Rout-e March

In the recent Westminster general election and the Nothern Ireland local government elections the Ulster Unionist Party was overwhelmed in a political tsunami by the Democratic unionist Party centred in Paisley hinterland.

It was not unexpected. Warnings of the impending engulfment had been rumbling around ever since the first displacement in the last Assembly election. Now we have the almost complete clearance of their representatives at Westminster with their leader, David Trimble, losing his Upper Bann seat and leaving only Lady Hermon as the only UUP Member of Parliament.

Trimble has now marched and resigned the leadership role while his routed party is trying to come to terms with its catastrophic defeat.

In his valedictory statement Trimble sent a message to the new Northern Ireland Secretary of State that the British Government had been too easy on Republicans. This had been the reason for the failure to implement or reach agreement and Peter Hain would fail if he continued with this policy.

It ill behoves David Trimble, who himself failed to make the Belfast 1998 Agreement work and who had opportunities to make progress and fluffed them, to anticipate failure from and for the new Minister.

He knows full well that he was too busy looking over his shoulder, whilst also fighting his own dissidents, trying to avoid being stabbed in the back by the clerical political assassin and leader of the DUPes, Ian Paisley, whose party has finally done him down.

Trimble has also suggested that the old 'Bull Frog of the Belfast Marches' will also fail to terms with Sinn Féin and will not work with them in a power-sharing executive. That might be sour grapes or perhaps like many others he surmises that while the Ballymena bigot Paisley, who opted out of the 1998 negotiations and opposed them from their inception, is in the driving seat he has no intention to reach agreement anyway.

Sinn Féin gained a seat and now hold five at Westminster, the other three being taken by the SDLP. This makes them the largest Nationalist party in Northern Ireland while they have also strengthened their position in the local government elections.

The IRA are apparently still mulling over the call from Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams to stand down from all military or violent involvement and to join in solely political activities as a positive contribution to the political / peace process.

If the IRA does make such a comittment it will depend on its acceptance by Paisley and others whether or not progress can be made and whether the hope expressed by Peter Hain that the Assembly can be re-established and set to work can be realised.

If the IRA does do so it would mean throwing down the gauntlet to the DUP and (hold your breath) enable their Deputy Leader, Peter Robinson, to seize control and make the looked for breakthrough. As I've said on other occasions, it's all "in a state of chassis" and perhaps out of the state of flux some solidity might emerge.

I have myself written to the new Secretary of State, not so much congratulating him on his appointment as that, as a Minister of Labour in an earlier Labour government on his appointment to that post said it was "a bed of nails!". That is an appropriate descriptrion of the Northern Ireland posting.

However, I have welcomed him and referred him to some non-sectarian folk such as the Belfast-based think tank, Democratic Dialogue, and the staff of the Northern Ireland magazine, Fortnight, from whom he may have an informed objective appraisal of the necessities and nuances of the situation.

I have suggested that he looks at this website to read my comments over the years from which he might get at least some background information and historical perspective.

I have also said that if he should like my outline proposals sent to the Opsahl Commission in 1992 I could send him a copy and if he were ever in the vicinity I'd like a word in his ear.

I wish him well and, who knows, the penny might drop in all the orange and green boxes and the rout be the route to peace and progress!

©: Samuel H. Boyd, Cwmbran, South Wales, 10 May 2005.

Samuel H. Boyd