Junor’s new loyality to Robinson, and ongoing party ructions…

In his Sunday Times column (below the fold) Liam Clarke reckons that Ian Junior may be being made aware of exactly where his parachute is, but it looks as if he may not need to use it just yet. Indeed, on today’s Politics Show, both he and Mark Devenport have detected a distinct cooling in the party’s attitude towards the Clown Prince. And he mentions his own interview on Inside Politics with the man himself in which Junior tips Peter Robinson as the next leader when his father stands down. As well he might, since, as Clarke points out below, Robinson may well have pulled off a master stroke in reallocating funds to Margaret Ritchie’s DSD… It’s worth noting the degree to which the wider media avoided Frank Millar’s piece on the noises off amongst DUP MPs. Something, you might imagine, hasn’t gone away, you know.By Liam Clarke

Early this week the DUP officers will meet to consider the case of Ian Paisley Junior. They aren?t pleased but they won?t sack him, they can?t as long as his father is First Minister and continues to support him.

But that won?t always be the case. Paisley Sr will be 82 and April, an age when most politicians have long retired and even he is showing signs of slowing down. On Friday he resigned as Moderator of the Free Presbyterian Church, a post he has held since 1951, he has already resigned his European seat and this week there is speculation that he may soon resign as party leader.

The DUP press office is denying the speculation but senior party figures are feeding the line. Two weeks ago they talked in terms of early 2009, now the notional date is being brought forward to the summer. Nobody can make Paisley?s decision for him but fuelling the talk about his departure is a way of putting the whole issue into the public arena. The knives aren’t out for him, but his attention is being gently directed towards the door.

The House of Lords and his retirement home near Crawfordsburn beckons.

His one true friend, the one man whose fate depends on his continuing association with the Doc, is his son Ian Junior. The Paisley?s are a tight knit family and there is no mistaking the bonds of affection between the two men, sometimes referred to as Baby Doc and Papa Doc.

Baby Doc hovers at his father?s shoulder, steering him along, picking up his trademark homburg hat when he drops and it and whispering advice. In a recent RTE interview Paisley senior spoke with obvious pride of how good it was to have as a junior minister in his department someone he could completely trust, his own son. He predicted a bright future for the younger man, and he will almost certainly have it in his power to pass on his Westminster seat to his son.

Few within the party would oppose that. The Paisley name would, barring some shocking and unforeseen scandal, bring him through with flying and he would be effective in Westminster, like a right wing version of Dennis Skinner or George Galloway. IPJ, an acronym which is beginning to stick, is an able enough politician for a backbencher. He works hard for his constituents, he is bright, he is articulate and he can put on a good performance on panel discussions.

As a minister, even a junior one, however, he doesn’t know how to separate big issues from small ones and he get carried away with his own authority. He is fast emerging as the DUP?s clown Prince. Most senior members, groaning at his latest indiscretions, see him as a Sideshow Bob type character who keeps stealing the limelight with off message comments and unscripted actions.

The latest example was unearthed by Jim Allister, the man who succeeded Ian Paisley Senior as DUP MEP and then left the party in protest at the terms secured for power sharing with Sinn Fein.

Allister was a member of the DUP negotiating team at St Andrews and now he has used the Freedom of Information Act to uncover evidence that IPJ was pursuing a private agenda in the negotiations.

Anyone who followed the St Andrews negotiations will remember the unrelenting pessimism which was beamed out from the participants until everything seemd to gell miraculously on the final day.

That was when IPJ got a letter from David Hanson, a Northern Ireland Office Minister, telling him ?the Prime Minister has considered your requests and has agreed that we should try to respond positively.?

The ‘requests’ were £1m over seven years for the North West 200 motor cycle race (IPJ is a fervent biker), planning permisison for a resort spa and 200 homes, approval for private sector land belonging to IPJ?s friend Seymour Sweeney to be included in the development of the Giant?s Causeway, an upgrade to the A26 in his constituency which would improve access to Sweeney?s property and the dropping of a judicial review of the use of land in which Sweeney had an interest.Another concern was the future use of St Patrick?s Barracks in Ballymena, a plum develpement site.

