Comment at end
4th March 2010
PAISLEY – THE NEVER! NEVER! NEVER! MAN STANDS DOWN
First, a couple of video reminders:
Ian Paisley Speech – ‘Ulster Says No’ – Rally Belfast City Hall November 1985.(1:21)
And Paisley’s attitude to the ‘Irish republic’ or ‘the terrorists’ hadn’t altered much if at all, 11 years later in 1996 –
Paisley: “When we see the prime minister – when we go in he’ll be John Major – when we go out he’ll be John Minor.”
Drumcree? Read about it here, at Politics 1997. Excerpt:
‘Parades and marches have been a feature of Ulster summers for decades – but it is only in the last five years or so that they have become the cause of so much tension and violence.’
SO WHAT CHANGED WHEN BLAIR STARTED TO TACKLE THE ISSUES?
My question – WHY did it all change so dramatically when Tony Blair came to office? Purely co-incidental? Or a culmination of Major’s and Thatcher’s work over a period which had, according to the above quote, led to “so much tension and violence”?
You will know, if you have any sense, that what changed was the leadership of this country. For the first time for decades we had a leader ready to sit down and make peace.
What changed was we then had a … wait for it …
PEACEMAKER LEADING OUR COUNTRY
Tony Blair should long ago have received the Nobel Peace Prize for his work in Northern Ireland as should have Bertie Ahern, the Irish Taoiseach.
Are they both going to get them posthumously?
Others have received recognition for their contributions to peace in Northern Ireland. WHO? You might well ask (Hume & Trimble.) And that was in 1998! And I bet you are still asking “who?”, unless you are British or Irish.
Only in 1997 was the peace process started, culminating in a successful outcome. And it was started by Tony Blair and Bertie Ahern, both of whom were in office throughout the 1997 – 2007 period!
Yet still no international peace award has come their way from the Nobel Peace Prize Committee. A shameful omission. Nothing that they did in any other policy area at home or abroad, or no other controversy that followed them, deserved or not, should take away from their enormous contributions to peace in Ireland, north and south.
It is likely to take a whole new way of thinking by those who thought Obama merited a Nobel peace prize for showing promise before this injustice is put right.
MEMOIRS, MR PAISLEY?
I am hoping that soon the ‘retiring’ Mr Ian Paisley Snr. will write his memoir of the most important time in his political life, the time between 1997 and 2007, when with Tony Blair and other participants they worked closely on the Northern Ireland peace settlement.
If the late Michael Foot had this kind of legacy forgive me if I suggest that we would have been hearing all about this yesterday, today and tomorrow. Instead we applaud his “failure”. No matter how ‘nice’ a man he was, Mr Foot was in no small measure a political failure.
Blair, by contrast, was a monumental political and electoral success.
And so the tragedy of Tony Blair continues. For reasons to do with his other peace-making efforts overseas, nothing has yet been made of his input to the Northern Ireland Settlement, which was huge … correction …
ABSOLUTELY ENORMOUS …
On Radio 4’s BBC midnight news the other night the newscaster said, “there were two Ian Paisleys”. He made no reference as to how the second and better version came about. Paisley’s former arch-enemy Martin McGuniness had nothing but good words for Mr Paisley. Today they are the best of chums, always on the phone.
I contend that without Tony Blair on his case Mr Paisley would NOT have moved one iota from his perennial “Never! Never! Never!” position.
Paisley was central to bringing the two sides together. Absolutely pivotal. Blair knew this and Blair himself became the catalyst for change.
I know there is a train of thought which goes that Paisley wanted to end his career with an historical success and not a yell or even a whimper. And it is true that he certainly avoided both of those uncomfortable options.
He is the exception to the rule that all political careers end in tears.
Of that he can be proud, and perhaps when he thinks on it, he will thank Tony Blair.
24th March 2007: Johann Hari on “Blair’s last act of political seduction.”
Note “act”; note “seduction”. This historical success just HAS to be somehow infused with seediness. Doesn’t it just? Even then, at such a moment in history, British journos can’t resist digging it at Blair.
They make me sick. They really, REALLY do. Excerpt:
“This weekend, Tony Blair has pulled off his last great act of political seduction. After a decade of whispering sweet nothings to seductees as varied as Bill Clinton, George Bush, Paddy Ashdown, Rupert Murdoch and, oh yes, the British electorate, he has sealed his career as a Westminster Cassanova with his most frigid bedding yet: the Reverend Ian Paisley.
“Tony Blair is not able to seduce every man, woman and child in Northern Ireland. He cannot flatter and coo at each of them as he has so patiently with Paisley. In the end, the solution to the province’s problems will not lie in Stormont castle, however startling the conversions that occur there. It will unfold in playgrounds where Catholic and Protestant children finally play together.
POSTSCRIPT: You can send comments on this article for publication in the Indie to email@example.com or just for me to firstname.lastname@example.org”
I just might, Mr Hari.
I do hope that one day others, like Mr Paisley, Martin McGuinness or Gerry Adams will find it in their hearts to be more (suitably) generous.