Is the prospect of stalemate at Stormont threatening Ian Paisley's legacy? Plus a report from Scotland on the challenge to the Union.
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Good evening. On Spotlight tonight we reflect on a big week
in local and national politics.
We've seen the laying to rest of Ian Paisley,
a man who devoted his life - at least the political part of it -
to the maintenance of the Union.
Tomorrow that union could be irrevocable severed,
not by the success of Irish nationalism,
Paisley's eternal nightmare, but by the decision of the Scottish people.
Meanwhile, the achievement which has brought Mr Paisley
most praise since his death,
the setting up of a power-sharing government with Sinn Fein,
looks increasingly under threat with his successor, Peter Robinson,
warning that Stormont is no longer fit for purpose.
Tonight we reflect on all of this but we begin with Ian Paisley,
as history begins to decide if his overall contribution
to Northern Ireland was beneficial or malign.
Declan Lawn assesses his life and times.
A colossus who thrived on conflict,
Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ
and thou shalt be saved!
we meet today
in the most grave of circumstances.
And the future of this state is at stake.
But all that changed.
That was yesterday.
This is today.
And tomorrow will be tomorrow.
I believe Northern Ireland has come to a time of peace.
Ian Paisley's progress from political outsider
and religious firebrand to become the leader of Unionism
and ultimately First Minister was a remarkable one.
And this place, the stage of the Ulster Hall in Belfast,
played its own part, because it was from here in the very earliest days
that he would address religious meetings,
and it was clear from the outset that his was voice to be reckoned with.
Whether you be a Protestant or a Romanist,
whether you be a Jew or belong to any other religion,
whether you be an Hibernian or an Orangeman,
whether you be religious or irreligious,
it matters not.
You were born naturally as a child of wrath.
It was as a preacher that Paisley first rose to prominence
in the 1950s.
Ordained at age 20, by the time he was 25
he had established the Free Presbyterian Church.
In the Mass...
His firebrand fundamentalism won him a large and loyal congregation,
and also plenty of enemies.
I want to say that this wafer,
after it is consecrated,
the Church of Rome teaches
it is the actual body, bones, blood...
..of Jesus Christ.
Had he restricted himself to preaching, Ian Paisley might have
become little more than a footnote in the history of his country.
But with Ian Paisley, politics was also a calling.
By the late 1960s he was already a formidable political force.
His congregation had become a constituency.
He had a tremendous charisma and was a brilliant orator,
you know, in the style of kind of demagogic orators of the past.
And he appealed to that kind of heart of Ulster Presbyterian
From the outset he was never far from controversy,
or from accusations that his rhetoric was responsible for violence.
He clearly was a very persuasive speaker.
I mean, he had enormous gifts of oratory.
I said to him on one occasion that I recognised the fact that God
had given him great gifts, but I said to him,
"The question is, what use are you going to make of these great gifts?
"Are you simply going to be a perpetuation of that which
"you have inherited, or are you going to be able to do something
"totally different and very constructive with these gifts
"and be able to lead the Unionist and Protestant community
"into an accommodation with the majority of people in Ireland?"
Are you hoping to avoid violence at your meetings now, Mr Paisley?
There never was any violence at our meetings.
Never any violence. Our people are not violent people.
To many, Ian Paisley's uncompromising hard-line stance was an antidote
to what they saw as weakness at the heart of official Unionism.
It's all very well now to talk about Unionists in a siege mentality,
but the reality is we were living in a period
when the Union was in doubt.
And Paisley was the man at that point who was actually capturing
all of those fears, all of those emotions.
Some people would say Ian Paisley
was responsible for a large part of the trouble,
through his street protests and stuff, but they're ignoring
the things he was protesting against,
and Paisley always said, if you're under siege,
the best sort of mentality to have is a siege mentality.
..members of the Dail,
you shall not rule over us!
We are saying no surrender!
He may not have led Unionism then, but at its defining moments,
Paisley's was often the voice that rang out loudest.
In the mid 1980s, the issue was the Anglo-Irish Agreement.
Ian Paisley rose to the occasion
in one of the seminal speeches of his career.