None of these issues had been approved by the DUP negotiating team, and Allister asked if leverage which could have been used on macroeconomic and big political issues had been squandered on constituency matters, some of them serving the business interests of Seymour Sweeney.

IPJ claimed that these concerns had only been raised in the margins over cups of tea and didn?t influence negotiations. At best this lays him open to charges of naivety. Why, if these issues were just chit chat in the canteen, did they go straight to the Prime Minister and why was a reply delivered just as negotiation s reached meltdown.

Perhaps IPJ thought that Tony Blair really did give a damn about planning issues at Balee and didn?t regard it as a political bargaining chip.

In reality British and Irish minsters were doing their best to butter up the Paisleys to get them into government with Sinn Fein. Ian Senior and his wife Eileen were flown home to his wedding anniversary party on an RAF helicopter when he said he couldn’t miss it and would have to leave early. Bertie Ahern presented him with a hand carved bowl made out of a walnut tree from the site of the Battle of the Boyne.

There is no question that all these gestures were designed by the British and Irish governments to secure goodwill. It could be argued that they echo gifts handed over to leading families in Saudi arms deals. In the case of Paisley Senior it was at least all open and above board but his son created difficulties when he kept the letters and the deals to himself. Did he even share them with his father?

Production of the letter may cause problems though they may not fatal. But they represent another piece of mud that sticks, another argument against the continuation of the Paisley dynasty.

There have been others. IPJ has sounded off about his disgust at homosexuals, even though he has to implement a policy of gender equality. He pesters other ministers about Sweeny?s developments but when asked if he knew the developer, made matters worse by replying ?I know of him.?

That was carte blanche for the media to dig out pictures of the two men fishing together and highlight details of their extensive social contacts. IPJ is still wrangling over the fact that he lobbied for a development from Sweeney and then bought one of the houses which remained registered in Sweeney’s wife’s name.

He paid full market value but that is not the sort of thing you want to spend your life explaining and for the DUP it’s a distraction from the really big issues they are tackling.

“He has done nothing illegal but everywhere you go on constituency work people are saying ‘I see Junior is at his work again’. It’s not going to lose us an election in this area but it?s not what we want to be talking about. He?s high maintenance, and where’s the benefit” a party worker asked.

Last week for instance Peter Robinson, the DUP Finance Minister, pulled a masterly political stroke when he reallocated money from other departments to pay for social housing in the ministry controlled by Margaret Ritchie of the SDLP. It is part of a long term courtship of the SDLP designed to wrong foot the Ulster Unionists and to give the DUP increased room for manoeuvre.

Instead of driving that message home the DUP machine has been putting out fires for Ian Junior.

Everyone in the DUP points out that Ian Junior hasn’t done anything illegal or that even clearly against the ministerial code of conduct. Nobody had produced a smoking gun but there is now an unpleasant odour of decay hanging around him, he is becoming a drag on the party rather than an asset.

And he is becoming a liability to his father too, instead of the strong right arm and sure support he set out to be. Perhaps it time for them both a future in Westiminster, Junior in the Commons and Senior in the Lords.

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  • slug

    Mark Devenport in that picture next to Liam Clarke looks very scruffy and about 10 years old .

  • “The latest example was unearthed by Jim Allister”

    Or was it handed to him on a plate? How can you ask for a document unless you know it exists?

    It’s a pity the BBC doesn’t put greater resources into investigative journalism and less into frothy speculation. It repeated Paisley’s assertions about the Ballee affair without challenge – even though the contradictions are readily available in the public domain.

  • DC

    The whole Causeway affair is a joke too Nevin as you know fine well.

    Here we have:

    1) Unesco denying any approval of the Sweeney application despite Ian Senior contradicting Unesco saying it did in a letter to try and get Sweeney money in part from Lottery funding.

    2) Planning Service officials holding a negative view of Sweeney’s existing application.

    3) Paisley Jnr lobbying everywhere but apparently nowhere near Foster though.

    4) Arlene Foster denying she ever received any representations by anyone to give favourable consideration to Sweeney’s application.

    5) A former Hain-appointed architect, based in New York now with Dublin offices, was to deliver a ‘public-service’ plan for the Causeway, now overturned by Dodds in favour of the private development choice, which just so happens to belong to Sweeney, and only him in the running.

