Tuesday, 4 March 2008

Last hurrah for the Big Man?

The Big Man is bowing out. There got that out. Less than six months ago it would have been an unthinkable statement.

As had been trailed, suggested, hinted at, whispered about and generally dominated Assembly gossip for the past two weeks, Ian Paisley Snr announced today that he will be handing over the Big Blue First Minister's briefcase in May.

The resignation caused a few raised eyebrows over the timing, not the fact that the Big Man was jacking it in. At 81 (he'll be 82 in April) time was sure to be limited, despite his assertions and Baroness Paisley's Telegraph interview.

Of course, once the teatime news 'broke' the story there has ensued a frenzy of commentators (is that the right collective noun?) tripping over hyperbole to appear on every TV or radio station in the western hemisphere - even the Chinese news agency Xinhau filed copy for European and Sino news addicts.

As is the wont of news outlets at time like these, some unfortunate researchers are sent out, phone in hand, to gather the comments of the great, the good and the downright average. The BBC collection of such comments includes fulsome (in the old fashioned meaning of the word - sickly and less than sincere!) praise from remote control politicians, and barbed japes from local opponents. David Ford has a swipe, along with Danny Kennedy on the BBC site Try not to snigger at Gordon Brown and David Cameron's comments!

The DUP comments have been led by Robinson, who now takes on the undeclared role of heir apparent, while as of 11pm on the 4th March the profile of the self-appointed elder statesman has yet to be updated to reflect his resignation.

As the welter commentary dies down (head to Slugger O'Toole where Shakesperian quotations have even been drawn into the discussion) the reality is that the resignation has ensured a dozen or so weeks of speculation over Robinson's first series of ministerial appointments...well that is if he gets the FM job. And, who would bet against him?

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