Now is the winter of our discontent

So how to analyse today? A very difficult question: I have no doubt many will have their own answer. I also have no doubt that my analysis will change over the next number of days. Still let us look at today.

From the perspective of an anti agreement unionist (who does actually want “fenians about the place” contrary to some people’s view of me); is it “Now is the winter of our discontent Made glorious summer by this son of York” Richard III Act 1: scene 1 or alternatively are we collectively Brutus and Cassius who having slain Caesar created their own undoing?

For Dewi: Short term change, long term plus ca change, plus c’est la meme choseFirstly the what, why and when of Paisley’s fall:

Before that even has Paisley been forced out? A stupid question the answer to which is: yes? Maybe but he is an old man. He has achieved his ambitions and has resigned himself. Not for him the humiliation of Thatcher nor indeed the same as the episode when he left the moderatorship of the Free Presbyterian Church. Yes of course the siren voices were calling but would Robinson have had the nerve to challenge him? Would anyone have done the same to Paisley as was done to Jim Molyneaux all those years ago by a stalking horse? Maybe but I would have been surprised and had there been a stalking horse, everyone would have seen the hand of Robinson and like Heseltine with Thatcher slaying the great dragon might have ended Robinson’s leadership ambitions at the same time.

Clearly Paisley has had a problem with some unionists since the agreement. Some indeed do not want a fenian about the place, some oppose devolution, some oppose power sharing, others feel that he and his party negotiated poorly. That latter group is probably the most significant both in political importance and in numbers but each group leeched away some support.

Then there are the assorted Paisley junior and Sweeney typed episodes. Whilst each one was not fatal they contributed to a general feeling that this party of principle lead by a man of religious principle was pandering to a son who whilst having done nothing wrong had behaved in a way which some Christians and others might have found unbecoming to people of faith and morals. The reappointment of Paisley junior to the policing board looked foolish unless Paisley had already decided to go and on balance I think he had before that appointment.

Most significantly of course has been the Chuckle Coalition. It is not what they have actually done but the mood music which has been the problem here. Paisley was, I am sure, determined to avoid the way Trimble always looked as if he was pained and had been beaten in negotiations. Paisley clearly decided on the victorious smile and even some magnanimity to those he saw as vanquished (SF). However, that was a fatal flaw: much too long the memories of that man (McGuinness) and his past; much too long the dark nights for unionists in the likes of South Fermanagh to recall what McGuinness’s friends had done, much too recent the pain and much too significant for many unionists throughout Northern Ireland.

Dromore was not in my view the cause; it was one, and only one of the signs. Signs many in the DUP had maybe not ignored but minimised. That and the very foolish way in which the DUP conducted themselves over that election making mistake after mistake. Ironically the mistakes were apparently ordered by Robinson, yet it seems to be his leader who has paid the price. Surely too Machiavellian to suggest that he knew his strategy was flawed? In my view yes; but an interesting thought.

So the writing was on the wall, Paisley’s conduct since devolution has by his party and many in the unionist electorate, to quote Daniel 5:25: And this is the writing that was written, MENE, MENE, TEKEL, UPHARSIN (you have been weighed in the balance and found wanting).

What will happen now? How many trees will be sacrificed, how many keyboards battered on that subject?

My initial thoughts are that in the short term we will indeed see a much less friendly atmosphere on the hill. It has already started since Dromore and the rows over policing and justice are clearly not helping. Policing and Justice will in my view not be devolved for a while now. In the short term then I suspect the situation will be highly frosty. Robinson will not allow much smiling or chuckling.

