Your move now Doctor Paisley?

Danny Morrison in his Daily Ireland column today confesses to more than once playing Paisley the man rather than the ball. He goes on to make the point that the DUP will need to be shown patience, but that they face a challene to play a postive move in response to the disarmament of the IRA.

By Danny Morrison:

I received a letter on Monday from a reader, John, in Ballina, County Mayo. He was talking about Sinn Fein’s response to the DUP last July when the IRA announced an end to its armed struggle. He said: “The DUP’s reaction to it was predictable – it will take them a long time to adjust to the new realities. But Sinn Fein should not be taunting them, by highlighting its (the DUP’s) inadequacy to deal with the new situation. If Sinn Fein is truly republican it will try and entice everyone along to share in the new and better society it hopes to create for everyone. In the first instance it will have to do this in cooperation with unionists in government in the North.”

Actually, Sinn Fein didn’t taunt the DUP – though I have, on many occasions, and on several occasions most recently, because of a visceral disrespect I have for that party’s leader, Ian Paisley, which spans forty years. The feeling is no doubt mutual. To me he is false, a bluffer, a hypocrite, a sectarian, a coward and an opportunist. However, if he ever apologises for his wrongs, demonstrates contriteness and makes good, in a verifiable fashion in front of international and independent witnesses (there’s no need for a photograph), I am sure that over a period of time I might be able to forgive him. But he really needs to begin soon. Because I might move on without him.

But seriously, I also have to remember that Ian Paisley is the chosen leader of the unionist people in the North – and although that also provokes some despair it has to invoke some respect, and I and many have to set aside our feelings if we nationalists and unionists are to realise a deal, share power and govern together. God bless Sinn Fein in their dealings with the Reverend. They will need an ocean of patience and a ton of cotton wool.

On the nationalist and republican side there is willingness to reconciliation, ultimately demonstrated by the unprecedented move of the IRA to put all its weapons beyond use, witnessed by General John de Chastelain’s commission and two independents. The extent of this move was succinctly described by former IRA prisoner Tommy McKearney in this paper yesterday as “an incredibly significant demonstration of republican hope over experience.”

That experience involved sectarian attacks on the nationalist community throughout the existence of the Northern Ireland state. The existence of an armed IRA, particularly after 1969, and because of 1969, was a comfort blanket to nationalists in interface areas and acted as a check on loyalist paramilitaries. The demobilisation of the IRA has, undoubtedly, unnerved many, many republicans. But times have changed. Despite the likeness, the PSNI is not the RUC and will not be leading any charge into the Falls, the way the RUC did in 1969. Increased scrutiny of the PSNI can only make it more accountable.

Leaders within both unionism and republicanism will be required to gamble: unionists taking the IRA at its word, republicans the public pledges of the British government, guaranteed by the Irish government, in lieu of or in combination with unionist pledges to work the institutions. Deceit on either side would blow up in all our faces and lead to distrust on an unimaginable scale.

The great irony now is that Ian Paisley, the man who destabilised any predecessor who dared to depart an inch from unionist fundamentalism, is himself now in the position of having to make a choice between pragmatism and dogmatism, which would only further impoverish his own community.

So what about the willingness of the DUP to deal? How are we to read its press conference last Monday?

There are many theories. Some are of the view that Ian Paisley would like to retire having become First Minister. However, the cost for him personally might be too great – having as his Deputy First Minister, Gerry Adams or Martin McGuinness, both of whom he has described as ‘Sinn Fein/IRA’ and pledged throughout his career to smash. There could be no greater demonstration of his failure than for him to have to share power with them. Nor does the ongoing invective of the DUP suggest a party that is preparing its base for a return to power-sharing government. Indeed, Paisley came out of his meeting with John de Chastelain yesterday stating that the whole act of the IRA putting all of its weapons beyond use was a ‘cover-up’!

Another theory has it that Peter Robinson would like to do a deal, and thought that he might be First Minister, but was thwarted by Ian Og who talked his father out of a deal. That conversation wouldn’t have taken long. Last week Ian Og said that unionists preferred direct rule than to sharing power with Sinn Fein, except his language was more colourful.

