March 27, 2007


Paisley's politics pays off (Padraig O'Malley, March 27, 2007, Boston Globe)

He destroyed every Unionist leader who tried to make an accommodation with the Catholic minority. He played to Protestant fears: of a united Ireland, a Catholic Ireland, of a sellout by the British government.

He castigated six British prime ministers and he denounced every agreement between the Irish and British governments, the Sunningdale Agreement, the Anglo-Irish Agreement, the Downing Street Declaration, and, finally the breakthrough Good Friday Agreement. He refused to become a signatory to the Good Friday Agreement, demanding that unless the IRA put its weapons permanently and verifiably beyond use, there could be no lasting peace and no power-sharing government. The more he dug in his heels, the more the Protestant community swung toward him until the Democratic Unionist Party eviscerated the mainstream Ulster Unionist Party and can claim to be the one true voice of Protestant Ulster.

Meanwhile, Sinn Fein has emerged as the authentic voice of Catholic nationalist aspirations. In the furtherance of its interests and in order to restart power sharing in Northern Ireland, even one that would put Paisley at the helm, Sinn Fein decommissioned its arms, accepted the authority, and will fully support the Northern Ireland Police -- all demands that for Paisley were non-negotiatiable.

Although many Catholics would say that his actions over the years were incitement to violence by Protestant paramilitaries, Paisley fulfilled his historical role. His unequivocal, non-negotiatiable demand that he would not do business with Sinn Fein until the IRA had for all practical purposes put itself out of business is an articulation of what most nationalist politicians in the North and most people in the South felt but were constrained from expressing because of their history. For all his braggadocio, he spoke relentlessly to one essential truth: In a democracy you cannot have a political party that is attached to a paramilitary organization.

That was actually the second essential truth. The first was that a people who consider themselves a separate nation are one.

Posted by Orrin Judd at March 27, 2007 12:00 AM
Comments for this post are closed.