Wednesday, May 09, 2007
Paisley Edges Terrorists' End Game
If we look at the historic events of yesterday, it's tempting to believe we've seen the end of terrorism in Ulster. Both sides used it to the hilt: abducting, beating, torturing and murdering innocent people. Such awful things, it seems can only happen in a civil war and they date back hundreds of years, but in its more modern Ulster incarnation, terrorism dates back to around 1970.
The Sunningdale Agreement, way back in 1973, was the first attempt to introduce a power sharing executive. Each successive attempt has been frustrated by violent actions by one side or the other, or, most usually, both. After failure each tribe has withdrawn into itself, watchful and untrusting. Politicians like John Hume and David Trimble acted as sanitized proxies for their respective communities but everyone knew that the real ones were Adams and Paisley and that the real power lay with the armed paramilitaries which stood behind them.
Initially British government tended to side with the Unionists. Their Conservative allies pronounced anathema upon the IRA but some contact was inevitable if progress was to be made and it duly followed, even during Thatcher's time. Finally, in exchange for appearing willing to embrace peace, Adams and McGuinness were allowed to sit at the top table at the time of the Good Friday Agreement. But it was their troops in the field with bomb and gun which had placed them there. Paisley, still, it seemed, irrevocably on the outside, growled out his 'no surrenders' and refused to be pacified, constantly accusing the British government of dark betrayal to the Popish forces in favour of a united Ireland. The Executive was soon suspended over the decommissioning of IRA weapons, then reconvened and then, after the Sinn Fein spying scandal in autumn 2002, it was back to rule from Westminster.
The moment, I think, when Paisley began to move into the 'peace-making' zone, was when the DUP , along with Sinn Fein, won such big gains in the November 2003 elections, eclipsing the SDLP and the UUP. Now, it seemed, they just had to deal with each other directly rather than through proxies. Of the two sides, Paisley appeared the more intractable, Adams the more flexible but maybe it was the euphoric scent of power which began to make the old turtle change his mind. Slowly the impossible began to seem more possible until, courted assiduously by Blair and Ahern, not to mention the concession-giving nationalists, Dr No agreed to suspend his lifelong hatred for the 'taigs' and give peace a chance.
Just look at the picture above and note how Paisley dominates it-all eyes are on him- just as he did the ceremonies yesterday. Adams and co. blasted their way into the negotiating room but it was Paisley's stubborness which enabled him to finesse the end game. Whether this success is merely the prelude for another bout of bloodletting, only time will tell, but seldom has our political process seemed so effective or its outcome so pregnant with hope.
Well done to Paisley. He defeated the murderers. All decent people should rejoice in this, regardless of their religion.
I bow to your greater knowledge on Paisley's even-handedness; similar things were said about Enoch Powell and I'm sure they were true. Paisley certainly defies easy categorization and must have something to become the most popular politician in the province.
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