However, Robinson is a pragmatist (more so than Paisley). He supported devolution and power sharing years ago albeit in a different form. As such I suspect we will have less overt happiness but no less practical power sharing. What remains to be seen is whether or not Robinson can increase the tent which is the DUP now that the bogeyman of Paisley has gone in which case the DUP position will have been strengthened. Alternatively there may be some in the DUP and the electorate at large who were loyal to Paisley and could not believe him capable of a sell out, and as such denied that St Andrews could have been a sell out. They may denounce things like devolution of policing and justice as the sell out that Paisley would never have endorsed and jump ship to the TUV. The relative extent of these two competing factors will likely have some sway on the medium term future. Equally whilst in the short term Jim Allister’s fox has committed suicide in the medium term he may have found a slower and less artful one to chase. At this point no one can tell.

Of course the behaviour of the republican movement will also be important. If they cause lots of trouble then maybe devolution could unravel, if they do not it probably will continue. If the IRA murders anyone I do suspect it would be the end of devolution unless SF produced massive immediate cooperation with the police.

So there are some initial thoughts, I may well change them all soon but I think there is merit to saying what one initially thinks provided one has the honesty to change later. In a sentence then: For a while I suspect there will be a bit of mild chaos, however, looking a few months down the line I suspect that throwing the captain off the Flying Dutchman will have little impact on its direction; we have merely moved the sails around a bit. Or using another nautical metaphor we are rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic and the band has a few numbers to play before “Nearer my God to Thee.”

  • Mark McGregor

    “Would anyone have done the same to Paisley as was done to Jim Molyneaux all those years ago by a stalking horse? “

    Not likely when you see what that ends up in. ;0)

  • slug

    Turgon

    Isn’t the really significant thing that unionism loses its connection to religion now, post-Paisley? And this paves the way for a different more secular sort of politics.

  • Dewi

    Turgon – i have read that but:

    1) Fell asleep twice and
    2) wanted to know stuff

    why not tell me message first and then elaborate?

  • joeCanuck

    there is merit to saying what one initially thinks provided one has the honesty to change later

    Alas, Turgon, a trait that is conspicuous by its absence in most politicians.

  • Turgon

    joe,
    Just another reason added to my ugliness, inability to speak in public, lack of charisma and inadequate ambition which all explain why I will never get anywhere in politics.

  • “my ugliness, inability to speak in public, lack of charisma and inadequate ambition”

    Turgon, Elenwe is going to give you a good slapping as these comments reflect very badly on her powers of discrimination!!

  • McGrath

    He still remains as MLA and MP, so if you think about it, hes back to barking at the sidelines, just like 10 years ago. And so long as he keeps dropping clangers the media will stay interested.

    Death by a thousand interviews.

  • Chris Donnelly

    Turgon

    Interesting to read your thoughts, though there is an element of contradiction.

    Firstly, you suggest that relations at Stormont will get more frosty due to the changing DUP attitude. Then you suggest that the survival of power-sharing will depend upon the attitude of Sinn Fein (‘causing trouble’ I believe you said….)

    Surely the source of deteriorating relations will likely be the decision (identified by yourself) of the DUP to ratchet up the atmosphere at Stormont.

    If republicans react to the DUP’s headbutting at Stormont by playing hardball within the institutions, then surely the DUP will have been the cause of the slide from power-sharing?

  • Mark McGregor

    Chris,

    We haven’t seen SF stand up to the DUP yet. Why on earth would you see it happening now? I think the DUP are about to see how hard they can kick a toothless dog. Kick the living shit out of them with that big Unionist veto they just been giving the odd boot with. This could be about to get humiliating.

  • Michael Shilliday

    In no fan (at all) of the DUP, but Chris, you’re being facile. You don’t believe that proclamation of desired murder in the 1970’s was an action that could “ratchet up the atmosphere at Stormont”? Or would unionists right minded, lawful, normal people be simply unreasonable to be uncomfortable having such sentiments casually uttered from the joint head of government?

  • Chris Donnelly

    Michael

    I’d say that McGuinness’ honest account of his thoughts immediately following Bloody Sunday would’ve been shared by many people across Ireland and beyond, ‘right thinking’ and otherwise.

