Given the DUP’s official reaction to the “unfounded press speculation” in January, the Irish Times’ Frank Millar is more than justified [subs req] in reminding readers of his reports at the time of the internal party pressure for a resignation. And with that post-dated cheque now in the party’s pocket the speculation on Ian Paisley Snr’s successor is now in the open – although Peter Robinson points out that “I don’t think anybody is ruling themselves in or out – there is not, at this moment, a vacancy”. Frank Millar adds a note of caution to the party [subs again]
The tributes will attest that, not for the first time in recent years, “the Big Man” rose to the challenge, acquitted himself with dignity, embraced the unpalatable option and did what he had come to accept needed to be done. And the sense of relief in the DUP will be palpable, heightening renewed feelings of personal affection and gratitude – along, perhaps, with that small niggling doubt about a future without the once dominant, all-powerful figure under whom they have all prospered and so often sheltered. “Be careful what you wish for,” as the saying has it.
That protective Paisley shield will be withdrawn in May, leaving only the second leader in the DUP’s history to face formidable issues potentially complicated by the requirements of forthcoming elections for both the European and Westminster Parliaments.