Exclusive: Ian Paisley’s belated acknowledgment of David Trimble’s legacy: the principle of Consent…

Now, this is interesting. No really, it is. And for a couple reasons. One is what it says. And two, though I am not sure whether it made the print edition of today’s Belfast News Letter, that it was only on the site for about a hour last night before it disappeared.

It’s Doctor Paisley’s weekly column. And (thanks to an eagled-eyed reader) it makes for fascinating reading, especially for those of you who are historians of the peace process.

In a week when Basil McCrea broke party lines to vote against an amendment to dump reference to the Belfast Agreement, Dr Paisley delivered a solemn warning, seemingly to his own party colleagues, although not by name, for its attempts at re-writing history, and ignoring the bedrock principle of the current peace, ie consent:

I could fill this page with what I see when I lift up my eyes and look beyond our shores. But what do others see when they lift up their eyes and see us?

I am sure this week they must wonder why some want to unpick copper fasteners and ask for a border poll! Having won the principle of consent and secured our place within the United Kingdom, we ought to be very careful to hold the prize and not be glib about “calling the bluff” of others as though it were something of little value.

Our secure position today as part of the United Kingdom didn’t come about by a false display of confidence in a hand of poker. The removal of the articles in the Irish Constitution laying claim to Northern Ireland as that jurisdiction’s territory, was, we should never forget, hard won.

It was also a substantial act of goodwill by the people of Southern Ireland to vote to have the claim removed from their constitution in order to facilitate neighbourly relations. It played no small part in disarming the political justification of the Irish Republican Army’s reign of terror.

Why, when we are seeing a period of deeply felt concern regarding our flag, and for which no solution has yet been found, would anyone think it sensible to throw a bucketful of time, energy and money at a border poll for which there is absolutely no need or even demand?

Better to spend that time, energy and money on our real future, our youth, and solve the greatly vexed question of their education regarding transfer tests. Eyes down might be the better option on this one![Emphasis added]

Unwonted, but fulsome praise for the government and the people of the Irish Republic. But just as interesting in the context of this week, surely a belated, and long overdue acknowledgement that it was David, now Lord, Trimble who delivered the key element of a long settlement rather than his own party.

Which inconvenient truth may go someway to explain why the piece no longer appears on the News Letter’s website?

Mick is founding editor of Slugger. He has written papers on the impacts of the Internet on politics and the wider media and is a regular guest and speaking events across Ireland, the UK and Europe. Twitter: @MickFealty