Paisley’s Certain Victory?

In today’s Irish Times, John Waters takes a look at what he describes as the “last battle over the meaning of the Troubles” (subs req.). “The war is over”, he agrgues, “but there remains the matter of settled interpretation.”Waters continues: “Dr Paisley last week restated his case: the IRA must disband before his party will resume powersharing with Sinn Féin. The Taoiseach baulked at the word “disbandment”.

Instead, he reiterated, the IRA must cease all criminal and paramilitary activity and “become a commemorative organisation”. He can’t see why anybody “would force an organisation to do more than that”. I’ll tell you why: because by doing so, unionism can claim total and final victory over the IRA. If the IRA disbands, it will have been established that the IRA was not merely an illegal organisation but an unambiguously terrorist organisation. Since that is what Dr Paisley has always claimed, it is hard to see him now resiling from his long-stated position by agreeing to the commemorative idea. Commemorate what, from Dr Paisley’s viewpoint? The murder of police officers and innocent civilians, with perhaps an annual pageant in memory of Brighton?”

Having discounted a return to “war”, Waters concludes that:

“The worst that can occur, therefore, is a continuing stand-off. Dr Paisley has remained constant. The Provisionals hunker down to discuss their options.

The two governments again seek formulations and fudges by which to move the situation forward. Whoever blinks first, it will not be Dr Paisley. If there is a solution, it will almost certainly involve a total victory for him.”