Junior’s position is untenable

Not the least of Peter Robinson’s headaches is what to do about Ian Paisley junior. As happens so often, the son is a poor imitation of the father, sharing his father’s worst traits of behaving in turn like a bully and a martyr. Like the father, the son has defied a court and a Speaker. But times have changed. Ian senior the raucous outsider challenged a hard-pressed establishment. These days, Paisley senior’s creation the DUP is an essential part of a new establishment. Paisley junior’s increasingly wild lunges at that establishment uncomfortably implicate the DUP. Ian og may have had a case in refusing to disclose a source (though the validity of his story is much less clear than Suzanne Breen’s), but to threaten a nominee for attorney general was a self indulgence too far.

The DUP MLA accused the barrister of “flippant and nasty” remarks when his alleged desire for custody was likened to brandishing a whip before Formula One boss Max Mosley. He also said: “John will come to regret the day he said those things.”

. What does that mean? That John Larkin would no longer acceptable to the DUP as Attorney General because he crossed Paisley junior in court? I hardly think so. It is Ian jnr who will come to regret the day he said those things. These remarks are incompatible with his membership of the Policing Board, where he is sitting on the interview panel to appoint the new Chief Constable. Although affable enough and by no means without talent, Ian junior behaves like a spoiled boy, a privileged son. This has created strains within a party which long ago ceased to be its founder’s creature. His resignation as junior minister during the Seymour Sweeney affair exposed the father and seems to have hastened the end of the reign. The DUP’s big challenge now is to ensure that the name of Paisley will not be on the candidate list for North Antrim. The old man ‘s notion of standing again may be a desperate bid to save the situation but is hardly realistic. If the party can’t quash the idea of a dynastic succession, they know very well that they risk losing the seat, not out of political principle but because of an unwarranted assumption of personal privilege that offends the egalitarian soul of Bible Protestantism. More than that, it is an offence to democracy.

Former BBC journalist and manager in Belfast, Manchester and London, Editor Spolight; Political Editor BBC NI; Current Affairs Commissioning editor BBC Radio 4; Editor Political and Parliamentary Programmes, BBC Westminster; former London Editor Belfast Telegraph. Hon Senior Research Fellow, The Constitution Unit, Univ Coll. London