Friday, March 09, 2007


Result reflections

"You really have to feel for the SDLP, the UUP and the other parties. The March 7th election is a farce designed to consolidate the power of Sinn Féin and the DUP."

- United Irelander, January 30th

I felt it would be best to wait until the election results were complete before weighing in with my two cents on the whole thing.

I made my feelings clear on this election back in January and my feelings on it haven't changed. The point of this election was to strengthen the big dogs and stroke their egos. In that sense it has been a resounding success.

It was made quite clear to all and sundry that the restoration of the devolved assembly - which is what the majority of people in NI are after - hinged upon the DUP and Sinn Féin doing a deal.

We were left with an almost incredulous state of affairs which saw the UUP and the SDLP effectively getting frozen out as the two governments danced to the tune of Sinn Féin and, especially, the DUP.

It was akin to the two governments telling the people, "These are the guys who can make it happen, all you have to do is give them the rubber-stamp".

And that the electorate certainly did. There is no point fixating on the way this election was conducted. It's democracy and the people have spoken so the result must be respected. What needs to happen now is the DUP have to do what the rest of the North's parties want them to do - get on with it.

The problem facing the rest of us is that we're relying on Ian Paisley to abandon the rejectionist unionism that he has spearheaded for so long, to instead embrace co-operation.

Now the DUP must deliver

For so long we were told that principles were what was stopping the DUP sharing power with Republicans. That is no longer the case. This isn't about principles any more it's about personalities.

Can Dr No become Dr Yes? Can 'Big Ian' become 'Brave Ian'? The jury's still out for me. I know there are a lot of people within his party who oppose the path the DUP find itself on and who want to steer the party in a different direction.

In my opinion Paisley has to remain on his present course. The unionist electorate could have flocked to rejectionist unionists like Bob McCartney but they didn't. McCartney failed to win a seat. Rejectionist unionism took a beating in this election.

Who knows, maybe that's why Paisley requested the election in the first place. Maybe the man really does want to move on but he needed to know in his heart that unionists would stick with him if he remained on his current course. I don't know. What worries me however is that from listening to Paisley in recent days, he doesn't come across like a man who knows what he actually wants. He doesn't appear like a man with a plan.

If Paisley is found wanting once more then the two governments have to stand firm. They do have a plan - Plan B aka "joint stewardship".

If Paisley bottles it at the last moment then the Assembly should be closed down and the North/South agenda must be initiated by Dublin and London respectively.

I don't think it is acceptable to allow this one personality to destroy the hopes of future generations. Ian Paisley once embodied the worst of unionism - negativity and backwardness. If Paisley, as the representative of the largest unionist party, proves unwilling to shepherd unionism into a better, more evolved position, then the two governments must do it without him.

What are your thoughts on the election?


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