The Blanket

The Blanket - A Journal of Protest & Dissent
Demise of the Dinosaur?
Eamon Sweeney • 19 January 2004

The most interesting facet of Ian Paisleys announcement that he is to retire from his role as an MEP at the forthcoming European election is that is the fact that he stated that one of the main reasons that he is stepping down is to concentrate on leading his DUP negotiating team during the upcoming review of the Good Friday Agreement.

The north Antrim MP announced his retirement from European politics on Monday past. The 77 year old monolith apparently is intent on one final blast to rid the north of the GFA, beginning on Feburary 3rd. Given the fact that the European poll will take place in June this year, this does not bode well for the speedy review that nationalists and pro-agreement parties in general desire. The timing of the Reverend Dr’s continental political demise and the fact that the elections are almost six-months away, immediately illustrate that the DUP are intent on a review or renegotiation of the accord that far out strips that of their rivals.

In truth, the more youthful elements within the DUP are aware that in reality no renegotiation of the agreement will take place. Whilst busy crowing about the fact that they are without doubt, after the defection of Jeffrey Donaldson and his colleagues, the largest party in the non-existent assembly, there is developing an increasingly evident, but still publicly unspoken consensus within the DUP that they cannot go too far with their fillibustering, delaying or wrecking tactics during this review. This really could be the last chance for this agreement to work, or at least get back to a working footing. The DUP, including Donaldson are too covetous of institutional power and its trappings to blow this opportunity. In effect the irony is that no matter whether or not the electorate endorsed the DUP wish list for renegotiation, and the evidence wholeheartedly displayed that they did, the approval of that electorate could quickly evaporate if the DUP party do not eventually go back into power at some point.

The northern unionist electorate have approved the reworking of the 1998 accord, in no way does it automatically follow that they have also approved the complete dismantling of devolution as well.

The fact is that the storm clouds are gathering over the rainbow coalition that conspired in three different countries to get the 1998 accord agreed upon in the first place.

In London Tony Blair is in danger of having to fight for his political survival over the university top up fee fiasco, whilst in Dublin Bertie Ahern’s presidency of the EU and his ever more public annoyance with Sinn Fein over accusations of Fianna Fail financial scandals owes more to his obvious fear that northern republicanism is about to claim a stake in the future governance of the republic in upcoming elections. For all Ahern’s insistence that he will not share power with a Sinn Fein party whilst the IRA are still around, the fact is that he may have to whether he likes or not; not only in relation to his political survival but also his legal and constitutional right to sideline a party that will gather enough electoral support to warrant a place of notable position within the Dail.

As for the third supposed player in the international conglomeration to solve the ills of poor little Northern Ireland, I do not believe that I have to make any further comment on the usefulness of George Bush’s administration since he took the Whitehouse with regard to ourselves.

In past periods of hiatus within the devolved parliament, amidst suspensions and party as well as personal incriminations of republicans, the DUP propensity for sabre rattling, name calling and at times astonishing levels of personal and political immaturity were and still remain unsurpassed by any other political party in western Europe that wishes to be regarded as a serious entity. Therefore whilst telling their electorate from the front that they are going to this review to despoil and destroy, from the side of their mouths their tone will become increasingly conciliatory. This cannot be done with Ian Paisley senior at the helm of this already leaky ship. As he heads for his eighth decade, the most apt phrase to apply to the rapidly aging Paisley includes the words old dog and new tricks.

Therefore while no member of the DUP executive will ever admit it I believe that we are witnesses of a velvet coup to slowly put the old man out to seed. Age has not dimmed the vigour of the infamous Paisley bitterness and bigotry but whilst he has stood still shouting, around him the landscape that he has stood in defence of has altered irrevocably. He cannot rely on republican violence any longer as the yard stick with which to beat his adversaries. In addition the emergence of an erudite highly capable republican leadership, busying itself with the dismantling of the IRA who remain only now as an expedient tool of the Adams' mindgame, has fractured forever the need to rely on the them and us scenario and made the DUP at last examine some semblance of normal politicking by actually formulating policies or at least the consideration of policy beyond holding a bible in one hand a firearms license in the other.

