many lives could have been saved over the last 30
years if the Paisleyites had done a deal with Bill
Craig's Vanguard to bring about a power-sharing
deal with the SDLP?
the DUP should be renamed the Democratic Unionist
Pharisees, after the Biblical hypocrites as we approach
the 30th anniversary of Black Wednesday 3
March 1976 the day a meeting of the Constitutional
Convention was called to discuss a return of Stormont,
but ended in uproar.
you ever get the feeling we've been along this road
with the Paisleyites before? Less than a week after
this fateful meeting three decades ago, the then
Labour Northern Secretary Merlyn Rees axed the Convention.
the British Government should not be forced to make
the same disastrous decision as Rees. Instead of
falling into the Paisleyite pitfall, there are enough
pro-Agreement MLAs at Stormont from the UUP, SDLP,
Sinn Fein and Alliance to make the Executive work.
complete hypocrisy of the situation is that when
Craig in '75, then leader of the second largest
unionist party, Vanguard, suggested a voluntary
coalition with the SDLP, he was betrayed by the
UUP ultra Right-wing and the Paisley camp.
'75 Convention elections had seen the Unionist Coalition,
commonly called the Treble UC, romp home with 46
of the 78 seats. The UUP had 19, Vanguard 14 and
the DUP third with 12. The other seat was held by
an Independent Unionist.
had been the sole UUUC Convention member to back
a voluntary coalition. If the Paisleyites and moderate
UUP members had supported him, a legislative power-sharing
coalition with nationalism would have been in place
for the terror threat posed by republicans and loyalists,
the Labour Government would probably have ordered
'open season' on the IRA and UVF using the SAS,
making the Loughgall and Gibraltar massacres, in
which 11 Provisionals were shot dead, look like
a Sunday School picnic.
a look at a recent DUP utterance on the Paisleyite
party website under the heading 'voluntary coalition'
- The DUP contends, as it did in Devolution
Now, that a Voluntary Coalition is the best form
of devolution for Northern Ireland.
the about turn and support for Craig's original
proposal after 30 years of sectarian slaughter in
the North? Maybe it's case that rather than put
community harmony first by backing Craig, the DUP
knifed him in the back because the Paisleyites saw
an opportunity to split Vanguard and assume the
mantle of Second Biggest Unionist Party behind the
Paisleyite tactic obviously worked as within a matter
of months, Vanguard fragmented with its ultra Right-wing
forming a breakaway movement under the leadership
of Ernest Baird, but the fledgling United Ulster
Unionist Party as it became known, stood no chance
against the DUP in the hearts and minds of grassroots
the Paisleyites had pushed in '76 for an agreement
with the SDLP, they wouldn't now find themselves
in the dilemma of having to cut a deal with Sinn
Fein because the republican movement would have
been crushed by rampant London and Dublin governments.
the DUP's modernising wing now finds itself in the
same political pothole as Craig's Vanguard coalitionists.
If they make the deal with the republican movement,
the DUP will fragment.
they don't cut a deal with Sinn Fein, Tony Blair
may well have the courage to move the Assembly forward
without the Paisleyites but offering Executive
seats to any DUP MLA who has the guts to stand up
to the fundamentalists.
for a workable blueprint, the jungle drums suggest
the DUP will be asked by Blair to adopt a strategy
similar to the UUP document, Interim Administrative
Arrangements for the Governance of Northern Ireland,
given to Downing Street last February.
promoted the idea of an initial scrutiny-mode Assembly
before full powers were given back to Stormont.
for the payment of MLAs, the UUP blueprint said:
Assembly members would be paid at the rate
40 percent pro rata of their salaries, with the
remaining 60 percent pro rata being related to their
attendance at all plenary and all relevant committee
sessions of the Assembly.
simply, it's a better model of the 'no work, no
wages' suggestion from Northern Secretary Peter
Hain. If the DUP don't want to play ball with the
other Assembly members, then they don't get their
to make sure there were no mistakes as to who should
not be paid, the UUP document stated: Such
attendances would be notified to the public by advertisement
after the end of each calendar month. If this
was policy, then the days of 'a silent collection'
for the DUP are over.
the Paisleyites urgently need to take note of their
deputy leader Peter Robinson's advice when addressing
the party's Ballymoney branch in North Antrim in
October 2005 - If the government can create
confidence in the unionist community then, and only
then, can the focus shift to negotiations about
the political changes needed to bring about the
return of devolution.