It would be patronising to feel sorry for the unionists, the debacle of the recent rioting, for their PR deficiencies and for a leadership which lacks courage and substitutes ranting for rational discussion. The majority voted for Paisley but there must be scores of thousands of unionists who despair at where he is leading them.

But we have lives to live and to get on with. We need good government and we need representative government. If the DUP regrettably opts out of this process it does so as an act of free will not as an act of persecution or discrimination. And so we’ll need a different type of government or a rearrangement in the current system of government – one which takes on the views of elected representatives not opposed to reconciliation. That certainly requires greater involvement from Dublin to add its weight to ensuring that the British address the many outstanding issues, from inequality to policing, and get on with implementing change and tackling the institutionalised sectarianism within northern society.

What historic times we live in! Those who justified repression and repressive laws, and the state of the state, or who refused to negotiate on the pretext that there was an IRA armed campaign no longer have an excuse.

With all due apologies to John from Ballina, County Mayo, the party which really has to bite the IRA bullet is the DUP.

First published in on Wednesday 28th September 2005

  • Concerned Loyalist

    If there had of been more transparency, i.e. photos, detailed inventory of the weaponry destroyed and the Protestant church witness they selected, the Rev. David McGaughey, then I think the DUP would have been convinced of the totality of the decommissioning of IRA arsenal.

    They may have endorsed it cautiously at the beginning, preferring to wait for the next two IMC reports to see if IRA criminality had ceased, and if this was the case, by the end of January we would have had the basis to move forward and attempt to restore devolution.

    Unfortunately, the IRA’s secretive cloak and dagger approach, insisting on a confidentiality pact with Gen. De Chastelain, has left most Unionists/Loyalists very suspicious as to the percentage of the Provo’s armoury that has actually been destroyed.

    More transparency on decommissioning and 2 or 3 clean bills of health from the IMC regarding their criminal penchant for robberies, extortion, money-laundering and knee-cappings, and even a staunch Loyalist with many misgivings like myself would have had to give the Rafia of Sinn Fein/IRA a chance to prove their peaceful credentials…

  • Dread Cthulhu

    Heya, L.C.

    “If there had of been more transparency, i.e. photos, detailed inventory of the weaponry destroyed and the Protestant church witness they selected, the Rev. David McGaughey, then I think the DUP would have been convinced of the totality of the decommissioning of IRA arsenal.”

    Sure’n next you’ll be saying that the Right Reverand Paisley was the model of reconcilliation when he said he thought Gerry Adams should be made to wear sack-cloth and ashes. This was disarmament, *NOT* surrender, as Paisley seems to believe.

    “They may have endorsed it cautiously at the beginning, preferring to wait for the next two IMC reports to see if IRA criminality had ceased, and if this was the case, by the end of January we would have had the basis to move forward and attempt to restore devolution.”

    Unfortunately, the IRA’s secretive cloak and dagger approach, insisting on a confidentiality pact with Gen. De Chastelain, has left most Unionists/Loyalists very suspicious as to the percentage of the Provo’s armoury that has actually been destroyed.”

    Again, this was not unconditional surrender, but disarmament. Despite the Reverand Paisley’s delusions / wishes otherwise, there is a difference. Humiliation was not on the agenda, either at the negotiations that made this possible nor at the acts of disarmament, nor will it be. Ironically, for all of DUP’s posing, the greater threat in the streets would appear to be the LOYALIST paramilitaries running riot in the street. Likweise, when shall the subject of Loyalist paramilitary disarmament — y’know, the hoods in the streets shooting policemen and anyone else — should give up their arms?

    “More transparency on decommissioning and 2 or 3 clean bills of health from the IMC regarding their criminal penchant for robberies, extortion, money-laundering and knee-cappings, and even a staunch Loyalist with many misgivings like myself would have had to give the Rafia of Sinn Fein/IRA a chance to prove their peaceful credentials… “

    Based upon current events, this is definately “worry about the plank in your own community’s eye, rather than the mote in mine.” When can we expect you to kennel your own dog of war, the various “alphabet soup gang” that the Reverand Paisley incites, than disowns, starting with the rioters and their handlers? They will no doubt seek to incite troubles between the communities.

  • smcgiff

    ‘If there had of been more transparency, i.e. photos, detailed inventory of the weaponry destroyed and the Protestant church witness they selected, the Rev. David McGaughey, then I think the DUP would have been convinced of the totality of the decommissioning of IRA arsenal.’