The new terminology of unionism has bypassed Paisley. These days you can still say no, it’s just that now you must be able to say it in a myriad of ways and you most certainly cannot be seen to foam at the mouth with religious fervour on all these occasions. The purposeful reasoning behind sidelining the big man during the election campaign last October was justified wholly on polling day when Paisley grabbed UTV’s Ivan Martin’s coat collar while being pressurised by the journalist in an interview at a count centre. Additional embarrassment was added to the pyre last weekend when big Ian, wearing his Free Presbyterian outfit, held a prayer meeting outside Ravenhill in protest at the destruction of the Lord's day, as Ulster’s rugby team hosted a European cup match. Surrounded by the obligatory gathering of elderly blue rinses and some old women as well, “there is power in the blood of the lamb” did not sound as strong when I had paused many years ago in Belfast city centre to listen to the same type of gathering. The voice is still strong but cannot hold the stamina of former decades, the big frame is devoid of the bulk that intimidated and harried, blustered and boisterously laughed down his opponents with a level of self-confidence that bespoke supreme assuredness that the Lord himself was only a mere phone call away if he was required. There was definitely some power in the blood last Sunday, Ulster won 33-0, desecration or no desecration.

There is a quiet moving away from the overtly and narrow minded religious overtones that are linked to the DUP. If Sinn Fein are, as often mooted, inextricably linked to the IRA, the Christ soldiers of Free Presbyterianism are the comparable equivalent. It is notable however that in recent years that this has begun to change. The leadership or executive of the DUP are not as stacked as they once were with personalities that hold dual membership of the party and its religious wing. The separation of the church from politics is an ongoing process and another indicator of the changing face of the DUP.

Can you for example imagine, that if as expected, Nigel Dodds assumes the mantle of DUP European representative, that he would be dragged screaming rabidly from the chamber at Strasbourg in the same manner his predecessor was some years back during the visit of Pope John Paul?

In the past there have been occasions when Paisley attacked Martin Luther for being too liberal. The depths to which he despises Catholicism cannot really be quantified, and these practically medieval beliefs permeate all aspects of his thinking. Of course the danger in this has always been the extent to which he hitched his religious outlook to a political programme. His attacks on line dancing as an incitement to lust readily illustrates a level of superficial silliness that we can all snigger at but which in reality mask our discomfort that this type of thinking still attracts substantial support within the six counties. This has been the same since Paisley’s initial forays into northern politics in the late 1960’s. The tendency by Paisley to demonise Catholicism and therefore Catholics was done in the full knowledge that there were people out there prepared to kill on this basis but allowed him enough scope to have his hands remain blood free, hiding as he always did upon the semantic interpretation of biblical literalism.

John Hume once contended that if the word no was removed from the English language then Ian Paisley would be left speechless. This is of course not true in the strictest sense of the wording but we can appreciate what Hume was alluding to. It is a tribute to Paisley that it seems that it will be only age that will eventually dim a mind that was capable of finding a tri-colour so offensive that he incited a riot that led to the smashing of Sinn Fein candidate Liam Mc Millen’s campaign headquarters in Divis Street back in 1966. Some historians believe that it was this action that heralded the start of the “The Troubles”, three years before 1969. He was there at the beginning and by doing his job so well throughout the years he has been a “true” Unionist and by ensuring that he will not be there at the end, the union is intact and he can hand the torch onto the new generation. In telling journalist Peter Taylor some years back that he will take his convictions to the grave summarises his outlook aptly. His place on history’s podium is undoubted, but how history will judge him is entirely another matter. The actions of the new generation of the DUP may have him spinning in that grave when the fateful day arrives. Will Peter Robinson, Nigel Dodds or indeed Ian junior for example ever be able to say with the same confidence that they will not forsake the blue skies of Ulster for the grey mists of an Irish republic?




Index: Current Articles + Latest News and Views + Book Reviews + Letters + Archives

The Blanket - A Journal of Protest & Dissent



All censorships exist to prevent any one from challenging current conceptions and existing institutions. All progress is initiated by challenging current conceptions, and executed by supplanting existing institutions. Consequently the first condition of progress is the removal of censorships.
- George Bernard Shaw

Index: Current Articles

20 January 2004


Other Articles From This Issue:


Demise of the Dinosaur?
Eamon Sweeney


The Price the Working Classes Pay for a Pedestal These Days
Mick Hall


The One Eyed Observer

Anthony McIntyre


The Spark in Jeffery
John Fitzharris


Anti-Racism Rally

Davy Carlin


32CSM Condemns PIRA Shooting of Republican Activist
Andy Martin


Semantics of Empire
M. Shahid Alam


16 January 2004


Response by the Maghaberry POWs to the 'Compact Propsals for Separated Prisoners
PRO Maghaberry POWs


Horses or Zebras?
Paul Fitzsimmons


The Future of Iran

Pedram Moallemian


Anthony McIntyre


A State of the Union Address

Eamon Sweeney





The Blanket




Latest News & Views
Index: Current Articles
Book Reviews
The Blanket Magazine Winter 2002
Republican Voices