    We’re not now going to hear that unionists want to pull out of government because of Martin McGuinness’ comments, are we? Surely that would be mopery gone mad? Edwin won’t attend any Irish language events and his party is boasting about the money they are pulling out of Irish language promotion. Should nationalists pull down the government?

    If we’re into being so sensitive, then should we nationalists be whining because Ian Paisley couldn’t help but get in a jibe at the Catholic Church in his hastily arranged departing interview?

    What is going on within the DUP is the inevitable result of the failure of the party to prepare its grassroots for the necessary compromises swallowed to obtain shared political power.

    Mark may be expressing the frustrations of some within the nationalist and republican community at the perception that Sinn Fein has given the DUP too much room already. I don’t know about that one (though I have my moments….) but I’d say the internal wranglings within the DUP over the stadium/ CTC proposals for the Long Kesh site, coupled with the party’s acceptance of a Victims Commission including a relative of an IRA Volunteer indicates that the DUP are coming to terms with the need for compromise in a mutual veto situation.

  • Steve

    Michael

    I dare say marty’s reaction was the normal response of anyone who hates tyrany

  • Garibaldy

    Surely the point of pressurising Paisley to go is to secure the future of the Executive from potential unionist discontent by installing an atmosphere closer to the battle a day? So rather than a hardening of DUP positions, an indication of their commitment to power (if not to power sharing).

  • Belfast Gonzo

    Don’t forget folks, Robinson was far keener than Paisley to get into government before the St Andrews Deal, which he negotiated and is chief enforcer of – he’s not likely to want to throw it all away, not a chance!

  • joeCanuck

    I think you are making too much of it, Michael. Marty’s immediate reaction, honestly expressed, was probably shared by 99% of Nationalist/Republican citizens of Derry/Londonderry that day.

  • Comrade Stalin

    Turgon:

    However, that was a fatal flaw: much too long the memories of that man (McGuinness) and his past; much too long the dark nights for unionists in the likes of South Fermanagh to recall what McGuinness’s friends had done, much too recent the pain and much too significant for many unionists throughout Northern Ireland.

    I wish you would at least try to get it into your head that unionists aren’t the only victims in this country, and that they are the only people who have had to grasp a nettle. This sort of mentality goes back to the issue of prisoner releases. Unionists talked as if they were the only people who would feel the pain associated with convicted murderers being released, as if there were no loyalists being released and as if there were no victims of loyalist violence on the nationalist side who would not feel comfortable with people like Johnny Adair back on the streets.

    Why is it only unionists who seem to have such a problem with morality when it comes to powersharing ? Remember that many nationalists, as well as other people, regard Paisley as the single biggest cause of the conflict here. Gerry Adams claimed that it was the sight of Paisley leading a crowd to remove a tricolour which inspired him to get involved in the IRA. Whether that’s true or not, why do you think nationalists were able to accept him as First Minister, whereas unionists like yourself can’t accept McGuinness ?

  • x

    What a difference a day makes! facts are the big man has gone and when there is an impartial assessment of his aims and objectives in the late 60s compared to his delivery in the mid 2000’s the answer is clear.

    Ian paisley failed. failed to stop power sharing, failed to stop the rise of republicanism, failed to save any of the 3000+ murdered (on all sides by all sides) and failed to stymie Dublin’s interference (his words).

    So in short after 40 years in politics, 3000+ deaths, millions of pounds and dollars wasted in repairs etc Ian Paisley resigns, his only success being Prme Minister when he was well beyond his prime, even his dynasty in both the church and the party has crumbled.

    So who’s making the coffee?

  • Jo

    CS: Excellent post at an unearthly hour of 7-44am. 🙂

    “Why is it only unionists who seem to have such a problem with morality when it comes to powersharing”?

    A very good question.

    Love of ones neighbour has, to my mind, never been the strongest feature of that facet of Christianity manifest in the alliance of Protestantism and politics that was/is the DUP.

    Suffering was something which nationalists overcame in order that agreement be reached – suffering was pressed by unionists as a reason why that agreement should not happen and why the current agreement is somehow, wrong.

