So Part Two of The Great Interview.
It had already been screened to the Belfast Press Corps on Friday last week and under embargo until Midnight Sunday night.
This meant that the three Belfast newspapers and BBC and UTV were able to splash the story all day Monday. This meant that all the best quotes were already in the public domain long before we all sat down to watch it. It also meant that the DUP could get out rebuttals in advance of the broadcast.
Curiously this meant that the BBC got a massive audience but paradoxically the programme did not have the explosive impact it should have had.
Indeed the programme did little more than provide links to the quotes we already knew.
What did we learn? Well Mrs Paisley (aka Baroness Paisley) had as much to say as her hubby. Clearly there is LOVE there. And there is that old cliche that “behind every Great Man is ….” More so Eileen was standing by her man and indeed standing behind her over-indulged son, Ian Junior. Not so long ago we referred to them as Papa Doc and Baby Doc.
And of course the other cliche brought to mind is that “Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned”.
Frankly Nobody came out of this well. Certainly NOT Eamonn Mallie.
Maura Lyons, Eugene Reavey, Kincora…no questions.
Paisley is a man who started his own Church, started his own political party, started his own Orange Order. A control freak…but even allowing for several houjrs of interview edited to two hours, there is little excuse for Mallie leaving out key questions. The one thing left to the control freak was to control his legacy and Mallie facilitated this….albeit in the knowledge he had a scoop in the revelations about Paisley and the broken relationship with the DUP and Free Presbyterian Church.
We are talking DYNASTIC family politics here.
Ian…over forty years at Westminster as MP or “Lord”. Often double-jobbing as MLA and even First Minister.
Ian Junior…MLA (resigned) succeeded his father as MP. Was a Junior Minister.
Eileen…wife, mother and …oddly…member of House of “Lords”.
Swish (sic) Family Robinson…
Peter. Current First Minister, MLA, former MP.
Iris. Former MLA and MP
The Dodds Clan.
Nigel. Current MP. Previously MLA. Previously a Minister.
Eileen might well feel that they owe it all to her husband. But the reality is that they got their start in Politics on his coat trails and fostered their own careers since. And theres a few other DUP dynasties out there.
Much has been made of Paisley as King Lear. A man who no longer understands the world. But I think of it as King Richard III….Richard (Paisley) against Henry Tudor (Robinson)…and the watching Stanleys (Dodds) weighs in on the winning side.
There is a warmth about Paisley that Robinson does not have. Yet it was bitter and personal. Paisley punched below the belt with “I am happily married and still live with my wife”. Eileen spoke of “sleaze” in the Robinson home. And Dodds as a “cheeky sod”…anyone else recall the DUP campaign to “Save Ulster From Sodomy”?
We also learned that the DUP Special Advisor hovering around behind Paisley (once) and Robinson (now) is called Timothy Johnston and Eileen wanted to “shove his survey down his throat”…a testimony to the restrained nature of unionism. In nationalism, it would have been shoved in an upward direction.
Can we say with Certainty, that Paisley opposed the Good Friday Agreement until the position of First Minister fell to him? Or can we say that in the years after 1998, he was able to get concessions from Sinn Fein on de-commissioning weapons that no other unionist could have done?
Was the affable, “chuckle brother” the right image for the New Norn Iron and the wrong image for Unionism? Did Paisley fulfil a year-long necessary role before being ousted by Robinson?
The bottom line is that we all knew in 2007 and 2008 that Paisley was in his eighties and had lost “something”. He had to go?
Yet some blasts from the Past. Eileen bemoaned the loss of Desmond Boals friendship. Young folks wont know Desmond Boal QC. A dissident unionist in the O’Neill era, he threw his lot in with Paisley and gave the DUP some respectability, oddly balancing the only other DUP politician, the barely literate Johnny McQuade.
But Boal gave up politics (in 1973?) for the Law.
And Rev Ivan Foster…now bald …but I dont think Ive seen him since he was a firebrand young preacher man in the Free Presbyterian Church in the 1960s. He was (with Rev William Beattie) usually at Paisleys side but he too gave up Politics around the same time…for the Free Presbyterian Church.
Boal and Foster were an odd double whammy. Fundamentalist politician and fundamentalist Christian. Representatives of Paisleys double life. Fundamentalists DONT do compromise and in compromising, Paisley sealed his fate with his political and (later) Church friends.
They removed him as Leader of the DUP.
They removed him as Moderator of the Free Presbyterian Church.
And now his family dont even worship at his “home” church, the Martyrs Memorial.
Yet at times, Paisley seemed to have the old twinkle.
Asked by Mallie how he would react to a relationship between one of his children and a Catholic, he laughed and talked about getting himself a big stick…and then more humanely adding that “my love would be greater than my hurt”…the feeling ALL parents know.
Mallie mused at the end that the Obituarists (sic) would need to re-write their scripts.
And maybe that was the whole point.
This interview with 87 year old Paisley was a VIRTUAL Obituary.
There is the unspoken knowledge that there will be a REAL Obituary soon enough.
Microphones will be put into the faces of Robinson, Dodds and the rest…and especially in the short term that will be uncomfortable.
Robinson…The Beast…has declined to speak on specific issues the programme raised. Blessing Paisley “with the mercy of his silence”.
But can he really forget that Paisley portrayed him as a cuckold last night?
Dodds dismissed as a “cheeky sod” last night by Eileen Paisley. An opportunist ingrate.
Not so long ago, we assumed that Paisley would die as a kinda unlikely Nelson Mandela. A State Funeral perhaps at Stormont to underscore the whole new Norn Iron narrative. We are alleged to need a unifying figure but its not Rev Ian Paisley.
We have had the Good Friday Agreement…Peace…Passivity.
The Meek might inherit the Earth…but they did not inherit Norn Iron.
On one side it was Paisley, Robinson and Dodds.
On the other side it was Gerry Adams, Martin McGuinness and Gerry Kelly.
The Men who were around in the bad times (and arguably contributed to the bad times) are now in charge implementing the Recovery.
So Paisleys funeral is likely to be a modest affair. Will Peter and Iris Robinson be there? Nigel and Diane Dodds? Desmond Boal?
Maybe it will fall to the other “chuckle brother” Martin McGuinness to lead the official mourning.
Talk about Irony?
Yet it makes sense. Leaving aside violence and mayhem (on all sides), Treason is NOT a bad thing. Indeed its part of the Irish way of life and any Irishman who goes to his grave NOT committing Treason should be ashamed of himself.
I have absolutely no problem with Treason.
But I DO have a problem with Treachery.
The conventional wisdom is that this will not harm the DUP electorally. I am not so sure.
There is the Ian Paisley Junior factor.
He is MP for North Antrim, a staunchly DUP constituency. Junior would be stupid to resign from the Party and go Independent. Yes he has the Paisley “name” but its a “name” that will degrade over the years. And probably the DUP “name” is just as useful. With North Antrim, already holding a TUV, UUP and at least one nationalist quota, I dont think Paisley is the force that people think. He lacks charisma and has an air of “entitlement”.
The broader picture…I think this depends on the Timing.There are local and European elections in 2014, Westminster elections in 2015 and Assembly elections in 2016. Rev Ian Paisley is 87 years old and in poor health. This could be an unforeseen issue.
But ultimately a lot depends on the OTHER parties and their willingness to actually go after the DUP. The DUP are weakened by this. Kick them hard.