It is a good day to love the Rev. Ian Paisley Snr.! For the past 40-years, since I first heard his name, I have hated him. I hated him because he hated me. More precisely, he hated my Irish heritage and Roman religion. Today I love him because he has given up playing Groundhog Day at the peace talks on power-sharing and has agreed to help bring an end to “the Troubles” that have plagued Ireland since his mob beat my mob at the Battle of the Boyne in 1690.

Paisley is a good hater – for a religious man – and once described Irish journalists as: “Whirring multitudes of pestiferous scribbling rodents.” He was never backward in calling a spade a “papist harlot.” His sectarianism knew no bounds. In 1988 he was ejected from the European parliament when Pope John Paul II was addressing it by rising in his seat and shouting “I renounce you as the Antichrist.”

The fiery demagogue’s position on power-sharing with Sinn Fein was always crystal clear: “The dog will return to its vomit. The washed sow will return to its wallowing in the mire, but by God’s grace we will never return to Popery!” Paisley spent so much of his life shouting “No Surrender!” in his shrill “Norn Iron” accent  that no one noticed that he did, quietly, on Friday in Scotland, when he put his name, and his reputation, to the St Andrews Agreement on power-sharing with Sinn Fein in Northern Ireland.

The backflip will be complete when on November 24, according to the timetable for devolution, he will rise as First Minister of Northern Ireland and nominate “the Antichrist” Martin McGuinness (former chief-of-staff of the Provisional IRA) as his Deputy First Minister in the reconstituted, power-sharing, Northern Ireland Assembly at Stormont. It is almost unbelievable. But wait, there’s more …

Paisley has also committed his Democratic Unionist Party to the following loyalist heresies: To stop discriminating against the Catholic minority and to introduce a Bill of Rights; to see Westminster repeal the 1920 Government of Ireland Act which partitioned the island of Ireland and set up the Irish Free State parliament in Dublin and the Stormont parliament in Belfast, and to introduce an Irish Language Act into Northern Ireland.

Northern Ireland is now scheduled to be returned to Home Rule on March 26, 2007 when power will be devolved from London to Belfast. Henceforth, the six Ulster counties of the north will be run as a co-dominion between the United Kingdom and the Republic of Ireland with people allowed to hold dual citizenship. At this stage, the only opposition is coming from Robert McCarthy’s miniscule UK Unionist Party who has described the St Andrews accord as “an agreement between liars and gunmen which has been brokered by hypocrites.”

Indeed it will be a great day for the Irish when the Troubles come to an end.

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Peter Fray
Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey
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