Has anything been happening while I’ve been away?

For the past few of months I’ve been buried in other projects, not least the Scottish referendum. So Northern Irish affairs are as inward looking and deadlocked as ever. Well I never!

Paisley’s death passed off with little fuss amid the  customary respect the Irish reserve with fingers crossed  for the recently dead in contrast to the living. How amazing  that at the funeral this most clerical and religious of politicians had no church service  and no political salute.  The elephant in the room was surely his last King Lear-like interview with Eamonn Mallie where in deep old age  he depicted himself improbably but  perhaps accurately as  peacemaker and sacrificial lamb. With the family the bitterness  is raw and understandably so. What a shower  those successors Junior calls pygmies appear to be. They might at least do history and their own  reputations some good by giving a candid account of Paisley’s last days in harness before long. Perhaps we’ll learn  more when  a memorial “event” takes place.

As he has done for years, Peter Robinson said the minimum necessary in tribute  but kept his calculated distance from his old mentor. Peter was the only one a line of Paisley deputies from the 1950s to survive for long and  represses the emotional scars. I’m can’t resist the verdict: “For whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap.” ( Galatians 6:7).

We shall not see his like again,” said Peter  Indeed.  Not only has fundamentalist religion declined as a driver as politics but Paisley’s political legacy  is being questioned by his  inevitable successor. Still, Dennis Kennedy’s verdict on Paisley’s motives for doing the deal – ego and impending death – is a mite  ungenerous and pessimistic about the deal itself. It may be stuck  in petty recrimination and dire politics but  no alternative is in sight.

Indeed how ironic that Northern Ireland’s constitutional position is currently the most stable in the UK. How wise though for Peter at his most graciously statesmanlike  to reject the idea of a referendum in 2016 or whenever.  Whatever the polls say  – and who can have confidence in them after the Scottish result ? – you never know what all them Catholics might do in the privacy of the voting booth!

Tax raising powers? Don’t make me laugh, it would hurt too much.

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