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The Blanket - A Journal of Protest & Dissent
Blood in the Water

Already the St Andrews Agreement is suffering from a severe dose of the political flu. But is DUP unease in reality the opening shots for a post Paisley leadership battle?


Dr John Coulter • 28 October 2006

When is a coup not a coup? When its “healthy debate” within the DUP, of course!

But there is still a deep suspicion in many unionist circles popular DUP MEP Jim Allister's public concerns about sections of the St Andrews Agreement are, in reality, the opening shots in a post Paisley leadership bid.

It seems unbelievable following the public euphoria from all camps in the aftermath of October's crucial 'hot house' talks in Scotland the sequencing should stumble at the first hurdles.

The postponing of the planned face-to-face meeting between DUP chief Ian Paisley and Sinn Fein supremo Gerry Adams took place within hours of Allister's very public unease the Provos were not obliged to disband their Army Council under the Scottish agreement.

The Paisley camp's excuse for not participating in the previously agreed face-to-face Stormont encounter was its insistence Sinn Fein chief negotiator Martin McGuinness give a pledge of support for policing and law and order prior to the 24 November deadline for nominations for First and Deputy First Minister.

However, there are some suggestions the real reason was a knee-jerk reaction to the Allister broadside amid allegations the MEP did not inform the DUP leadership he was going public with his concerns.

Mr Allister has said he was not rejecting the St Andrews package, but simply wanted to see healthy debate within the party.

Since becoming a poll-topping MEP and replacing Paisley in 2004, the prominent barrister Allister has become a grassroots hero in the party among the traditional Right-wing, concerned the DUP was giving too many concessions to republicans in exchange for the return of a legislative Assembly.

In spite of the concessions to Unionism on rates, the grammar sector and sequencing, there are still a significant number of rank and file unionists – particularly in the DUP – who remain deeply sceptical about the power-sharing elements of the St Andrews Agreement.

Even before the Agreement, Allister had already established his clear political credentials as the unofficial leader of the DUP's ultra dissident wing.

The two other factions in the party are the modernisers around deputy leader Peter Robinson, and the ruling religious fundamentalists around Paisley himself and the South Antrim MP and Free Presbyterian cleric Rev William McCrea.

While Robinson would appear to be the likely successor to Paisley as both First Minister and DUP boss, it has been alleged The Big Man favours North Belfast MP Nigel Dodds to replace himself as party supremo.

However, with Paisley aged almost 81, Allister will have to carefully time any bid to become leader. He would be best likely to form a pressure group within the DUP in much the same way as dissident unionists in the rival Ulster Unionists formed the group Union First with Lagan Valley MP Jeffrey Donaldson as one of their figureheads.

But what Allister really needs to shift any leadership bid into top gear is a Westminster seat – and Paisley's stomping ground of North Antrim would be a natural choice.

Allister was a former North Antrim member of the 1982-86 Assembly, but his initial task in becoming North Antrim MP would be to take the nomination away from Paisley's son, Ian Junior.

In the meantime, Allister can use his MEP's role to build on his already impressive power base across the North among rank and file unionists.

It would effectively be political suicide for Allister to leave the DUP and form an alliance with North Down UKUP leader and fellow barrister Robert McCartney, who is a sharp critic of the St Andrews Agreement.

Given his European vote and his clear support from the UUP's Right wing, Allister's next logical move could be to form a New Vanguard pressure group as a debating forum for dissidents within the DUP, UUP and UKUP.

However, it is also highly unlikely Allister would mount a direct leadership challenge against Paisley himself for fear of being portrayed as a Brutus-type character, stabbing the Unionist Caesar Rev Ian Paisley in the back.






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The Blanket - A Journal of Protest & Dissent



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Index: Current Articles

30 October 2006

Other Articles From This Issue:

Granny Josie
Anthony McIntyre

Guardians of Perjury
Martin Galvin

Writing on the Wall
John Kennedy

The Litmus Test of Republicanism
Charlie Clarke

Monkey Business
Anthony McIntyre

Northern Invasion
Dr John Coulter

Eamon McGuire: The Life of an Undercover IRA Activist
William Hughes

Deal Will Underline Delusions
David Adams

Blood in the Water
Dr John Coulter

Muslims = Terrorists
M. Shahid Alam

Nothing Could Be More Offensive!
Maryam Namazie

25 October 2006

From Up the Ra to Up the Rozzers
Anthony McIntyre

Just Say No
Martin Galvin

Whither Irish Republicanism
Mick Hall

The Three Stooges
John Kennedy

Jockeying For Position
Dr John Coulter

An Irish Agreement
Liam O Comain

Up the Garden Path
John Kennedy

A Gaelic Experiement
Nathan Dowds

Preventing Prejudice
Anthony McIntyre



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