Paisley Senior is Ireland's new Wolfe Tone, the
iconic DUP boss who will lead most of Northern
Protestantism into a fresh Irish political dawn
on 8 May.
year marks the 210th anniversary of the death
of the legendary Protestant revolutionary in November
1798 after the failure of the United Irishmen's
rebellion against the English Government.
next month marks the 30th anniversary of Paisley's
failed United Unionist Action Committee strike
to protest against the English Government's security
policy in May 1977.
also demanded the return of majority government
in the North, but many factories stayed open and
the crucial Ballylumford power-station workers
refused to back the strike.
are many parallels between Paisley and Tone, although
the latter has been firmly claimed as a republican
hero. But using Paisley, Unionist culture can
equally lay claim to Tone as one of Ireland's
famous Protestant sons.
October 1791, Tone formed the predominantly Protestant
Society of United Irishmen which worked for parliamentary
reform of the English Government in Ireland. In
the late 1960s, Paisley formed the Protestant
Unionist Party to campaign against Terence O'Neill's
reforms in the Stormont Government.
rebellion in 1798 flopped because the English
establishment used the fledgling Orange Order
to split the United Irishmen. Another factor why
Paisley's '77 strike flopped was the Orange Grand
Lodge's refusal to call its members onto the streets
to support the would-be loyalist militants.
and Tone also share some personal traits. Both
are brilliantly articulate as public speakers;
both are known for their cleverness, humour and
personality; neither view themselves as nationalists,
and both developed a talent for writing in journals.
a military operation, Tone's revolt was a catastrophic
failure, but it did succeed in mobilising radical
Irish Presbyterianism into a cohesive political
used his fundamentalist Free Presbyterian Church
as the bedrock of the DUP, which in less than
a generation has become the lead voice for Unionism.
it is in developing an all-island identity for
Protestantism which Paisley's legacy as First
Minister will be most remembered.
meetings with Bertie Ahern in Dublin, the Irish
Catholic Church's hierarchy and the public photocall
with Sinn Fein's Gerry Adams are all proof Paisley
seems determined to move Unionism out of the trenches
of purely being a six-county movement.
their respective pasts, Paisley and Tone were
prepared to use force of arms to achieve their
ends. In 1796, Tone unveiled his blueprint for
a French invasion of Ireland, and even amassed
a force of 43 ships and almost 14,000 men.
November 1981, Paisley reviewed a massive parade
of his Ulster Third Force paramilitary group in
Newtownards. Half a decade later in 1986, he donned
the notorious red beret to give his backing to
another paramilitary group, Ulster Resistance.
Tone's trial in Dublin in November 1798, he defiantly
proclaimed his undying hostility to England and
his desire in fair and open war to produce
the separation of the two countries.
media interviews, Paisley has explained his decision
to 'do the deal' with SF as his desire to protect
'Loyal Ulster' from London's so-called Plan B,
which was joint authority of the North by Dublin
some strange questions still persist. Would the
Brits ever have mooted a Plan B if the Paisleyites
had gone ahead with a deal in December 2004, a
year after becoming the largest Unionist party
in the November 2003 Stormont poll? That deal
supposedly collapsed over a photo.
pledging his support to a power-sharing Executive
on 8 May, Paisley has gone further in his dealings
with republicanism than any other Unionist leader,
or even any other Protestant champion since Oliver
Cromwell and King Billy himself.
poses yet another teaser for Irish Protestantism
has Paisley even more new routes for Unionism
to follow? How long before Unionism adopts speaking
rights in the Dail, the DUP opens an office in
Dublin, and Unionist candidates contest seats
in Leinster House?
what happens if the DUP has a chance to take up
seats in the Irish Senate? It was only a matter
of months ago, people laughed at the thought of
a DUP/SF power-sharing government at Stormont.
don't laugh too soon at the notion of DUP politicians
addressing the Dail and Senate. Charles Stewart
Parnell and John Redmond, the legendary Irish
nationalist parliamentarians, may have deemed
themselves as the successors to Wolfe Tone.
how the First Minister designate is preparing
for power on 8 May, it is clear Ian Paisley should
be given Tone's true mantel of Ireland's leading
Protestant radical. Then again, Paisley's opponents
within Unionism may yell don't cry wolf