Category: Archive

Saying ‘yes’

February 17, 2011

By Staff Reporter

Hain was delighted to be told to go. He said he was pleased that the parties were “getting down to the business of preparing for government.” Politics have come a long way since the Good Friday agreement was signed in 1998. Then Paisley was saying “no” and continued to do so in various ways until quite recently.
A number of things changed in those nine years, a period in which it became increasingly clear that the Troubles were over, but also in which the political mood, if anything, only seemed to get worse. In the continuing instability, Paisley’s DUP gradually became the biggest party on the unionist side, while Sinn Fein edged out its nationalist rival the SDLP. Electoral success beyond their traditional heartlands put the onus on both those parties to do a deal. IRA decommissioning helped considerably. But the missing piece was in place when Sinn Fein decided to recognize the legitimacy of the police. That move allowed the DUP leader to sell power-sharing to his supporters, or most of them.
There were at least two other important factors at work, however. The first was so-called Plan B, which the British and Irish governments said they would implement if the parties couldn’t agree on a deal by March 26. That would have meant not just continued direct rule from London, but also would have allowed for a bigger say for the Republic in Northern Ireland’s affairs. So, while Paisley may have much preferred Taoiseach Bertie Ahern on a personal level to Gerry Adams, he was left with no option but to do a deal with his one-time sworn enemies in Sinn Fein rather let a “foreign” government any more influence in Belfast than he thought necessary.
Today, Paisley travels South for a meeting with the taoiseach in Government Buildings, a place with which he’s become familiar over the years, both from the outside and the inside. This time, he goes equipped with a new policy of cooperation with Sinn Fein, which includes efforts to get the best possible economic package for the North.
The DUP leader and McGuinness are due to meet British Chancellor of the Exchequer Gordon Brown soon in that regard. And this was the other factor that was crucial to securing the deal. The politicians understood that the lack of devolution was holding back the North’s development and if only they could resolve their outstanding issues, great benefits would come to their constituents. And so, as we prepare to remember, 91 years on, the idealism that inspired the men of Easter Week, it’s with considerable relief that we see a North that is focused mainly on bread and butter issues.

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