“They have to say that to try to keep their followers happy.”

There’s been an absence of searching interviews of the leaders of both of the larger parties since March 26th, what with well-behaved witnesses and the chastising of interviewers asking ‘stupid’ questions, just the odd vaudevillian routine. So we’ll have to make do, for now, with what we have. And what we have is a interview with Ian Paisley in the Washington Times, as spotted by Newshound.Two points strike me from the interview.

The first is the repetition of the line about what that, still lacking in detail, threatened Plan B was. According to Ian Paisley, his decision was based on the balance of two issues

Q: In America, we have a phrase “tipping point.” It means you’ve gone beyond the point of no return and can’t go back. Was there a tipping point in your negotiations with Sinn Fein when you realized that a deal was going to be done?

A: “Yes. But, unfortunately, this became a time factor with the British government and they made another fool of themselves by doing that. If we had more time, I think, we could have gotten an even better deal than we got. But we have got a fairly good deal altogether, considering the great changes that they made to the agreement and considering that no member of the executive, no matter from what side they come, can do anything on his own.

And for the first time, the IRA had to swear allegiance to the police. The old-time Republican terrorists had said they would never give allegiance to the police of the United Kingdom. If we had gone back on this and not done the deal, we would have been ruled jointly by the United Kingdom and Dublin. No elected representative from Northern Ireland would have had any say in anything that was being done.

What’s interesting about this line is that, if true, it suggests that the Secretary of State for Wales, etc, was being economical with the actualité in his evidence to the NI Affairs Committee in Parliament, on May 10 last year, when he stated the Plan B was, and would remain, something entirely different. – as noted in comment 4 at this previous post

Q23 Lady Hermon: Secretary of State, may I pursue that a little bit, picking up on some of the points you have raised. You will know how angry the UVF were with the joint statement that was issued by the Prime Minister and Taoiseach on 6 April 2006 in Armagh. They particularly took exception to, and I am not a spokesman for the organisation but it is in the public domain, and disliked the term “the joint stewardship of the process”. Do you regret, and is there any regret in Downing Street, that that phrase “the joint stewardship of the process”, was actually used, pushing back and delaying the possibility of loyalist paramilitaries, particularly the UVF, coming in from the cold and beginning the process that they should have done a long time since?

Mr Hain: I hope my friends and colleagues on the other side of the border will not take offence at this, “but I think there was some unhelpful spin from some elements in Dublin which hyped up the interpretation of “joint stewardship. Joint stewardship of the process” was a very carefully chosen phrase. It did not imply joint authority, as I said earlier, joint governance: it implied joint stewardship of the process of bringing peace, of putting in concrete the peace and seeking restoration of the devolved institutions. That is what it meant, and that is what it will mean, that and nothing else. I do agree that interpretation seems to have been the reason that, in the case of the UVF at least, they would not do anything until after 24 November. I think that is an excuse, frankly, and now that they know that that has been clarified by myself in particular, there is no reason for them to delay at all.

The second point is Ian Paisley’s dismissal of the prospects for a united Ireland.. He clearly doesn’t think much of the predictive powers of the Star Trek writers..

Q: Sinn Fein says its objective remains a united Ireland. Do you think Ireland ultimately will be united?

A: No, I don’t. I think that’s wishful thinking on their part. They have to say that to try to keep their followers happy. Everybody knows the very heart of the united Ireland policy was never to give any credence to British rule, and especially Republicans always saw the police as representatives of a foreign power that was keeping them in subjection and out of union. Now that they are prepared to take office in a government that is part and parcel of the United Kingdom and also to take the oath of allegiance to the police, I think they have forsworn general Republican thinking.

A point Ian Paisley returns to when asked a potentially ‘stupid’ question at the end

Q: Looking back over the last 30 years and the more than 3,500 people who have been killed in “The Troubles,” do you have any regrets about anything you have said or done?

A: I may have said and done things that if I had to say and do them again I might have said and done them differently. But I have no real regrets that the line I took was the right line. I think that has now been vindicated by what has happened. We have got a deal we were told we couldn’t get. It is quite clear to everybody there is going to be no united Ireland for 100 years, at least.

I suspect there’s a lot of wishful thinking, and a lot of trying to keep followers happy, going on in a lot of areas at this particular point in time..

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