    Can you tell me what extra proof would photos, and detailed inventory would have supplied?

    AND I will be generous enough to give you the DUP stance/answer if such had been provided. This might shock you, but it wouldn’t have been conclusive, nor would it have given any extra evidence. In fact give me a few minutes and with the aid of photoshop I’ll show you the superpowers disarming their nuclear weapons.

    As for the Rev. Good, then I think the non-UUP unionist community are doing him a huge disservice.

    What has this man gained from witnessing the destruction of IRA arms?

    Apart from the personal satisfaction of putting his head above the parapet, he’s had his character assassinated by those (that share his stance regarding the constitutional question) that are willing to cause him an injustice so as not to look weak amongst their most petulant of supporters.

    The Catholic priest is fair game, he was only a taig, and I’d expect no less of a response from some, but Rev. Good’s treatment has been shameful.

  • yerman

    The photos and inventory etc etc may have added little extra proof, as there wont be a 100% absolute guarantee that every last bullet is gone.

    What they would have done however is add extra transparency to the process and therefore have given the community more confidence in the process – which is what it is all about in my opinion.

    Decommissioning should have ‘sold’ itself to the community – it shouldnt have needed extensive press conferences in an attempt to tease out non-forthcoming details from a general who is unable to give details and witnesses who were unwilling/unable to tell us anything more than the General could.

    Truly independent witnesses, free to tell us exactly what they seen – how the weapons were destroyed is only a small example, but its the kind of detail that people like to know in order to get a true idea of what went on, but it would have added an immense amount of credibility to the process of decommissioning.

    The act of decommissioning may or may not have got rid of all the IRA’s weapons but it added precious little confidence to the unionist community.

  • smcgiff

    Yerman,

    The IRA weren’t willing to bet that photographs would have caused a sea change in the DUP’s standard response. NO!

    The IRA weren’t willing to trade possible Unionist confidence for Republican surrender.

    Would you have expected them to do so? It’s really that simple.

    ‘The act of decommissioning may or may not have got rid of all the IRA’s weapons but it added precious little confidence to the unionist community.’

    Because it is/was always impossible to prove 100% that ALL IRA arms have been destroyed that Unionist confidence was not within the IRA’s ability to grant. We’ve agreed that photograpsh would not have provided additional evidence of total decommission.

    Just assume the IRA had destroyed EVERY single arm, how could, with every will in the world, they prove it?

  • J Kelly

    Yerman
    its not the responsibility of the IRA to build the confidence of the unionist community. The unionist community need to have the confidence of their position to argue it out with political opponents.

    The IRA decision to put all its arms beyond use has called the bluff of unionist leaders. Unionism has an opportunity to face republicans on equal terms and build a society that we can all share. Arms were never the issue the issue has always been blocking and stalling.

  • bootman

    they had witnesses, they have demanded super-prod witnesses-

    if they had photos they would be demanding high-quality DVDs-

    had they secured the 6 counties as part of the UK until the najority wanted a change along with the disarmament of the IRA they would want exactly?

    Apparently, anything but…..

  • George

    It seems to be a question of what the DUP can do next.

    It has an easy holding position right now,which virtually all accept, where it can demand a waiting period of six months or at least until the IMC report in January but after that it gets tricky.

    Either is shows a willingness to get devolution up and running or it sits back and says no, hoping that some act of republican violence or criminality bales it out.

    The latter would hardly be progressive or proactive leadership.

    For the sake of argument, let’s take the latter for granted, that Paisley doesn’t want an Assembly and is willing to impoverish the people of NI further by giving tacit support to continued Direct Rule.

    Next up then is for the British Direct Rule ministers and SF to reach agreement on the PSNI and the Policing Board even before the Assembly is up and running.

    What happens then? Does the DUP leave the policing board and withdraw its support for the forces of law and order or does it sit with SF on the policing board but not in parliament?

    If you want to alienate an awful lot of Northern Irish Protestants, try withdrawing your support from the police.

    If the DUP is incapable of delivering the type of society NI Protestants want then it will lose its dominant position sooner than it thinks.

    Yerman,
    decommissioning is there to take the gun out of Irish politics, not to comfort or be sold to unionists or prove anything.

