It was reported this evening by Reuters that Antrim-born Ian Paisley will be resigning his position as First Minister of Northern Ireland in May. The Presbyterian minister, long infamous for his vitriolic diatribes against the Catholic population of the world, entered into the power sharing agreement brought about by the Good Friday agreement of 1998, which was implemented in 2007.
"No Surrender!" became compromise, after years of hatred. Sinn Fein's Martin McGuinness, a former IRA commander, became Deputy First Minister. In an oxymoronic move, Northern Ireland's "Dr. No" became famous to a new generation for saying "yes" to power-sharing with the Irish Republicans, and that may eventually have been the reason for the surprise resignation. Paisley was initially to have served a four year term.
The 81-year old evangelist, head of the Democratic Unionist Party, the largest unionist party in Northern Ireland, and leader of his own insurgent Free Presbyterian Church since 1951, was first elected to Parliament in 1970 and to the European Parliament in 1979. According to CNN, in January he was forced to stand down as leader of the anti-Catholic sect because people were disappointed by his compromise.
No overt reason has been given for his resignation; his son, Ian, Jr. was forced to resign from the coalition due to ethical misconduct, but Dr. Paisley has sworn that had nothing to do with his resignation as First Minister. Last summer, Martin McGuinness visited New York and was feted; he said then that Paisley was ill.
Reaction to the surprise move was that this is the end of a 40-year old era for Northern Ireland politics, and people on both sides of the struggle had praise for Dr. Paisley's leadership.
Culture Editor, WGT
Labels: Northern Ireland peace process, Paisley