Sunday Business Post

**Gotta love this metaphor: "The big dinosaur, his hour come around at last was slouching towards Stormont to be born."

Huff, puff, and compromise

By Tom McGurk

The mandarins of Merrion Row and Whitehall may well have had a serious cut at the Chardonnay after lunch last Friday.

After a decade of often mind-numbing but nonetheless dedicated political architecture among the strange inhabitants of the `dreary spires' territory - north of the Black Pig's Dyke - they had hoped it was all resolved for at least this generation.

Wild men have been tamed, reluctant ones encouraged into the sunlight and ancient ideologists dispatched to the knacker's yard of history.

But come Thursday,the unspeakable was out once again in pursuit of the inedible. The big dinosaur, his hour come around at last was slouching towards Stormont to be born. Those who for so long had been outside the tent peeing in were now inside the tent peeing out.

For Ian Kyle Paisley, the long journey to his destiny had been completed. His populist, sectarian, traditionalist style of unionism had finally ousted the historic role of the Ulster Unionist Party as leader of unionism. The self-appointed leader of his own church and his own political party had come banging on the door.

Eighty-two years down the road from partition, the hell-raising street preacher had ended the hegemony of the Craigs, the Londonderrys, the Brookes, the Faulkners and the Trimbles.

At last the leadership of the lost tribe has passed from the residents of the Big House to the sitting tenants on what's left of the estate. The sectarian guard-dogs had finally turned on, and devoured, their masters. Shrunken with age, emaciated and hunched into his huge overcoat, on Thursday evening Paisley was grinning at the cameras like some ancient wolf that had finally got right into the larder.

So what is the chorus among the political chattering classes this weekend?

On the political face of it,the meeting between an irresistible force and immovable object had taken place. But in attempting to assess the political vista now opening up before us, it is critically important to appreciate the crisis this situation is going to create for the DUP itself.

Not for the first time in political history, the experience of power may create rifts, for being in opposition allows factions to put differences aside.

After years on the sideline, surviving on slogans and abuse and never being prepared to negotiate with anyone, the DUP may now be about to learn some seminal lessons. If they don't begin to learn those lessons very quickly, the triumph of political success will very quickly turn to the ashes of a Pyrrhic victory.

In the midst of all the chaos lapping around the political doors of London and Dublin stands one utterly irrefutably reality, one political rock in the stream, and that is there can be no ministerial salaries for the triumphant DUP unless and until they do business with Sinn Féin.

Their choice is utterly simple, government with Sinn Féin or no government at all. They can win the race, but the prize is as far away as ever. Talk of renegotiations, third ways and so on is no more than mere election fodder for the grim-faced electorate of North Antrim and beyond.

The Big Man has been promising the big miracle for over 40 year now; that he would once and for all save what he calls Ulster from its enemies. Now he has been given the power, and now he is about to discover that mantle he has taken from David Trimble's shoulders will prove a heavy burden.

Even worse, the DUP as a political organisation is utterly uncrafted for the business of negotiation. In many ways it's not a political party at all, grouped around any coherent philosophy.

It's essentially a mixture of oligarchy and fan club that is already showing the signs of tension within its makeup. Its chaotic mixture of born-agains, Christian fundamentalists, bible-belters and sectarian reactionaries are interwoven with the credulous and the politically ambitious.

From the moment it transformed itself from what was originally the Protestant Unionist party into the Democratic Unionist Party it became an uneasy amalgam: Paisley's religious crowd allied to Peter Robinson's traditional unionist crowd.

What held this strange alliance of East Belfast back street preacher and born again estate agent together was the cement of sectarianism. Perpetually stalking the sidelines of the "NO" camp, the Paisley/Robinson team's smirking dismissal of any attempt at progress was fine.But now on the pitch it may prove to be a very different game.

Peter Robinson, Nigel Dodds, Sammy Wilson and others belong to a generation that joined the DUP not to `Save Ulster from Sodomy'(and Rome) but to win political power.

In fact, given the pecking order within the UUP, that was probably why they joined up with Paisley in the first place. Now with the prospect of a polished ministerial car on the front drive, and a driver dancing to attendance, their view of things may already be changing.

For during the campaign there were indeed signs of change. Paisley, Robinson and Dodds have already sent out different coded signals about talking to the Shinners. There was a party decision to keep Paisley as much out of sight of the cameras as was possible during the campaign. Not for the first time might Moses, close to the Promised Land, be surplus to requirements.

I suspect that were a suitably biblical bolt of lightning to suddenly remove the Big Man from his earthly patch, DUP tears of relief might well outnumber tears of grief.

There will be huffing and puffing in the weeks to come,but withthe entire Northern nationalist community resolutely defending the house, the Belfast Agreement will not come down.

Watch the DUP ride the learning curve as they discover that majoritarianism is yesterday's game, and watch as the twisting demands of political ambition and the ancient shibboleths tear their apparent unity of purpose apart.This, after all,will be Sunningdale for politically illiterate learners.

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