Paisley attacked and defended

Dr. Paisley has proclaimed that he did indeed “Smash Sinn Fein” and that they are no longer true republicans because they are part of the British government. He has also explained his apparently quite close working relationship with Martin McGuinness. Peter Robinson has waded into the fray defending Paisley’s legacy, something which is maybe a touch ironic in view of recent events? A case of a Brutus hiding behind Mark Anthony’s speech? A real pity Dr. Paisley had not been forced to resign on the Ides of March but I fear Mr. Robinson has more pressing issues to consider than poetic similarities.These comments from Robinson were in response to Reg Empey’s rather damning critique of Dr. Paisley’s career. Mr. Trimble’s contribution on Dr. Paisley’s legacy has already been noted.

Another analysis of Dr. Paisley well worth reading is Alex Kane’s. I have to confess to being a big fan of Kane’s writings despite our differing views of unionism.

I would tend to a different analysis of Paisley’s recent career from any of these. I cannot agree with Trimble that the agreement the DUP negotiated is an exact copy of the UUP’s; there is no doubt that the DUP did gain; Trimble had made no head way at all with IRA decommissioning or SF acceptance of the police and in his system there was no way of enforcing any collective cabinet responsibility.

I differ more from Robinson and Paisley’s views, however. Whilst the St Andrew’s Agreement may not be quite a carbon copy of the Belfast Agreement; it is a very close relative, more a change from a basic model of a Lada to one with electric windows rather than a shiny new BMW. The republican movement’s commitment to the rule of law and the police still seems tenuous, the collective responsibility extremely limited, the vetoes still extant, d’Hondt still there, one could go on.

So it may be slightly (and only slightly) unfair for Alex Kane to say that the new agreement is simply the old one with Paisley’s stamp of approval. In every other way, however, I agree wholeheartedly with Kane’s analysis. Paisley has failed to use his March 2007 mandate to good effect and the change from the man who snowballed Lemass’s car is striking.

As footnote, a few words on my use of Dr. Paisley’s title: many ministers are given honorary doctorates and they are usually used in the circles I move in. Also Paisley’s Exposition of the Epistle to the Romans is extremely highly regarded in conservative evangelical circles as are many of his other purely religious writings. I do think he has a greater claim on the title than most of the assorted Presbyterian moderators who all get an honorary doctorate and these persons’ titles are always used.