Comment - Warren Little - Forget the squabbling; this is still Paisley’s party

Published: 23 Jan 2014 16:000 comments

“Elderly politician retires from public life”. That was the bland script when Ian Paisley bowed out in 2008.

Warren Little.

But toil and trouble was bubbling away behind the scenes, and only now we’re watching the censored out-takes: ‘DUP kingpin ousted in bitter back-stabbing’; ‘The secret coup by party faithful’. Then there’s a salacious mix of jibing about extra-marital affairs and general beastliness.

If you haven’t seen the sequel to the Paisley interviews yet, don’t bother. Yes, there’s a certain drama in the Shakespearean plot, but it’s all a bit… well, Eastenders. Basically Paisley was politically assassinated by ego-driven, immoral, conspiratorial backstabbers, and right royally shafted by those he mentored for 40-odd years. Or, depending on whom you believe, he wasn’t up to the job and was gently nudged aside for the man who was really doing all the work anyway. I’d give it two stars for light entertainment but it’s not Oscar material.

Last week I mentioned that all of Paisley’s big stunts ended in rancour with nothing achieved. This was no different. The DUP will be blessing Eamonn Mallie’s effervescent socks for the way the whole thing was staged. The first interview shone a light into the curious contradictions, dishonesties and weaknesses of the Paisley mind. With his callous ‘brought it on themselves’ view of the most blood-thirsty loyalist crime of the Troubles – the Dublin and Monaghan bombings – and his hopelessly-belated admission that the civil rights protest was just, suddenly everyone had a reason to dislike Paisley. It gave the hardcore types like Fermanagh’s Ivan Foster further excuse to rail against his compromised principles. It gave everyone else a reminder of the self-interest, deceit and vengeance that belied his charisma.

Only after that did the contents of the second interview slowly emerge, released to journalists and then tantalisingly embargoed until midnight on Sunday. The result was a salivating media hyping up the sheer vitriol of Paisley’s final judgment on his colleagues. The prevailing image was one of rabid, senile cantankery more than genuine victim. The DUP cleverly foresaw this and released pre-emptive statements of feigned nobility, pretending to hold their tongue but hinting obliquely that all was not well upstairs in the Ian Paisley department.

Had the choreography not played out like this, there were parts of the programme that could have provoked sympathy. There were the tears when Paisley’s own congregation turned on him. There was the dilemma Mr and Mrs Paisley (working as one) faced in their decision to go into government with Sinn Fein, with the impassioned reasoning from Mrs Paisley that they had to sacrifice personal friendships to avoid going back to another 40 years of conflict. But all of the earlier chicanery meant that by the time the second interview was screened, Paisley had already been reduced from the unlikely hero of the peace-process to a tragic, embittered has-been. His former colleagues have thus managed to distance themselves from the extremism in the first programme and the bitterness of the second.

So is the DUP sitting pretty? Well not quite.

The trouble is, Paisley’s DNA is all over that party. This is not an ideological schism – merely a personal one. The Eastenders-esque story of his demise makes great gossip and radio-fill for news nerds, but Paisley’s ideology remains at the heart of government.

The interviews reminded us of Paisley’s old tactic of stoking tension to gain power, and we’ve recently seen it replicated in the distribution of leaflets that provoked riots in the constituency Robinson is trying to win back. We were reminded that Paisley was a religious zealot first and a politician second, a position lately adopted by Edwin Poots in his “irrational” decision to ban gay people’s blood donations. We were reminded of Paisley’s attempts to drive Catholics out of ‘Protestant’ areas in the 1960s, a segregationist theme underlying current policies of housing and proliferation of ‘peace walls’ in Belfast. We were reminded of Paisley’s dalliances with unelected hoods like Andy Tyrie, and we see the DUP pandering to the old extremist base once again during the Haass talks. And finally we were reminded of Paisley’s old vindictiveness towards those who ‘took the soup’ from Catholics, which we’ve recently seen mirrored in Robinson’s attack on Jim Allister for a land deal at Brookeborough. Those are Paisley’s malignant legacies, which will affect the ordinary person long after the news nerds have lost interest in the domestic slagging match.

On the good side, perhaps we have also seen a little of Paisley’s final compromise, particularly in Robinson reaching out to the GAA. But the current leadership learned from Paisley’s rise that being progressive in NI is only electorally valued if you start from a regressive state. So every so often the DUP has to step back and get back into bed with its rabble-rousing roots, reconnect, and then seek liberal credit for reaching out again.

Paisley might be off the Christmas card list, but this remains ‘his’ party alright. The ultimate irony is that the current leadership has also learnt from Paisley a ruthlessness in despatching political rivals, and that the biggest rivals are on the inside. So who’s next?

Jump to first paragraph.

Comments

comments powered by Disqus

Get more stories from our Roundup section

21 Apr 2014 09:00 • Editorial Department

Not against a community centre but not on ‘our doorstep’

“WE are not against a community centre, we just don’t want it on our doorstep.”

