Rule Out Triumphalism

With little or no references to Northern Ireland the annual conferences of all the British political parties have come and gone. Ian Paisley, the DUP leader, has met Archbishop Sean Brady of Armagh, the Catholic Primate of all Ireland, to ask him, among other things, to persuade Sinn Féin to join the board of the Police Service of Northern Ireland as an indication that peaceful political activities are their sole commitment.

The Sinn Féin President, Gerry Adams, along with Martin MacGuinness, has met Prime M inister Blair and called upon him to urge the other political groups in Northern Ireland, especially the Democratic Unionists, to reach agreement on the return to devolved government.

Meetings have also taken place with the Taoiseach, Bertie Ahern, and the North’s political leaders to ascertain what progress might be possible. In an interview on RTÉ Radio 1 on Sunday October 8 Adams called upon Paisley and his party, and not for the first time, to join with Sinn Féin in the Joint Executive under the terms of the 1998 agreement.

I have received a copy of the Monitoring Commission’s just published report and confirm, after detailed reading, that it contains a very positive assessment on the Provisional IRA’s adherence to decommissioning, cessation of paramilitary organisation and activities and discouragement of criminal lawbreaking among Republicans.

In interviews on radio and television Adams has said that provided other things could be achieved he had no doubt that Republicans accepted the need for maintenance of public order and law (my interpretation of his statements).

After Paisley’s meeting with Archbishop Brady the latter said that their discussions had been useful and he hoped that the results of their exchanges would be positive and constructive in bringing the communities together.

However, Paisley has gone on record as attacking the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland Peter Hain, accusing him of deceit in the way he had reported the assessment of the Monitoring Commission in respect of Republican paramilitaries. Coming just before the meetings arranged for the two governments and the politicians of Northern Ireland at St. Andrew’s in Fife, Scotland today, October 11, this is hardly conciliatory.

Prior to the meeting both prime ministers and the Secretary of State have been sounding positive and optimistic about the prospects of an understanding being reached which will re‑establish theNorthern Ireland Assembly and Government at Stormont. But judging by Paisley’s attitude it will not be free of difficulties and hurdle raising by the obdurate fundamentalist cleric.

St. Andrew’s is of course renowned for golf but that subject will be far removed from the game and in fact thge ‘gulf’ between the parties. I suppose it is just possible that the players will all stay the course and avoid the bunkers of the past, the water and other man made hazards that lurk around the greens (no pun intended!).

if they all play fair and to the rules and end all square at the end of the contest then, just maybe, they will all be able to repair to the clubhouse (the nineteenth hole) that is, the Stormont Assembly.

We can only wait and see if at least the beginning of the end is at least achievable.

In an article in the Spring 1998 edition of The Green Dragon I quoted from Professor J.J. Lee’ book, Ireland 1912 ‑ 1955, Politics and Society:“There can be no permanent civilised solution to the Ulster Question within the terms of reference of either triumphalist Unionism or triumphalist Nationalism.” a view with which I concur.

I am concerned that the aim of Ian Paisley is the former and if during the negotiations at St. Andrew’s he confirms this in his approach, they are likely to end in stalemate.

©: Samuel H. Boyd, Cwmbran, Wales, 11 October 2006.