We say never!
Never! Never! Never!
At times, his protests crossed the line
between constitutional politics and threat.
In 1986, he addressed a gathering of Ulster Resistance,
an organisation which had promised to defend Ulster by any means
in the event of a British sell-out.
In his powerful oratory, in his rejection...
of Catholicism and Irish nationalism,
he was a caricature, almost, of the reasons why Republicans
believed their campaign was necessary.
He confirmed to so many that the state of Northern Ireland was
irreformable, and that the only way was a united Ireland,
because Unionism could not be changed.
The state of Northern Ireland had to be rejected.
It was personified in Ian Paisley.
In the 1990s, when Republicans and Unionists
finally reached an agreement,
it seemed as if Paisleyism as a political force was on the wane.
-We're to got home, he says.
-Well, what can you do?
At the peace talks of 1998, he seemed marginalised,
hecklers accusing him of inciting loyalists and then abandoning them.
-Ian, where you going to take us?
-The Grand Old Duke of York!
It appeared as if history had got the better of Ian Paisley.
But Ian Paisley had other ideas.
You have to get these people out now.
Few people could have imagined the remarkable political comeback
that was to play out over the following decade.
Ian Paisley was politically astute.
He was able to capitalise on Unionist doubts about the peace process
and then lead his own party into it
and strike a remarkable deal with Sinn Fein.
His record is that he castigated, ridiculed and ultimately destroyed
any Unionist leader who strayed from the doctrinaire Unionist line.
Faulkner, O'Neill, Trimble, all humiliated, brushed aside.
Any possibility of compromise with nationalists in the north
ALL CHANTING: Cheerio! Cheerio! Cheerio!
And then, obviously, ironically,
at a quarter to midnight in his own life, he decided to seal the deal
with Republicans and close the chapter on his past.
For some of his most loyal supporters, the shock was too much.
I'm upset, because everything we have been taught
has been turned right round and stood on its head.
Quite clearly, the electorate believed the previous utterances
of Ian Paisley that he would never be sitting in government
with Sinn Fein. I think that this was the greatest fraud
perpetrated upon the Unionist community.
But for those in favour of the Agreement,
Paisley's shift was a triumph of bravery.
He was at times very slow,
and then at times very courageous and very fast.
And in the end, he in a sense leapt over his party much to the anxiety
and nervousness and opposition and criticism of some in the DUP ranks
to make this courageous leap.
And I don't think anybody else in Unionism could have done that.
Even the hostility of the early years
to leaders from the Republic had melted away.
They wouldn't have thought that the person who threw snowballs
would be the person who would be prepared to welcome
that accommodation which involved our relationship between
the north and the south.
And he would go down to the Boyne and shake the hands of Bertie Ahern
in such an enthusiastic way, which is kind of an iconic moment.
There are certain images which are very powerful images
and they not only describe what's happening,
they actually shape and influence what's happening.
And those kinds of handshakes
and that kind of cooperation of Martin McGuinness
move things on in a constructive and helpful kind of way.
At the end of his life he was a solution to
the problem that he had, himself, helped to cause.
But that wasn't all.
The personal warmth of his relationship with
Martin McGuinness made headlines all over the world.
That warmth may have helped steady the peace process.
No change. Not an inch and no surrender.
But it also contributed to Ian Paisley's undoing.
A year after striking a deal with Sinn Fein,
Paisley had been pushed aside by his party and deposed by his church.
His family even stopped attending the church he had founded.
Our hearts were all broken for Ian.
The children and myself as well,
and I felt he had been deeply wounded
in the house of his friends,
and I just felt that it was really iniquitous of them, and a really
dreadful, hurtful, nasty, ungodly, un-Christian thing to do.
Stability at Stormont may have been Ian Paisley's great achievement,
but even at the hour of his death, that had come into question.
We shouldn't underestimate the deal that he eventually signed up to,
but part of his legacy is also that he didn't prepare
and he didn't condition his people to that compromise
and to what that would entail.
After having done the deal at St Andrews,
he would then lose his church,
he would then lose the leadership of his own party,
and he would leave Unionism in the rudderless,
fractious state that it is today.
