This one, as ever comes with a health warning… Rumour is not news… But Slugger hears from a Nationalist source that Ian Paisley Junior may tender his resignation as Junior Minister tomorrow… If it proved to be accurate, it could be indicative of a substantive shift in the internal balance of power inside the party. It would almost certainly be of some relief to his ministerial colleague Arlene Foster, who Mark Devenport has conjectured may use to tomorrow to pull permission (that she was previously minded to grant) to Seymour Sweeney for a privately funded Visitors Centre for the Giant’s Causeway.
If both events turn up tomorrow, then it is suggestive of a party set piece: planned and orchestrated, perhaps with a few quiet deals lurking surreptitiously in the background. The downgrading of Ian Junior may buy Senior some time and space to take unhurried leave of the leadership of a party that is growing frustrated with his unwillingness or incapacity to play an increasingly subtle and nuanced game, now they are in a politically tricky partnership with Sinn Fein.
As he nears his eighty second birthday, his once almost faultless command of the semiotics of Unionism appears to be failing him. And having lent, as Tom Kelly hints in the Irish News today, (and Alex Kane outlined last Thursday) his imprimatur to the St Andrews Agreement, and his considerable powers as a totem for Ulster Loyalism greatly diminished by his Chuckle Brothers double act with Martin McGuinness, Ian Paisley Senior now has little of any value with which to barter with his party.
Whether tomorrow brings a resignation or not, it seems the power within the party has long since passed out of Paisley family hands.