    I reckon the governments figure that unionism will become more comfortable if and when it becomes clear the gun is gone from Irish politics.

  • Drad Cthulhu

    Gerorge: “It seems to be a question of what the DUP can do next.

    It has an easy holding position right now,which virtually all accept, where it can demand a waiting period of six months or at least until the IMC report in January but after that it gets tricky.”

    I’m not sure its as simple as that, what with the Protestant paramilitaries running riot and the like. A month ago, I would have had to agree with you. Now, the Magic 8-ball is a little murkier. Having lost any claim to the moral high ground that followed the hooplah following the Northern Bank Robbery, I think that there will be increasing pressure on Mr. Paisley to go along…

    Where he goes from *there* is the real question.

    George: “I reckon the governments figure that unionism will become more comfortable if and when it becomes clear the gun is gone from Irish politics.”

    Nationalist politics, leastwise… I don’t see the Protestant “alphabet soup” gangs lining up to disarm.

  • Fraggle

    The disarmament move was carefully designed to be sufficient for rational observers and the british, irish and us governments, but not what the DUP and other deluded sorts wanted. The aim was to open up a division between these, making those who reject the move look foolish.

    I suspect that many within the DUP realise this and don’t know how else to behave. They know that the IRA has disarmed but feel compelled to say otherwise.

    Also, the way the IRA did this is guaranteed to keep the process moving as slow as possible, after all, time in on their side.

  • Ringo

    Yerman

    and therefore have given the community more confidence in the process – which is what it is all about in my opinion.

    Unfortunately, that wasn’t the primary objective of decommissioning when the process and legislation was set down 1998. It was simply to to get rid of the weaponry. The erosion of confidence in the process was inevitable given the length of time it took to reach a conclusion.

    I would suggest that if we were at this point within the 2 years that the Agreement envisaged the decommissioning taking, the manner of the assurances and oversight provided on Monday would have been more than sufficient.

    I would also suggest that for the IRA, giving the unionist community confidence in the process was not a even a low priority. They decommissioned fully in response to Dublin and London pressure, and would think it was done despite rather than due to unionist pressure.

    I see where you’re coming from, but no more than us getting the shit end of the stick and being able to do nothing about it regarding the Columbia 3’s return, this is one you just have live with, and look to doing better in the next big move.

  • George

    Drad Cthulhu,
    I still think the DUP probably have until January although I take what you say about maybe having less time.

    Going to stick my neck out and play down the recent Belfast riots completely.

    I don’t think unionists can cause enough violent disruption to derail what is going on because I don’t think enough are permanently alienated from the British state.

    Voting DUP does not a permanently alienated unionist subversive make.

    Also the British state can take them on and crush them. One police fatality and the hammer really falls. Unionists also know that you can’t bomb your way into remaining part of the United Kingdom and while they could also bomb Dublin, I don’t see this helping either.

    If anything will put pressure on Paisley in the next 3 months, it’s the NIO. The NIO has really cranked it up with the recent announcements, selling off civil service buildings, water charges, RIR etc.

    The DUP can wait for its photograph that will never come or try figure out how to get NI working better before the NIO has made all the decisions for the next 15 years for it.

    If it does nothing, it is because it is bankrupt of ideas and where does it go from there?

    “Nationalist politics, leastwise… I don’t see the Protestant “alphabet soup” gangs lining up to disarm.”

    These guys say they aren’t Irish so these are the guns that need to be taken out of British politics. 🙂

  • smcgiff

    ‘One police fatality and the hammer really falls.’

    How many bullets were fired at the police during the riots, and not one hit their target.

    Either they are very bad shots or agree with your analysis George.

  • clare

    Having loyalist-held weapons destroyed leads to some embarrassing problems — too many of the weapons will show that they spent part of their life in the hands of the British military or in a police property room as evidence, then scheduled destruction.

    Ian Sr or Jr being between a rock and a hard place is, to be honest, amusing. After decades of Paisley calling the Provisional IRA and Sinn Fein murderers and thugs and whatever came to mind, he’s the one who’s left out in the cold. He’s been actively and openly inciting riots for some weeks now, and I don’t think he’s planning to stop.