Ian Paisley loomed large over the conflict in Northern Ireland
and its conclusion.
The question for history is whether he will be remembered for
the final act of his life or the turmoil that came before.
Ian Paisley's political legacy is power sharing
in a devolved assembly at Stormont.
Though the dominant parties the DUP
and Sinn Fein have drawn battle lines
which threaten to destroy what's been built over
the last seven years.
Jennifer O'Leary considers the obstacles to progress.
A day and a deal, decades in the making.
To some, it was Ian Paisley's finest hour.
How good it will be to be part of a wonderful healing in this province.
Today, we have begun, we have begun the work aplenty.
And we will all look forward for the great and blessed harvest.
But it hasn't quite worked out like that.
Seven years on and many now question what the administration
has actually achieved.
Stormont appears deadlocked.
At the heart of the matter is the problem of what happens when
the partners sharing power cannot agree on a way forward.
A far cry from the early days of promise.
It's led the First Minister to describe
the arrangements for devolved government here as dysfunctional.
When Peter Robinson took over, there was plenty of money about.
But then, the property bubble burst.
So they were already coming into difficult decisions,
not just smiling together and slapping each other in the back,
there had to be difficult economic decisions, and that got worse.
Worst of all is the question of welfare reform.
Both Sinn Fein and the DUP oppose Westminster cuts,
but can't agree what to do about them.
We now have an issue which simply cannot be left on the shelf.
It's one that has to be dealt with,
because we simply cannot afford, in terms of welfare reform,
to lift up the tab of £1 billion a year,
when we only have a budget for resource expenditure of £10 billion.
Failure to implement the cuts will see Northern Ireland
face increasing penalties in the form of fines by the Treasury.
This is very difficult.
You cannot go on spending money the way we've been spending money
when we know that the welfare reform penalties are coming,
and that there will be Sinn Fein imposed cuts on the parties
and on the departments right across. That is a serious issue.
I believe, if welfare reform or welfare cuts is
the trigger for any collapse of the institutions,
and we are not asking for a collapse by way of the institutions,
we would be very disappointed that has to be the case,
but if people want to use that,
then I believe it's a surrogate reason for the collapse.
I think there are parties who are struggling, and I think
they might want to exploit the issue of the welfare cuts.
The increasingly fractious nature of Northern Ireland politics
clearly reflects a breakdown in trust between the two main parties.
Stormont has been dogged by community tensions over flags and parading,
and, in particular, on dealing with the past.
There have been a whole series of matters in key areas
like education and health, where the decision making progress
appeared very strained
and very hard to follow from a distance.
You would certainly have to look at the Maze/Long Kesh project because,
although the DUP were never overly keen on it, it was
very, very important to the whole Sinn Fein project.
They were determined that it would go ahead.
They believed they had a deal, that it would go ahead.
It was all part of a wider trade-off there.
So, when the plug was pulled on it in such dramatic circumstances,
that was a fairly dramatic confirmation
that things were not as they should be.
Martin McGuinness recently suggested that a so-called Gang of Nine
within the DUP forced Peter Robinson to renege on the Maze development.
This is bunkum, this is just nonsense speculation.
He doesn't know the internal workings of the DUP.
So, I simply cast that aside.
Let's get back on the real issue which is
the fact that we have a difficulty,
we have a serious issue regarding welfare reform,
and the implications for the budget in Northern Ireland.
But as with the DUP's political concerns about the Maze project,
observers perceive Sinn Fein's internal politics
holding a major sway over the current impasse over welfare reform.
In the south, they're criticising the government of the day
for making cuts and introducing austerities, and saying, "This
"isn't necessary, we could spend our way out of this," basically.
And then, if they are seen to introduce similar austerities in
the north, water charges would be an example,
they're against it in the south.
The other parties will accuse them of hypocrisy.
The First Minister's recent statement that Stormont isn't working
has pushed the failures of the assembly centre stage.
In many ways, I would say that it is almost a relief that
Peter Robinson has openly acknowledged
the depth of the problems which are being faced at Stormont.
