07 February 2006

Daily Ireland Editorial: Tired old message trotted out again

Daily Ireland

Editor: Colin O’Carroll

There's a certain touching naiveté about Dermot Ahern — dubbed “the Foreign Secretary” by Dr Paisley — in his belief that the DUP leader might recant his weekend attack on the President.
Mr Ahern pointed out to the media that neither he nor any other Irish politician would contemplate using the word “hate” and a head of state in the same sentence — even when it comes to Elizabeth Windsor.
Secretary of State Peter Hain was under the impression that referring to royal protocol might soften the Big Man.
Fat chance.
Among the man of cloth’s infamous quotes in a career marked by incendiary statements was the following putdown of his own Queen Mother for breaking bread with the Pope. They were guilty, he told his followers, of “spiritual fornication and adultery with the Antichrist”.
In the circumstances, some observers might suggest, President McAleese got off easy.
Away from the histrionics, there were signs that the British government is willing to put the doctor’s feet to the fire.
Later this week, Sinn Féin will enjoy a financial windfall when the British House of Commons restores its funding — with backpay.
As if that wasn’t a big enough dunt for the DUP, Peter Hain is moving up a gear with his all-island strategy.
Having declared the Northern Ireland economy a dead duck in an interview with the Irish Echo, he’s now pressing ahead with plans to integrate health, inward investment and education strategies across the island. Like Domestos, he’s vowing to go places where the other cross-border bodies fail to go.
“No surrender and not an inch” were the tired messages from the DUP conference (and, yes, Dr Paisley used those very words) but they failed to impress the two governments, Sinn Féin or the SDLP all of whom are pledged to move forward without the Paisleyites. In fact Mark Durkan may have hit the nail on the head when he said that he never bought into the talk of the new, deal-making DUP. The lesson from the Council battle across the North in the nineties is that the DUP will only move when it’s told things are changing for the better — whether they like it or not.
That’s just as well because some respected commentators were predicting after the opening dreary day of the Hillsborough talks that there would be no substantive discussions until October of this year.
Civic society can’t wait around for the DUP to get real — even if their stalling tactics are endorsed by politicians south of the border who fear an northern executive inclusive of Sinn Féin just as much as the DUP. That’s why the loyalist hardliners shouldn’t be allowed to drive these talks into the clabber.

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