernisers have a few ace cards up their sleeves.

This is not a time to play cat and mouse with Big Ian’s religious mob; this is the opportunity to face down the fundamentalists once and for all.

Trimble tried, but crashed and burned. The UUP’s new boss Reg Empey has got his fingers badly nipped with the party’s alleged links with the murderous UVF.

Robinson alone remains the Great White Hope for unionism, and whilst Paisley is still ranting in his own ‘Never, never, never’ land, the East Belfast MP is now looking and sounding every inch the man who should be Northern Prime Minister.

Gone are the dark glasses of the late Seventies when Robinson snatched the safe UUP East Belfast constituency from former Vanguard founder Bill Craig.

The Ulster Resistance red beret is dumped in the bottom drawer, and Robinson’s notorious Clontibret Commandos have been disbanded.

Everyone knows Robinson has the brains and experience to be an exceptionally competent First Minister. If he pulls this one off by 24 November, he’ll become the greatest unionist leader since Edward Carson himself.

For Bush, a Robinson coup at Stormont could be the only success story of his foreign policy as the Iraq fiasco rumbles on with the Yank President seriously having to now consider attacking Iran and even Syria.

But Ahern, Blair, Hain, Adams and Empey must all realise they cannot sit back and let Robinson fight this one out alone. Empey must rally his troops behind the Robinson faction.

Adams must agree to do business with the DUP modernisers and isolate Paisley. Bush must supply the international investment if a Northern Executive is to be financially viable.

Ahern, Blair and Hain must give the assurances to the unionist people that a Robinson deal is not a one-way ticket to a united Ireland.

Paisley is playing the party unity card, hoping he can persuade Blair to prolong the Assembly until next May and have yet another crack at the already election battered UUP.

There’s no doubt a Robinson peace deal will split the DUP. The challenge for the unionist people is – do they want peace, or another generation of Protestant infighting? It’s crunch time – get real with Robinson, or potty with Paisley.

Meanwhile, in spite of all the pomp and ceremony surrounding Charles Haughey's state funeral in the Republic, he was probably the single biggest Southern hate figure of the 20th century to Northern Unionism, second only to former President Eamon de Valera.

He will always be remembered as the Fianna Fail politician who was arrested and tried on charges of gun-running for the Provos.

Although he was acquitted of all charges and spent several years in the Southern political wilderness, he never regained the trust of unionism – not that it ever existed in the first place.

There has always been the perception among the vast majority of Northern Protestants – a view which haunted him to his grave – that Haughey was a living inspiration for the Provos' terror campaign.

The fact such a high-profile Southern politician could even be linked to a gun-running scandal involving republicans was enough to convince many Unionists that Haughey harboured a secret support for the Provos.

In Northern Unionists eyes, if Haughey had not been linked to the arms scandal, then the republican movement would not have been prepared to plunge the North into more than three decades of murder, mayhem and bloodshed.

Although he publicly condemned acts of IRA violence and even developed a fairly warm working relationship with the Iron Lady, British Prime Minister Maggie Thatcher in May 1980, Haughey remained hated by Loyalists and deeply distrusted by Unionists.

For the Paisley camp, he was a political God send and the DUP used him as one of its central hate figures in the Carson Trail election rallies and the launch of the Ulster Third Force paramilitary group in 1981.

Had it not been for Haughey, the Paisleyites would not have been able to demonise the Dublin government in the way they used the IRA to castigate republicans.

Haughey's terms as Taoiseach effectively galvanised the DUP's fear factor among Northern Protestants that the South wanted to take over the North.

Haughey's leadership was sold to rank and file Protestants on the basis that the IRA was doing his 'dirty work', and if the Provos bombed and shot the North into a united Ireland, he would be the main political beneficiary.

Haughey's premierships strategically laid the groundwork for the DUP to eventually become the largest unionist party in November 2003.

For Ulster Unionists, his relationship with Thatcher was viewed with tremendous suspicion. Although it was always known by Unionists there was a large degree of tension between the two premiers, the fact Haughey was prepared to have talks with Thatcher made Unionists paranoid he was trying to undermine the Iron Lady's dogmatic support for the Union.

Although in November 1985, Thatcher signed the Anglo-Irish Agreement with Garret FitzGerald of Fine Gael, the UUP has always remained deeply suspicious it was really Haughey who completed all the spadework for that accord.

Had Haughey not been bedevilled with controversy and scandal within his own Dublin administrations, Loyalist paramilitaries may well have attempted to assassinate him.

However, his fall from political grace was adjudged by them as summary justice for his tough united Ireland policy and any attempt to kill him would have backfired in the form of a tide of sympathy for Haughey – and a united Ireland - among the Southern electorate.

Had Haughey been Taoiseach in November 1985 instead of FitzGerald, the Dublin accord – which ironically Haughey appeared publicly critical of – and especially the Maryfield Secretariat near Stormont would have been much more republican in ethos and could have seen joint authority of the North before the end of the 20th century.

His death will not be mourned by Unionists and Loyalists, many of whom still view him as the gun-runner who got away.

Despite the state funeral for Haughey, Northern Unionism will brand him as being no better than militant rebels Padraig Pearse, James Connolly and the other signatories of the Proclamation of the Provisional Government 90 years ago during the failed Dublin Easter Rising.

Many Unionists also believe had Haughey succeeded in having a Fianna Fail premiership as long as one of his successors – present TaBertie Ahern – then republicans could have been marking the Easter Rising commemorations with at least joint authority, at best a united Ireland.



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The Blanket - A Journal of Protest & Dissent



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Index: Current Articles

22 June 2006

Other Articles From This Issue:

The Framing of Michael McKevitt
Marcella Sands

Foreward to 'The Framing of Michael McKevitt'
Fr Des Wilson

Demagogues and Demigod
Tommy Gorman

Getting It Tight
John Kennedy

The Restoration of Restorative Justice
Marcel M. Baumann

DUP Analysis
Dr John Coulter

Father Faul
Fr. Sean McManus

Aiden Hulme Repatriation Picket
Paul Doyle

Prison Protest Begins
Republican Prisoners Action Group (RPAG), Republican Sinn Fein, Newry

New Hero, and a Legacy
Dr John Coulter

Charlie's Angel
John Kennedy

The Letters page has been updated.

Profile: Mehdi Mozaffari
Anthony McIntyre

The Blanket, the Cartoons and the End of Left and Right
Gabriel Glickman

The Blanket and the Cartoon Controversy: Anthony McIntyre Interviewed
Martyn Frampton

A Welcome End
Mick Hall

Anthony McIntyre

Freedom of Speech index

14 June 2006

The Mark of Cain
Anthony McIntyre

Debris of the Dirty War
Mick Hall

More Claims
Martin Ingram

Case Unproven
Anthony McIntyre

Chain Gang
John Kennedy

Better to Put the Past Behind US
David Adams

The Gamblers
Dr John Coulter

Diarmaid Ferriter's The Transformation of Ireland
Seaghán Ó Murchú

Profile: Caroline Fourest
Anthony McIntyre

Le «manifeste des douze» fait réagir
Caroline Fourest

Reaction to the Manifesto (English Translation)
Liam O Ruairc

Freedom of Speech index



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