Tuesday, September 27, 2005

The IRA disarm...

... and Paisley cries foul.

Despite the fact that the IRA has called an end to its paramilitary activities, and has decommissioned its weapons to the full satisfaction of both the independent commission set up to oversee the process by the Good Friday agreement, and two appointed clergy men (one from each "side": a protestant minister and a catholic priest), the leader of the DUP Ian Paisley has claimed that there has been a "cover up", and has refused to even countenance re-entering into devolved government with representatives from Sinn Fein.

The commission's report concludes "In summary, we have determined that the IRA has met its commitment to put all its arms beyond use in a manner called for by the legislation". Both witnesses have expressed in the strongest possible terms their satisfaction with the process. Paisley, however, will not accept this; and this should come as no surprise. He has nothing to gain, and everything to lose, if the peace process in Northern Ireland should come what most of the rest of us regard as a successful end: the removal of paramilitary violence from the political sphere. Much of Paisley's popularity rests on the fact of that conflict; he has thus a vested interest in not allowing it to end.

In this regard, the reaction of the UUP to this is encouraging; one Assembly member described Paisley's attempt to cast apsertions on the integrity of the decommissioning committee as "sad". In terms that also echoed the conclusions of the report, the UUP also called for similar action from the Loyalist paramilitary groups, who had claimed they would disarm should the IRA do so. Paisley, predictably, has had nothing to say on this.

It is tempting to view Paisley's invective as simply the ravings of an anachronism who knows that his time has, finally, come, and thus ignore them. To do so, however, would be to overlook the fact that, as of earlier this year, the DUP became the biggest Unionist party in Northern Ireland (Sinn Fein became the biggest nationalist party). While someone like Paisley remains in a position of such power, the prospects for the region, in particular in terms of the reinstatement of devolved government at Stormont, look bleak indeed.

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