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Coup will lead to Unionist unity

(John Coulter, Irish Daily Star)

Unionism is finally on the road to unity – but more Paisley political blood will have to be spilled before the single party emerges.

Former British Prime Minister Maggie Thatcher is infamous among nationalists for her 'out, out, out' speech on solutions to the Northern crisis.

The same phrase can now be applied to Paisley Senior – out of Free Presbyterian moderatorship; out as DUP boss and out as First Minister.

But a Peter Robinson/Nigel Dodds dream team won't satisfy the hardliners in the DUP. They want the Chuckle Brothers image replaced with the era of the Ice Maidens.

Even when the Paisley camp was kicking former First Minister David Trimble in the political balls for setting up the Stormont Executive with the SDLP's Seamus Mallon, you never caught poor auld Davy supping soup and slobbering over the Shinners.

Whatever the spin, the DUP is in crisis over rebel MEP Jim Allister's Traditional Unionist Voice – so nothing short of complete annihilation of the Paisley dynasty will pacify the modernist wing.

And in the coming days, we'll hear more spin that the coup which toppled Big Ian did not happen.

But that's the crap they fed me last summer, branding rumours of a plot within the fundamentalist Free P Church a figment of my hyper-active imagination.

Suddenly in September 2007, Big Ian was forced to announce he was quitting his 50-year reign as moderator in January.

Then there was the spin Ian Junior was not under pressure because of allegations surrounding his expenses and salaries.

Suddenly, too, wee Ian quits to make way for Lagan Valley's Jeffrey Donaldson – the future leader of a combined, single Unionist Party.

If I had been wee Ian, I'd have kept my head down for several months and made sure I won the North Antrim Westminster nomination if current premier Gordon Brown calls a snap General Election next year.

But no – wee Ian decides to rattle cages by getting himself on the high profile Policing Board.

Within hours of this emerging, daddy Paisley is history – and you tell me this is only coincidence.

The blood letting against the Paisley dynasty will not stop with the Big Man's present round of resignations.

The modernising wing of the DUP wants the Paisley family out of all posts.

Once Robinson and Dodds are firmly established as leaders and wee Jeffrey using his Junior Minister's post as a 'go between' among the rival DUP factions and egos, the Paisley dynasty will be finally crushed.

The Big Man will be forced to retire from his own Martyrs Memorial church in Belfast, closely followed by another dramatic announcement he is stepping down as North Antrim MP and MLA.

If wee Ian doesn't follow daddy's lead, he'll be chopped as North Antrim MLA – with fellow Assembly member Mervyn Storey pipping Junior for the Commons nomination.

Paisley senior will be dumped along with his missus Eileen into the British House of Lords, with wee Ian as their research assistant.

With unionism diluted of Paisleyism, Robinson and Dodds and Jeffrey will form a cosy coalition with the Ulster Unionists to run agreed candidates against Allister's TUV.

Give Robinson five years as First Minister, and then wee Jeffrey can become DUP supremo – paving the way for a formal DUP/UUP merger.

And then we're back to 1969 when there was only a single Unionist Party under Terence O'Neill.

By this time, too, Fianna Fail will have swallowed up the SDLP – so by 2016 Stormont will be run by Jeffrey as First Minister, leading a Unionist Party/Fianna Fail power-sharing coalition.

March 11, 2008

This article appeared in the March 10, 2008 edition of the Irish Daily Star.