>> 29 Aug 2004


The news is that Ian Paisley, leader of the DUP and the most venerated figure within unionism is to retire on the advice of his doctors. Or so says the Sunday Telegraph here.

If true, and he has been unwell, this will indeed cause a major ripple within unionism and a tsunami within the DUP. Paisley has been the dominant personality within Unionism for years, hated by the liberal media but loved by an admiring section of the pro-Union electorate. He now leads the largest Unionist Party, which he also founded. His evengelical style of rhetoric has antagonised many, and within the DUP there IS an "evangelical" wing who follow "The Doc" as they have christened him, and the "pragmatic" wing led by Peter Robinson. The DUP may pretend otherwise but there IS some friction between these wings. How will this now develop?

I find much to admire in both men. Paisley is an immensely personable man who I have had the privilege to meet with on several occasions. He is amusing, confronting, intelligent and .. decisive. I appreciate that some have a problem with his religious views but at a political level - I do like him and agree with much of what he says. In my recent public ding-dong with his son, I was careful to quote Ian Snr because he has been relatively consistent. His son is a very pale shadow, though I am sorry his dad is clearly unwell.

Robinson, by contrast, is a cold fish. I must be honest with readers and say that I find little to warm to with him. Yet he is an excellent strategist whose skill in presenting the DUP electorally is second to none. He is a pragmatist, and effective administrator, a man who gets things done. As a number two he is very successful - but as a Leader?

Is it possible that should the Doc now hang up his boots, Robinson - so long the Deputy - may not get the silver star as Leader. Might Nigel Dodds get the starring role? What about wee Jeffrey? One thing is for sure - the DUP without Dr. Paisley as dynamic leader will be something of an unknown.

In all of this, my sincerest wish would be for Ian Paisley to do what is best for his health to ensure that his life is not cut short. He is a workaholic but time catches up with us all. As he prepares to step back - who will step up to the plate?


Post a Comment

Back to TOP