Paisley, El Cid and a strange shift in tone…

Unsurprisingly here’s been a deluge of comment on Ian Paisley after his decision to step down in May. Little of it original, since the valedictories have been hitting the press at regular intervals since his final ascend-ency to the First Minister-ship last year. Dean Godson in the Times shows a little frustration with the pieties of some. Gerry Adams, in that bizarre new vernacular that seems to have overtaken the two former fundamentalist parties, describes the big man as ‘a fascinating and gracious man‘. A feeling not shared by Susan McKay in the Irish Times (subs needed):

He was a dictator. He threatened “the mailed fist”. He marched armed men up mountainsides. He claimed when Thatcher signed the Anglo Irish Agreement with Garret FitzGerald that she would “wade knee-deep in the blood of loyalists”. He said the peace process was “the worst crisis in Ulster’s history”, and the Good Friday Agreement was a “partnership with the men of blood” and a “prelude to genocide”.

He loved to tower over the brink while others plunged into the abyss. The emergence of the Provisional IRA was perhaps his first self-fulfilling prophecy.

Willie Frazer acknowledges the compassionate (subs needed) side of the man, but questions why the 1973 Sunningdale settlement was not good enough for him:

The one thing that we would find as victims is that he was the man who came into our homes and said that we needed to stand firm, that people in the Border areas needed to stand firm. That they did and paid a heavy price for it. Then we had the Sunningdale agreement in 1974, for the life of us what was so wrong with that agreement whenever they went for the St Andrews agreement? That has left many of our people hurt. They believe that at the very least Paisley owes them an answer.

It’s unlikely that an answer to such an awkward question (see under ‘stupid questions’) will be forthcoming.

But this is all an old game. The best description I’ve heard of his role in Northern Irish politics in the years since Robinson’s (some might say Jesuitical) decision to take Ministerial seats without joining the Executive comes from a one time supporter from his early activist days. He was a kind of El Cid, tied to horse, leading the troops on one final victory, all political life drained.

His last achievement, as Frank Millar pointed out in the Irish Times yesterday, was to press for a shift on policing from Sinn Fein. A shift that it is still feeling some pain from in its heartlands of the Markets, the Short Strand, and even in some parts of Adams’ own West Belfast backyard.

I saw Paisley Senior on the day he announced his post dated resignation. He was dignified, statesmanlike and fully conversant with this strange new common language both Sinn Fein and the DUP have finally bought into: a pacific dialectboth once dismissed as Alliance-speak. The nature of his final departure may still be in the balance, and his may not be the last reckoning of this post peace process era.

But then again, as today’s Irish Times editorial notes: “The history books like winners and Dr Paisley may have removed himself just in time to avoid fulfilling Enoch Powell’s dictum that all political careers end in failure.”

If his final U-Turn puzzled both his voter base and his church, he and Martin McGuinness, (lately known as the Chuckle Brothers) have irrevocably changed the tone of politics here. And for that, if for nothing else, we may have to be, however reluctantly, grateful.

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  • joeCanuck

    As someone else witly noted, are we now to have a period of the Brothers Grim?

  • kensei

    If his final U-Turn puzzled both his voter base and his church, he and Martin McGuinness, (lately known as the Chuckle Brothers) have irrevocably changed the tone of politics here. And for that, if for nothing else, we may have to be, however reluctantly, grateful.

    I’m not so sure that’s true, Mick. The TUV showing in Dromore has upset the DUP horses a little and there are already murmurs by Republicans about SF not standing up to the DUP enough. That tone could very easily get worse again.

  • ” OPINION Paisley was a rabble- rousing dictator, always willing to fight to the last drop of everyone else’s blood, writes Susna McKay”

    That would appear to be fairly close to the mark. Somehow I don’t see Susan going for the far more malignant Adams jugular when he ‘steps down’.

  • kensei

    Nevin

    That would appear to be fairly close to the mark. Somehow I don’t see Susan going for the far more malignant Adams jugular when he ‘steps down’.

    That is a testable assertion, especially with the odd hint from Adams about stepping down. Why don’t you wait?

  • slug

    Susan McKay has written the widely acclaimed book “Northern Protestants: An Unpleasant People”, and as such is an expert on Northern Ireland Protestants; she can often be heard giving her opinion about NI protestants on TV and radio.

  • Kensei, I wouldn’t say Paisley stepped down. Perhaps ‘bloodless coup’ would be more apt.

  • Slug, perhaps it was widely acclaimed by those who wouldn’t recognise your ‘sic’ book title and who thought that Susan’s ‘vox pop’ would be more accurate than solid investigative journalism.

  • Dean Godson in the Times shows a little frustration with the pieties of some.

    Another unionist leader fails Godson’s neoconservative agenda. Good for Paisley!

  • joeCanuck

    Godson on Robinson: “..sour-faced uncharismatic technocrat..”

    Would that be allowed on Slugger?

  • interested

    slug
    I always believed that the title of that book was:

    “Northern Protestants; a shower of b******s”

    Kinda gives some insight into her ‘analysis’.

  • ““like the smell of shit mixed with cheap air freshener”, in the words of one local wag” … Godson

    Don’t tell me Godson’s been fraternising with a visitor to the Lammas Fair in Ballycastle. Oh!!

  • Joe, perhaps he saw Dourman’s performance in this debate on UDA funding.

  • joeCanuck

    Well, Nevin, that certainly wasn’t his finest moment.

  • Joe, you might spot the curious rolling of the eyes and the even more dour man seated behind!!

  • Larneman

    Just who the hell is that guy???

    He gets his stern Ulster prod bounce on every edition of Stormont Live. Just behind any DUP luminary gushing forth from the frontbench.

    Is it a cardboard DUP cutout??

  • Mike C

    Well Larneman he is Allister Ross from East Antrim Constituency. He replaced the DUP representative who died just after devolution.

  • DC

    “He replaced the DUP representative who died just after devolution.”, perhaps along with the DUP?

  • willis

    JoeC

    To misquote Gene Hunt

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gene_Hunt

    “You say sour-faced uncharismatic technocrat like it is a bad thing”

    It is also a passable description of our current PM.

    I am reminded of the description of Atlee’s Cabinet meetings as compared to Churchill’s.

    Field Marshall Lord Alanbrooke, wrote in his published diary an account of Attlee’s first cabinet meeting on 7 August 1945. He wrote, “I was very impressed by the efficiency with which Attlee ran his cabinet. There was not the same touch of genius as with Winston but there were more businesslike methods. We kept to the agenda and he maintained complete order with a difficult crowd. Our work was quickly and efficiently completed.”

  • barcas

    Re Slug’s comment at 5 above, the correct title of Susan’s book is “Northern Protestants – An Unsettled People”.

    Is the Slug version intentional or a Freudian slip of the keyboard?

  • steve

    Somebody needs a sarcasm transfusion

  • Belfast Gonzo

    IIRC, it was how Newt Emerson renamed it in a column.

  • slug

    Belfast Gonzo,

    “IIRC, it was how Newt Emerson renamed it in a column”

    If so then either he pinched it from me, or we thought of it independently; I have renamed it such once or twice here on Slugger.