So long, fairwell, auf wiedersehen, goodbye

I guess if I’m going to live in Northern Ireland and have a blog, I’d better say something about the announcement last week of Ian Paisley’s resignation from front-line politics.

It’s a big deal for Northern Ireland. For as long as I have lived (and longer) he has been the single constant fact of local politics. Northern Ireland politics without Ian Paisley is almost unthinkable, as he has been such a feature for such a long time. Having continued until now (at the age of 81) I’d started assuming he’d go on until he died.

And I have to admit that I had reckoned for years that we’d never see progress in Northern Ireland until Paisley died, such was his unremitting opposition to anything that he believed threatened the status of Northern Ireland as a part of the United Kingdom.

But I was wrong. Recently Ian did the last thing anyone expected, and changed his mind. He went into government with his political enemies, and has been successfully working with them. I truly never believed that it could happen, and he has earned my respect for doing it. The irony of course is that at the same time he has lost the respect of many of his supporters, but that’s another story.

It’s much too early to say what his legacy will be – after all, he still has a couple of months to go, and anything could happen. But I hope that among everything else, he will be remembered for showing us that the two sides of our divided community really can work together. If Ian Paisley can set aside a long history of enmity and work with former IRA members, then maybe there really is hope for Northern Ireland after all.

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