Friday, 2 April 2010

Good Friday 12 Years Ago

Twelve years ago good Friday was actually the 10th of April but in the wee, small hours an agreement was met and signed in Belfast. Outside on the hill leading up to Stormont one voice objected loudly that of the Rev Ian Kyle Paisley. With the Reverend Ian about to step down from Westminster it is fitting to look at the path he has taken from that Good Friday to this.

In the talks before reaching that agreement Paisley said:

"I will never sit down with Gerry Adams . . . he'd sit with anyone. He'd sit down with the devil. In fact, Adams does sit down with the devil."
Independent 13 February 1997

In the week leading up to the agreement he said:

"Come Friday, the world will see what the Protestant people really think of this so-called peace process, which is really a surrender process."

However, in the end there was large scale rejoicing with only the DUP and their supporters showing what they thought.

On 27 September 2005 when it was confirmed that the IRA had decommissioned it weapons he still said:

"We are not going into government with Sinn Fein."

However, things moved on so that on the 8 May 2007 Ian Paisley was sworn in as First Minister and his deputy was Martin McGuinness. On the eve of that event Paisley said:

"People have come out of a dark tunnel and they can see there is a path out there for us. I think it has put a lot of faith and hope into people."

In his acceptance speech he said:

"Today at long last we are starting upon the road - I emphasise starting - which I believe will take us to lasting peace in our Province …

"Today we salute Ulster's honored and unaging dead - the innocent victims, that gallant band, members of both religions, Protestant and Roman Catholic, strong in their allegiance to their differing political beliefs, Unionist and Nationalist, male and female, children and adults, all innocent victims of the terrible conflict …

"I have sensed a great sigh of relief amongst all our people who want the hostility to be replaced with neighborliness …

"I believe that Northern Ireland has come to a time of peace, a time when hate will no longer rule. How good it will be to be part of a wonderful healing in our Province."

The most fitting tribute to the path that Paisley, his party and Northern Ireland have taken in my lifetime comes from the Prime Minister in response to the colossus of Northern Irish Unionism's last question in PMQs.

"I think the whole House will want to pay tribute to the right hon. Gentleman for a long and distinguished career, not just in this House but in a number of forums. That includes his position as First Minister of Northern Ireland. I believe that the part he played in bringing the Unionist community together-indeed, bringing the whole community together in Northern Ireland-to ensure that we had devolution of power, and to ensure that the process of devolution of power was completed, will adorn the history books in many decades and centuries to come. On this day and on this occasion, I want the whole House to thank him for his service to the House and to the whole community."

It has been an interesting path but a fruitful one. I'm glad that Paisley has taken it even if I was shocked at various parts along its course. Enjoy your retirement big Ian.

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