Thursday, 23 January 2014

Thank you Big Ian!

There is no need for unionists to be overly concerned about Ian Paisley's recent BBC interview; they would do better to use it as an opportunity for strengthening their role in Northern Ireland’s future.

Holes have been punched in unionism, but no new visions have been allowed to flow in. Without the right sort of change the unionist project is in danger of plunging into the sea on melted wings. This relates to wider concerns about an orgiastic flag-waving unanimity, in which the media have congealed into an orange mass, as if "we" all lived under "Big Ian's" shadow.

Many see Paisley's BBC interview with Eamonn Mallie as the sun which melted those wings. Baron Bannside said many things which may dupe the DUP into thinking that they need to advertise for a “Fall Out Manager”, but that appointee would spend most of their time sitting in party HQ twiddling their thumbs. The DUP already have wounds to lick so rather than add to the back log, better to seize the Paisley interview as a long awaited opportunity to kiss the future with a renewed sense of confidence.

How much of the political machinery which tooled up and honed Paisley throughout the 50s and 60s still remains? With his passionate public speeches, the firebrand preacher, who founded the DUP in 1971, once effortlessly whipped crowds up into a frenzied state. However, to take his answers to Mallie's questions as representative , would be to incorrectly accept Paisley as the megaphone of today's unionist voice.

On the obvious: Paisley was always going to bring up the past and glaze it with his own "child of God" viewpoint and express with that phrase a whole skullful of "Bible Protestantism." He didn't build his reputation on a broad mind nor did he want to be associated with liberty or promoting equal opportunities for non-Protestant Ulster. Big Ian was always going to stick to his guns because that is precisely what conviction politicians of his stripe do.

A misreading of the interview would be to say that Paisley had been biding his time, waiting for Mallie to draw him back into the media spotlight to punch more holes in unionism, watch them fill with water and sink to the bottom of the Irish Sea. 

Today's brand of unionism is already on the shared government life boat, whose rudder is steering Northern Ireland in a different direction than in the past.

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