    That the absence of agreement was )and could be again) a cause of suffering eludes the latter point of view. That those articulating it profess to be intelligent leads me to believe that they, in reality, want more suffering.

    Just not for them or theirs.

  • joeCanuck

    I agree Comrade.
    I believe you when you say you are not a “no fenian about the place” person, Turgon. But I cannot believe that the same is true for many, if not most, of members of the TUV, including Mr.Allister.
    Yes, unionists may have to hold their noses when they sit down with certain opponents but the same holds true for nationalists/republicans. Although the unionists currently in power may not have directly been involved in murder, some of them do have blood on their hands through shaking hands with those that were.
    You cannot just deal with those you select; you have to deal with those that were elected by your opponents. There is no other way forward. Eventually all those with blood on their hands will retire or pass on. For now, we have to live with what we’ve got.

  • darth rumsfeld

    “Just another reason added to my ugliness, inability to speak in public, lack of charisma and inadequate ambition which all explain why I will never get anywhere in politics”

    a sentence that could never have been typed by Allan Bresland, Billy Armstrong, Thomas Buchanan, Plug, Jimmy Splatt, and nearly every other MLA who all tick the boxes- except for the inadequate ambition bit, natch

  • darth rumsfeld

    “Gerry Adams claimed that it was the sight of Paisley leading a crowd to remove a tricolour which inspired him to get involved in the IRA.”

    So, nothing to do with his da being the scion of a leading republican family then?

  • Garibaldy

    But Gerry has never been in the IRA, honest. So I suspect he’s being misquoted there. Although his election literature from 1983 is interesting on this issue, boasting of his being taken from gaol for the talks in 1972.

  • slug

    “If we’re into being so sensitive, then should we nationalists be whining because Ian Paisley couldn’t help but get in a jibe at the Catholic Church in his hastily arranged departing interview? ”

    Why, is nationalism Catholicism?

  • Choochoo all aboard

    You all talk a load of pretentious crap.These bozoos will never put the gravy train at serious risk again.It really is that simple they will shout and splutter and piss on each others shoes but oh no they wont derail the gravy train.Some of them mightnt make it back on board you see.

  • Merrie

    I don’t think the nationalists will “misbehave”; rather they will be watching to see what happens to the unionists – splitting, uniting, misbehaving, re-forming. There might be a very faint chance that the UUP will revive.

    I agree with Turgon that things will probably be much the same in the Assembly but possibly with less “chuckling” between the SF and the DUP. Much as the DUP (and most Unionists) would hate to admit it, they need SF to keep the the Assembly going. We all know what the alternative is and it is more dire for the Unionists than it is for nationalists.

    The possible secularisation of politics will be a good thing. The Unionists put religion into NI politics, not the nationalists. It was one of their main reasons for creating the statelet.

    How unimportant Ulster politics is to mainstream British media is revealed in today’s headlines – all about the US elections; Paisley’s departure is a sideline.

    And Nevin (on another thread) note that Hillary has bounced back!

    So Ian-og has departed because he had his nose in the pig trough (despite being a member of the holier-than-thou DUP and the son of its founder). This has happened so many times with politicians. I am amazed politicians cannot go figure on what not to do. Even the messianic Obama has been caught double dealing (more to come, I am sure).

    In the long term, the Free Presbyterian church will fade away, and so may the DUP as well.

  • Dewi

    “For Dewi: Short term change, long term plus ca change, plus c’est la meme chose”

    Thank you Turgon – and sorry for insult – Just finding it v. difficult to read it all these days…

  • Merrie, have you been doing the Texas Two-Step? 🙂

  • Dewi

    “The former deputy first minister, Seamus Mallon, said Mr Paisley had been “shafted” by his own party.

    “He was shafted by his own political party not once by twice.

    “He was shafted as leader of his church, which he founded, and he was destroyed by his own political party,” Mr Mallon said.”

    Seamus got a way with words ain’t he.