    6) Finally, to top it all off, we have Peter Curistan (Robinson’s IRA dirty money man) saying Sweeney’s plan is all well and good but if you want to go private he will build a vistors centre for free.

    And to conclude, the Environment Minister says she is minded in favour of Sweeney’s, as well the last time she spoke it was well up her ‘tentative’ list.

    What a complete and utter shambles. Somebody somewhere is being economical with the truth but who?

    But the fact remains that the last time a visitor centre stood on the Causeway was over 7 years ago.

  • flaminglip

    My memory’s sketchy, I’m not a particularly hardcore user of this site, but I seem to remember a certain IPJ contributing his thoughts on this site? I don’t think I considered this at the time, but was it Ian Junior?

  • joeCanuck

    You may be mistaking him for IJP, a councillor who does contribute here. He is Mr.Parsley. I made the mistake myself when I first saw IJP.

  • slug

    I think if you read any of Ian James Parsley’s output you would soon realise they were not Ian Paisley Junior’s. IJP is one of the more imaginative and thoughtful contributors and an asset to the Alliance Party.

  • Mick Fealty

    From what I can tell, Junior has commented on here once. But you’re likely refering to IJP who is Alliance…

  • DC, the truth may be out there but it may be a little difficult to uncover unless those who know talk or direct others to official papers.

    I understand Margaret Hodge, the newish DCMS minister and ‘protector’ of UK World Heritage sites, is sending a report to UNESCO sometime this month. I understand she met Foster in December past.

    The National Trust apparently has leased more of the site from Moyle District Council and is supposed to be submitting a plan to Foster.

    DETI’s plan for the development of the centre was ‘parked’ by Dodds even though it appears from the Ministerial Code than any project involving two ministers needs to go through the Executive. It seems that Dodds and Foster ‘by-passed’ the Code.

    Officialdom appears reluctant to deal with this Blot on the Landscape – the cage is still in place – and Locals Keep Out is still blocked by official bollards even though the train isn’t running. I wonder why …

    Dare I mention the curious affair of the lobbying for a drift net licence for someone who didn’t own a boat …

    There are always tall tales about fishing and I understand that the size of the catch can be exaggerated as well as the size of the fish (cf size of sheep flocks) – if the price is tempting. Apparently there’s also a document in official papers signed by an old sea salt who could neither read nor right!!

  • cut the bull

    The Ian junior and Seymour Swindley saga is just dragging on and on. People start to loose track of it.

    I wish somebody up in Stormont would grow a pair and call for his resignation ASAP.

    The place won’t fall apart if such a call is made, in fact some within the DUP would probably be glad to see the back of Ian junior.

    Theres surely a position for an opposition.

  • Briso

    “Robinson may well have pulled off a master stroke in reallocating funds to Margaret Ritchie’s DSD”

    Is that how getting your arse kicked is described these days?

  • Yvonne

    Would that be John Major’s biographer Penny Junor?

  • IJP

    Mick

    IJP has sounded off about his disgust at homosexuals, even though he has to implement a policy of gender equality.

    Ahem… could you amend, please?!

  • crownesq

    Liam is being a little too generous to Mr Robinson and his apparent change of heart in relation to Ms Ritchie. This has been a cynical attempt to play politics with social housing and the welfare of constituents who have relied on public services to support them. Something Mr Robinson in the past has not been slow to remind public servants in the Housing Executive and other bodies.

    However, two things have happened. Firstly, Mr Robinson has prevented a meltdown in the construction industry as a result of misleading advice from his Strategic Investment Board which had almost managed to undercut all future spending in housing related projects – the embarassment would have come to a head when MLA’s had builders, tenants, home owners et al on their doorsteps. Secondly, the funding announcements have committed a lot of expenditure in 2008 but is it enough to cover the liabilities based on the original bids – where is the extra cash coming from or will the Ms Ritchie be in the embarassing position later in the year of begging for more money.

    Mr Robinson has been too clever for his own good and has been exposed by Ms Ritchie’s determination and the incompetence of his Civil Servants.

  • Still a UUP member