There has been a lot of scepticism about whether Paisley would do a deal, especially in Nationalist quarters. Since there is no ink on the St Andrews Document to dry, it cannot be said to have been done, but as one consistently pessimistic journo told Slugger this evening, “it was a great deal more than any of use were expecting”. Another said he has had to keep pinching himself. But the shape of this deal was first sketched by Peter Robinson in interview with Frank Millar in November 2002. And Vincent Browne, in his best journalistic moments an empiricist, two years ago in the wake of Leeds Castle had some interesting historical material on ‘the Doc’.Adds: Peter Robinson’s New York speech, included by request, though I think the shift here is in tone, rather than in substance.
I’m put in mind of the last line Slugger’s think piece on the future of Unionism: A Long Peace?:
Reconciliation is important in Northern Ireland, but so is a return to fullblooded politics. A greater openness will help unionism escape barren ground for more fertile pastures. Unionists must focus on a basic goal – a peaceful, economically prosperous and politically stable Northern Ireland – while drawing on a reservoir of deeply held values. This is not about making unionism more yielding. A ‘long peace’ will not be an easy peace and unionists will often need to be tough in their projection of power. But ‘no’ should never be their final answer. Defensiveness is far too predictable a strategy. A genuinely disruptive politics must shape the terrain on which future contests for the Union will be fought, opening up alternatives, rather than shutting them down.
It relies on democracy – a Northern Ireland that cannot govern itself will always be a brittle and unstable entity. But a strong state should not be an unlimited one. There is not a government solution for every problem. People need elbow room. There must be space for enterprise, an audience for new voices, room for fresh ideas. Unionism would do well to cultivate a certain restlessness; to allow the questioning of hallowed principles; to let mavericks have their head; to encourage experimentation on a small scale to see what will work on the large. Ultimately, this is a battle for people and not for land.
1066 and All That tells us that the English Civil War was ‘an extremely memorable struggle between the Cavaliers (Wrong but Romantic) and the Roundheads (Right but Repulsive).’ In future struggles, unionists need to be both right and attractive. For that, a firmer, bolder, more far-sighted unionism will be needed. In a ‘long peace’, after all, people must want the Union for it to survive.
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