Well, it’s shaping up to be a very interesting week. As I was checking in on the Texas Primary results, I found out that Ian Paisley, the 1st Minister of the devolved parliament in Northern Ireland, has announced that he will step down from the post, rather than complete his term, which would have ended in 2011.
Here are some links for reading:
I have very mixed emotions about this announcement. On the one hand, I am not sorry to see him begin the inevitable journey to extinction. He’s a dinosaur from an era that is now consigned to history. On the other hand, without him, the current devolved power sharing government probably would not have happened. Of course, it could be argued that with out him, all of this could have been achieved years ago.
My concern is what comes next. With Junior Paisley having been forced out of his ministerial post for “ethical lapses,” who takes over not only as First Minister, but as head of the DUP will have a profound effect on the fate of the Six Counties. While Paisley has said he will remain as a MLA and MP, he has already been forced out as head of his Presbyterian sect, due to ground swell against his political u-turn and rapproachment with Sinn Fein.
I’ve never been fond of the DUP, or its membership. I personally find them to be more in a vein with the Jihadis of radical Islamic sects than any sort of “Western” religion or ideology. Yet, much like the ancient Vulcan saying, “Only Nixon can go to China.” It took someone of Paisley’s stature and Unionist credentials to break what had been seen as an almost insurmountable dead lock. According to published reports, Paisley still says that power sharing was “the right thing to do.” Though how it will save Unionism from “an eventual united Ireland” is beyond me.
Lurking in the wings is Peter Robinson, a long time DUP member, MLA, and general political operative. Robinson, while more in favor with the hard line crowd, lacks a lot of what made Paisley such an iconic figure. He’s not nearly as charismatic, or witty, or quick minded. He’s slated to take over as First Minister, probably for the rest of Iam Paisley’s term, but his standing as regards the party may yet still be in flux.
Why still in flux? Nigel Dodds, another long time DUP gadfly is also angling for the top slot. He’s currently the Enterprise Minister, and has been critical of softened relations with Sinn Fein in the past. With Ian jr out of the picture, it fals to these two to duke it out for control.
According to the Irish papers, “government sources” indicate that this will not spell doom for the NI Assembly. They “fully expect that the DUP will remain in the power sharing structure with Sinn Fein.” But don’t expect a new version of the “chuckle twins” to happen with Martin McGuinness and either Robinson or Dodds. No one on any side wants a return to the “Troubles,” so that may keep who ever takes over from Paisley from jumping the shark and scuttling the whole shebang.