Social: Comments0 comments

20 Apr 2014 19:00

'We want to do it for the supporters' - Davy Black

Clogher Valley coach David Black has vowed to make up for their All Ireland Junior Cup Final defeat by winning the Ulster Towns’ Cup for their supporters when they take on Donaghadee at Ravenhill on Easter Monday.

Social:

20 Apr 2014 15:00 • Julie Kenwell

Family ‘sick of thought’ of third round of heart surgery for Alfie

THE family of Bellanaleck toddler, Alfie Keys are nervously looking ahead to this September.

Social: Comments0 comments

20 Apr 2014 13:00 • Editorial Department

Trust identifies ‘extreme risks’ that could kill patients

Extreme risks have been identified by the Western Trust which could “compromise client safety” or even lead to “injury or death of patients or staff”.

Social: Comments0 comments

20 Apr 2014 09:00 • Editorial Department

‘End of an era’ for Leslie and McCrea family

Tempo Primary’s long serving caretaker - whose family has a long connection with the Fermanagh school - was paid a warm tribute at the start of the school’s Easter Holidays.

Social: Comments0 comments

19 Apr 2014 21:00 • Brian Donaldson

First election nominations made at Townhall

The countdown to the first election for seats on the new Fermanagh and Omagh District Council on May 22 has begun with the first candidates nominating at Enniskillen Townhall this week.

Social: Comments0 comments

19 Apr 2014 17:10

Mallards gain another crucial point in safety battle

Ballinamallard took another step closer to safety as they claimed a share of the spoils at home to Ballymena today.

Social:

19 Apr 2014 15:00 • Meadhbh Monahan

Leading anti-fracker believes local protesters are on the right track

Founder of Frack Free Sussex and Britain and Ireland Frack Free, Vanessa Vine visited Enniskillen last Saturday to discuss the local anti-fracking campaign.

Social: Comments0 comments

19 Apr 2014 13:00 • Editorial Department

Road rage car chase for boxing champ who turned away from possible fight

A boxing champion shied away from a fight with a man over twice his age only to become embroiled in a road rage incident.

Social:

19 Apr 2014 11:00 • Editorial Department

Milk suppliers assured that Society is debt free

The forty-eight former Fivemiletown milk suppliers have been assured that Fivemiletown and Brookeborough Co-operative and Agricultural Dairy Society (the Society) is debt free and that they will “continue to be paid”.

Social: Comments0 comments

19 Apr 2014 09:00 • Rodney Edwards

Elliott votes against bill on powers for new Super Councils

ULSTER Unionist MLA Tom Elliott has joined his party colleagues in voting against the Local Government Bill, the legislation that sets out the powers of the new Super Councils. Mr. Elliott spoke of his concern around community planning ahead of the amalgamation which will see 26 Councils merge into 11, including the amalgamation of Fermanagh District Council and Omagh District Council

Social:

19 Apr 2014 08:30

Police name motorcyclist killed in Fivemiletown crash

Police can confirm that a male motorcyclist has died following a two vehicle road traffic collision on the Belfast Road in Fivemiletown last night, Friday 18 April.

Social:

18 Apr 2014 22:00 • Rodney Edwards

Orange audit: 93 per cent believe Catholics ‘suspicious’ of order

A MAJOR survey into the Orange Order in Fermanagh has found that 92.8 per cent of people who took part in the project believe Catholics are “suspicious” of the organisation.

Social: Comments0 comments

18 Apr 2014 19:00

'We have a big eight days ahead of us' - Anderson

By 5pm on Saturday April 26 all the decisions will be made in the Danske Bank Premiership and Championship One. The destination of the title will be decided and who is going down or which teams are facing a play off will be known.

Social:

18 Apr 2014 17:00 • Rodney Edwards

Enterprise Minister disagrees with keeping Aventas Group all locally owned

ENTERPRISE Minister Arlene Foster says she cannot support the view of local political representatives, including her DUP colleague Maurice Morrow, that the Aventas Group in Derrylin must remain exclusively locally owned.

Social: Comments0 comments

18 Apr 2014 15:00 • Editorial Department

Tweets of the Week - did you make it?

Charlie Lawson @charlie_lawson1 I’m reliably informed that my alter ego and constant companion is to return, so he is. Must contact The Home Secretary to confirm.

Social: Comments0 comments

18 Apr 2014 13:00 • Editorial Department

Foster vows to take school merger to the Assembly

“I am not powerless, I will fight this,” declares Stormont Minister Arlene Foster as she reflects on the fall-out over the proposal by the Western Education and Library Board to amalgamate Portora Royal School with Collegiate Grammar School.

Social: Comments0 comments

18 Apr 2014 11:00 • Lily Dane

Those were the days: Miss Derryclavin Selected

This image “Miss Derryclavin” Selected was featured in The Impartial Reporter on April 16, 1964.

Social: Comments0 comments

18 Apr 2014 08:30

Depression is an illness, mourners told at Kenny Andrews funeral

MOURNERS at the funeral of Brookeborough man Kenneth Andrews who died unexpectedly last week were told that the 47-year-old had been fighting a private battle with depression.

Social:

17 Apr 2014 19:00 • Rodney Edwards

#fermanaghspake This Week is...

‘I’m not half well’

Social: Comments0 comments