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