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Did anyone write Stone into script?

(Susan McKay, Irish News)

Was Stoner in the script? After all, someone had to shout, 'No surrender!' The loyal of Ulster require it.

Paisley couldn't do it. If he had, it would have made it impossible for Eileen Bell to stick to her lines.

As it was, she was pushing it, with her claim that the parties had nominated or indicated they would nominate first and deputy first min-isters. Sinn Féin had. The DUP had not.

Enter Michael Stone, with staring eyes, snakey hair and a walking stick. He is armed with a knife, a gun and a bomb. "No surrender," he shouts, charging across the marbled halls, slinging his sports bag, smoke and flames emerging from it, ahead of him. He becomes entangled in a revolving door and is disarmed by a security woman.

There was one brave person in Stormont yesterday (Friday), anyway.

Stone is taken away. We see that he has scrawled something about Sinn Féin in red paint – or is it blood? – on the white walls of Parliament Buildings. Where were the police?

During the debate Ms Bell was hoarse with shouting down Bob 'jack in the box' McCartney, who was presumably trying to suggest that Paisley had, indeed, surrendered. But had Paisley himself chosen to rear up, she could not have silenced him.

However, when she ignored the fact that he had refused to nominate, he didn't demur.

That was left to Nigel Dodds. Half an hour later he was on the BBC's Talkback, insisting that the DUP had definitely said no and that it was a falsehood to claim they had said not yet. Hot on the heels of this came a statement: nothing we have said or done today can be taken by the government as an indication that they can imply shadow, designate or any other status to anyone, it said. Dodds signed it along with Willie McCrea, Gregory Campbell, David Simpson and others.

The Doc didn't sign and nor did Peter Robinson or Jeffrey Donaldson or Ian jnr. Clearly, there are tensions but this is more about how the DUP is going to manage its glacial progress towards sharing power with Sinn Féin.

Those who back the Taliban approach to politics will get anxious when they hear that Paisley's going along with the plan to sit down with the foe. But then they are reassured by a hardline outburst.

Later yesterday, Paisley issued another statement. Everyone knows he said, that when the time is right and Sinn Féin has delivered, I would accept the first minister nomination. More anxiety.

But then Nigel has just recently said that this could take several political lifetimes. Does the DUP really think Paisley is immortal? No. It is just speaking with more than one tongue. It doesn't have the courage to tell its people the era of no surrender is over. The weakness of Paisley, the Big Man, is exposed.

By nightfall, the whole DUP assembly party had issued a new statement. They were all in agreement. Sinn Féin was to blame.

As secretary of state, Peter Hain is in charge of this woeful pantomime. Sounding like a salesman for cut price electrical goods, he said recently, we can get there because people know we are for real!

He said devolve or dissolve and claimed yesterday's nominations were a crucial move in implementing the St Andrews deal.

Then, under cover of expressing exasperation with Paisley, he slipped in a crucial modification: if there is not a willingness to express even an intention to nominate, what is the point of proceeding? So, yesterday the Jesuitical intention to nominate was fulfilled and the show goes on.

Of course, Hain also noted sagely that with Northern Ireland you can never be certain what might come out of the woodwork.

Cue Stoner. Most recently seen on the BBC hardly even trying to look sincere while claiming remorse for murdering Dermot Hackett and simultaneously claiming he didn't actually do it, though, yes, he had admitted he did.

He will go back to jail. He's a mass murderer, after all, released on license under the Good Friday Agreement.

Stone is near enough a suicide bomber. Remember when he ran down through Milltown cemetery in 1988 blazing with gunfire and grenades, killing three people and injuring 60 others? He must have known he was likely to be killed.

By the time the police rescued him, he had been beaten unconscious.

He loves media attention. He'll go to any lengths to get it. His video cabinet includes Mo Mowlam consulting him in the Maze in 1998, the rapturous reception he got on stage at the Ulster Hall, his celebrity artist appearance on RTE's Late, Late Show and now this. In the past, he used to send locks of his long hair out to the young loyalists who adored him.

Stone's a nutter. He's also a reminder that loyalists are still armed and out there.

Is Paisley going to do something about that? No? Never? Not yet?

November 27, 2006

This article appeared first in the November 25, 2006 edition of the Irish News.

This article appears thanks to the Irish News. Subscribe to the Irish News