Because for many years, for a long period, not just the DUP,
but the other main parties at Stormont would have said that
there are minor difficulties.
But, generally speaking, we have made spectacular progress,
we are doing wonderful work, apart from a few critics on the fringes.
We are proceeding as we should do.
When it was absolutely clear, not just to observers in the press,
but also to the general public, that things were not working,
that this was effectively a dysfunctional administration.
The question now is do Sinn Fein and the DUP have the ability
and the political will to agree a way forward,
or will they simply blame each other for failure?
The real issue is about the intransigence of Sinn Fein.
There seems to be just a total resistance on the part of
Sinn Fein to face up to the reality.
Well, anybody who says that they can't work power sharing,
in my view, they are not applying themselves.
They are not fit for the purpose.
They can be, and they should be, and, in fact, they do need to be.
I mean, Ian Paisley opposed the Good Friday Agreement, resolutely.
Ian Paisley campaigned against it.
But ultimately, eventually, when negotiations were concluded,
he became the First Minister.
Peter Robinson has followed him on as the First Minister.
He needs to embrace the political institutions
and make them applicable,
because the institutions are fit for purpose,
and Peter doesn't work them in the way in which he needs to,
then he needs to ask himself, is he fit for purpose?
So what now?
With Stormont apparently gridlocked, there is talk on the horizon of
another new round of talks being led by the British and Irish governments.
Because, as the days grow shorter, so too does the likelihood
of the main parties brokering a deal on welfare change and a budget.
If Ian Paisley's blessed harvest is looking rather
full of weeds at the moment, in Scotland,
voters might be about to take a big scythe to the Union.
The Yes and No camps in the referendum are neck-and-neck
but, whichever way the vote goes,
the repercussions will be felt in Northern Ireland,
as Ciaran Tracey has been finding out.
A message writ large over West Belfast -
about a referendum taking place in Scotland.
But why does it matter here?
Scotland is about to decide
whether or not to walk away from the United Kingdom,
and whatever way the vote goes on Thursday,
the implications for the Union here are profound.
Many here are nervous.
These County Antrim Orangemen were up at the crack of dawn this weekend
for a flight to Edinburgh, joining a huge parade backing a no vote.
I think it's important from the point of view that we show
solidarity with the brethren in Scotland. I think it would have
big ramifications for us here in Northern Ireland
if Scotland voted yes.
I would see it as a massive threat to the Union.
Five or six years ago I was in Edinburgh for something
the same on the Act of Union.
And I don't think the government took it serious enough at that time.
And now, this is the result of it.
The momentum gathered by the Yes campaign in Scotland
has taken everyone by surprise.
And Northern Irish Unionists, ever alert to the threat from
Irish Republicanism, now find themselves
confronted by the possibility that a break-up
of the Union might come from their own kith and kin.
The unsettling and unnerving effect that a division in this
wonderful union would have, that it would get
the tails up of Irish Republicans in my part of the kingdom,
and would drive another wedge into the hearts and souls
of people in Ulster.
I think that one of the things that has happened is that
Northern Unionists have realised - very late in the day -
this could have more profound implications for us
than it actually has for Scotland.
And it has taken them a long time to catch up on that.
At their closest points, there's only something like
ten miles of water between Northern Ireland and Scotland.
But they feel so much closer,
and that's because of a shared history and a shared heritage.
But this vote calls into question that shared identity.
And, of course, that's particularly difficult for the Unionist community.
The short journey across the Irish Sea has long been made
by Orangemen, back and forth between the two countries for marches.
Last Saturday, the Orange Order's top brass from Northern Ireland
were also making the trip to what they believed could be
one of the most important marches they've ever attended -
opposing the vote for Scottish independence.
It would be like losing a member of the family in many ways.
And, yes, you would survive and it would continue,
but the United Kingdom wouldn't be the same again.
If it is a yes vote, surely it must be
the case that we are incrementally closer to a united Ireland?
Not necessarily. It will probably strengthen
the resolve within the Unionist people to work against that.
But other passengers on this boat
want a different future for their homeland.