    If Ian’s silly enough to look to his good buddy George W Bush for help, he’s sol [shit out of luck]. W has his hands full with Iraq and Afghanistan, as-yet uncounted bodies from two powerful hurricanes, another nominee to the Supreme Court (and the upcoming one will be bloody), a Vice President hospitalized with a malady that’s being kept secret from the US (and the world), and another nephew who’s been arrested — disorderly conduct and resisting arrest.

    The IRA and Sinn Fein finessed George W and Paisley, so George W won’t play that game any more. Paisley told him that Adams and McGuinness were stupid thugs. They are not. George W tries to avoid games he can’t win (i.e., those he can’t fix ahead of time), and he can’t win in the six-counties political and war games.

    Old Ian would do well to face the fact that he’s lost this in end-game. He’d do best if he starts working on damage control and a bit of spin.

  • Dread Cthulhu

    Heya, George:

    “Drad Cthulhu,”

    “sigh” this is what I get for rushing one last post before break… ah well…

    “I still think the DUP probably have until January although I take what you say about maybe having less time.

    Going to stick my neck out and play down the recent Belfast riots completely.”

    If it were a leader with more finesse or more charm, someone who could dance his way through a minefield, I would concede the point in a heartbeat. The Rev, however, isn’t that leader, if he can honestly be called a leader at all.

    George: “I don’t think unionists can cause enough violent disruption to derail what is going on because I don’t think enough are permanently alienated from the British state.”

    No, they can’t. They can, however, cause enough violence to lose any credibility they might have. F’r’instance, continued violence by the OO, the UDA, the LVF, et al., in the face of Nationalist weapons decommissioning, starts to echo the likes of Bolingbroke and his cronies. The darker the picture they paint, the better they make SF look, the more pressure will fall upon the Protestant / Unionist groups. The more pressure, the uglier the rhetoric. Matters may come down to whether or not the Unionist demogogues know when (or how) to shut up.

    George: “Voting DUP does not a permanently alienated unionist subversive make.

    Also the British state can take them on and crush them. One police fatality and the hammer really falls. Unionists also know that you can’t bomb your way into remaining part of the United Kingdom and while they could also bomb Dublin, I don’t see this helping either.”

    Ah, but I’m not worried about *you* and what you know. Also, while I understand about the police fatality and the hammer, do they understnd how *little* it can take to kill someone? One richocet, one petrol bomb, one blow with an improvised club the wrong way and that is all she wrote. Break the coppers leg the wrong way, sever the femoral and he bleeds out. And then, as you say, the hammer falls and it all goes to skittles.

    George: “If anything will put pressure on Paisley in the next 3 months, it’s the NIO. The NIO has really cranked it up with the recent announcements, selling off civil service buildings, water charges, RIR etc.

    The DUP can wait for its photograph that will never come or try figure out how to get NI working better before the NIO has made all the decisions for the next 15 years for it.

    If it does nothing, it is because it is bankrupt of ideas and where does it go from there?”

    Depends on the masses of “discontented Protestants” that make up masses and whether or not the Rev. Paisley can continue to give them his populist “look what they’re doing for the Taigs” line of drivel. If they continue to swallow, he will stay where he is… if they wake up, who can say?

    George: “Nationalist politics, leastwise… I don’t see the Protestant “alphabet soup” gangs lining up to disarm.”

    These guys say they aren’t Irish so these are the guns that need to be taken out of British politics. 🙂 “

    A little too cheeky and maybe a little too true, all at once. 😉

    That said, just because you call a dog’s tail a leg doesn’t give him five legs, tho… Calling it doesn’t make it so… And its still a serious question.

    A better way to say it might be “getting the British guns out of Irish politics.”

  • paddy ó duibhir

    “….times have changed. Despite the likeness, the PSNI is not the RUC and will not be leading any charge into the Falls, the way the RUC did in 1969. Increased scrutiny of the PSNI can only make it more accountable.” (from the article)

    Preparing the way to sign up to policing structures?

  • Eoin Bairéad

    Moving back to the reverend doctor for a minute. I heard radio news reports on him & some of his appaling cronies bad-mouthing the two clergymen witnesses. Not just the lack of transparancy of their appointment, but the character of Rev. Harold Good, and referring to relations of Mr Good’s killed in the troubles.

    Did he actually say something, or was it just the liberal press. And is it recorded anywhere ?