An Ulster Settlement – a truly historic event
Dr Paisley said: ‘We must not allow our justified loathing of the horrors and tragedies of the past to become a barrier to creating a better and more stable future for our children… In looking to that future, we must never forget those who have suffered during the dark period from which we are, please God, now emerging.’
Cranmer foresaw the distinct possibility, and prophesied the likelihood. Dr Paisley is now an octogenarian, the age at which the Lord called Moses, and like a latter-day deliverer from an age of darkness and oppression he shall lead his people to the promised land. It is not so much a land flowing with milk and honey, but Dr Paisley is certain to implement the kind of agenda which would make members of the Conservative Party green with envy, not least because it will include the retention of Ulster’s grammar schools.
When the power-sharing executive is formed, it will have four DUP ministers, three Sinn Fein, two UUP and one SDLP. Dr Paisley will be First Minister, Martin McGuinness his deputy, and the governmental portfolios will be shared by agreement. If the future is to remain British, the Education portfolio is crucial. Sinn Fein guarded this portfolio during their last tenure in office, and they are likely to make a bid for it again.
There are, of course, other formidable obstacles to overcome. Sinn Fein turned from murder and violence as a matter of tactics, not morality. They were also somewhat upstaged by the rise of ‘Islamic terrorism’, and they saw the worldwide revulsion. When the United States threatened their finance, they had no choice but to comply. Sinn Fein would rather do a deal with Dr Paisley while he lives, for his uncompromising ghost would have haunted the political process for decades to come. Had this meeting not taken place, if devolution had not been agreed by May 8th, whoever became leader of the DUP would have lived under the perpetual doubt of ‘What would the great Dr Paisley have done?’ That question is now settled; the doubts have disappeared.
Yet while Dr Paisley spoke of Ulster and Northern Ireland, Mr Adams spoke of the Island of Ireland. They may have jumped onto the same train, but it has two distinct destinations, symbolised by the flags which fly from Stormont. One is to a united Ireland, and the other is to remain a constituent part of the United Kingdom.
At what point will the carriages need to decouple?