I think you have to take the risk,
you have to take the jump in order to get the benefits.
There's just no other way, apart from staying the way we are.
It's clearly not working the way it is.
I genuinely believe it would be better off independent
than it would with devolution.
We have no option, we've got to vote yes.
We've been an independent country for 1,000 years,
except for the last 300.
It's our time. I hope the Scottish people back it.
The polls are tight. At this point in time, no-one can call it.
And even if the no vote wins through on Thursday,
this referendum has been such a close-run thing that the landscape
has undoubtedly changed forever.
Even if the Union is victorious in the referendum,
it will be such a narrow thing it will look much more fragile
than it has done hitherto. If the Union looks less durable,
then that's judged to be good for Sinn Fein.
Back in February, Gerry Adams set out the situation as he saw it.
It's now quite clear that the so-called United Kingdom
is held together by a thread.
And that thread can be unravelled, either as a result of referenda
in Scotland or elsewhere.
Not if 10,000 Orange supporters gathered in Edinburgh
last Saturday have anything to do with it.
The parade was organised as a massive show of loyalty to the Union.
And, in this field at least,
the Orange Order was preaching to the converted.
Our strength in numbers here today not only
demonstrates our commitment to the cause, but also our
grave concern at the imminent threat
to the Union that we all hold so dear.
Coming together to defend the Union should have been wee buns.
In reality, it hasn't been that simple because, even though they're
on the same side, the Better Together campaign - made up of the parties
seeking a no vote - doesn't want anything to do with the Orange Order.
And they've gone out of their way to distance themselves from the march.
I think they are concerned that the Orange Order is not
something that they want to be associated with.
They don't want to open the Pandora's box
of sectarianism, essentially, so they've tried to
distance themselves from it as much as they can.
David Clegg of The Daily Record,
Scotland's Labour-supporting paper,
says the Better Together campaign had bigger priorities
than appealing to Scotland's connections with Ulster.
If you ask them why have you not make more of an
emotional argument for the Union, they'll say it's not
because there's not an emotional argument to be made,
it's not because Scots don't believe in the Union
and feel those emotional binds, it's because we're
focusing relentlessly on undecided voters.
This emotional argument,
these ties, have not really featured that heavily.
Perhaps that is one of the reasons that alarm bells
over Scottish independence took so long
to ring in the ears of Unionists in Northern Ireland.
But now, they're ringing. Loud and clear.
Belfast loyalist Sam McCrory views this vote as
the greatest challenge the Union has ever faced.
I've done my fighting back home,
and I'm prepared to fight again back home, so I am.
But this is on a new level over here.
If it got to the stage where we weren't part
of the United Kingdom any more, I dread to think,
I can't even think what might occur for you and I,
for our kids and for our kids' kids.
So the Orangemen march, to maintain the Union that's now in jeopardy.
But for one Scottish voter at least, the link with Northern Ireland
itself simply doesn't feature in his decision-making.
I'm voting yes because I believe
it's what the people of Scotland want.
How do you think Northern Ireland would feel,
because there's a proud Ulster-Scots heritage there?
That's not our problem, is it? Is that being unfair?
It's not our problem, you know.
The outcome is unknown.
But what's certain is that the vote will have a long-term effect
on Northern Ireland, whatever the result.
No matter what happens this Thursday, Ulster Unionism
is going to fragment further.
And that has got great implications for the future of Stormont,
and for the relationships, the numerical and relative strength
of the main nationalist party and the main Unionist party.
I think if Scotland does leave the UK,
then, for Unionists, there will be a time for reflection.
I don't think Unionism will be unable to recover from it, but it
will be a blow to which they will have to respond in imaginative ways.
So this is the end of the parade today,
as it passes the Scottish Parliament behind me, which,
whatever the outcome of this referendum, is changing.
The question is, what will these changes mean for Northern Ireland?
And that's all from this edition of Spotlight.
Thank you for watching, good night.
Is the prospect of stalemate at Stormont threatening Ian Paisley's devolution legacy. Plus a report from Scotland on the challenge to the Union. With Noel Thompson.