A fortnight ago we speculated that Ian Paisley might resign in the summer and that we might have a new First Minister come the return from Recess in the September. As it turns, out Paisley’s tenure will not last until the start of the Summer Recess at the end of June. He is managing to cling on until the first anniversary purely by announcing now that his resignation will take effect in two months time.
Much has been written about Paisley’s career – both the pre and post 8 May 2008 versions and we do not intend to revisit this here. It is worth noting, however, that many people have argued that it was Paisley’s decision to present his relationship with Sinn Féin as a business-like and functioning arrangement – the ‘chuckle brothers’ - that grated with many of his supporters and lead to his downfall. This could well be the case.
However, to present this as the failings of an elderly man who had his ego flattered may be missing the point. It could be the case that Paisley calculated that in order to cement the power-sharing relationship and avoid it looking like it could collapse at any time, it was necessary for him to create the ‘chuckle brothers’ image.
Those who pushed him out – and it is certainly the case that he was pushed – would do well to remember that only Paisley could have made this deal and only he could have cemented it through the ‘chuckle brothers’ routine.