Magazine article The Spectator

Boosting the Gangsters

Magazine article The Spectator

Boosting the Gangsters

Article excerpt

The speed with which the government propitiated republican opinion since last week's so-called declaration of peace by the IRA suggests a prepared strategy. Within days of this palpably insincere protestation of peace and goodwill the watch-towers were razed in areas effectively owned by the IRA. Three thousand home service troops of the Royal Irish Regiment were told they would be disbanded. Firm promises were given to Sinn Fein that, once devolved government is restored, they could have carte blanche to destroy Northern Ireland's superlative secondary education system and no doubt poison the minds of the next generation of Ulster men and women against any idea of Britishness. When republicans and their accomplices in the British government tell Unionists that this beneficent act by the IRA will benefit all of them, it is hard to know whether to laugh or cry. The programme set in train by the Prime Minister who would like us to think he has cracked the centuries-old problem of Ulster - is one destined to eradicate British influence in the province, against the democratic wishes of the majority of the people there - and without much support, indeed, from the Republic itself, where disgust at the IRA is more pronounced these days than in Britain.

The only pleasure one can take from all this is the prospect of the confrontations that must now follow between the putative First Minister in any devolved assembly, the Reverend Dr Ian Paisley, and the part-time Northern Ireland secretary, Mr Peter Hain - who is also Secretary of State for Wales. Mr Hain is one of Mr Blair's principal toadies, a man who has evinced little sign of ability in any post he has held, but whose climb up the greasy pole has been marked by frequent somersaults and disdain for anything approaching a principle. Dr Paisley, by contrast, has adhered to his own beliefs unflinchingly for more than half a century, and is in no mood to start trading them now. Nor is that growing body of Unionist opinion that has elected him as chief spokesman, having obliterated the Official Unionist party and sent to oblivion the last Unionist leader who tried to treat with republicans, Mr David Trimble. Dr Paisley knows that by sticking to his instincts - that the republican movement cannot be trusted and remains rooted in criminality of one sort or another - he will only strengthen his support. The government, by contrast, faces the uncomfortable prospect of having - perhaps uniquely in its experience - to deal with someone who cannot be bought or cajoled into doing what it wants. It will be a bumpy ride. …

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