There was concern this week after DUP leader Ian Paisley expressed his party’s potentially violent opposition to political compromise, undermining British government attempts to win over Sinn Féin support for the PSNI.
Speaking at a July 12th rally in County Antrim, Paisley said Sinn Féin would only be in government over the dead bodies of his supporters.
In a hardline speech to members of the Independent Orange Order in Portrush, the DUP leader said: “Compromise, accommodation and the least surrender are the roads to final and irreversible disaster.
“There can be no compromise.”
The north Antrim MP insisted there could be no accommodation or surrender.
On the issue of power-sharing with what he called IRA/Sinn Féin, he said: “It will be over our dead bodies.
“Ulster has surely learned that weak, pushover unionism is a halfway house to republicanism.”
Officials in London and Dublin played down the remarks and mounted a damage-limitation exercise. Bizarrely, unnamed DUP sources were reported in the media to be suggesting that Paisley’s use of the term “IRA/Sinn Féin” provided “wriggle room” for a possible deal. It was also claimed that Paisley’s retirement would quickly follow a power-sharing deal.
The SDLP leader Mark Durkan supported this agenda, saying he believed the DUP would eventually share power with Sinn Féin, despite what his party described as “a rant” by the DUP leader.
Gerry Adams said the DUP leader’s remarks were offensive but predictable.
“Can anybody really be surprised?” the West Belfast MP asked.
“They are a challenge, not to us, but to the two governments and a challenge particularly to the British government.”
Meanwhile, British Direct Ruler Peter Hain appealed to Sinn Féin to engage in talks with the PSNI to help further the peace process.
“The PSNI wants to engage in this dialogue and I hope that increasingly Sinn Féin will promote that. The approach of senior Sinn Féin figures in dealing with the PSNI over recent parades, and their significant efforts to bring about a peaceful summer, has been encouraging.”
No one, he said, expected “the wounds of the past” to be healed instantly.
“The world has changed. The commitments made by the IRA in July 2005, and delivered over the past year, mean that a vacuum has opened up in communities which can only be filled by a policing service.
“Normalisation has brought with it the contemporary problems of normal societies: drunken yobbery on a Saturday night, anti-social behaviour, ‘joy-riding’, car crime and so on.”
Mr Hain, who was speakinh at the opening of the annual MacGill summer school in Glenties, County Donegal, said he understood why policing had been such a source of division in Northern Ireland in the past. “But looking to the future, a society which cannot agree on its policing and criminal justice arrangements cannot meet the challenges of social cohesion, still less tackle serious and organised crime. If we are to succeed in putting the last pieces of the Good Friday agreement jigsaw in place, we need to extend support for policing right across the community, including in republican areas.”