By Brian Feeney (for Irish News)
They say the Paisleys come as a package - if you get one, you get both.
That’s good news, because you would think it stands to reason that the opposite must also be true. If one goes, they both go.
Unfortunately it’s not as simple as that, because Paisley pere has managed to ensure that Ian Og will inherit both his assembly seat and his Westminster seat, so he’s destined to remain a public representative for some time to come.
However, his ropey performance in the last four months indicates that while he might remain elected, in the absence of da’s clout Ian Og will not retain his present capacity to inflict himself on the general public’s consciousness.
Let’s face it, if he wasn’t his da’s son would any of the civil servants at St Andrews have bothered listening to his wheedling about his parochial north Antrim sweetheart issues? Would Tony Blair?
If any other MLA had brought up similar parish pump business he or she would have been ignored.
In the case of Ian Og the fear would have been that he’d run to his da crying that the NIO wouldn’t give him the toys he asked for.
At that time in 2006 the Irish and British governments were so anxious to get the oul curmudgeon’s assent to share power with Sinn Féin that they’d have paid to reroute the Boyne through Bushmills. What’s another few billion?
They were in the midst of a shameless period of bribing the DUP with any and every concession, including peerages and honours, which had begun immediately after the DUP’s destruction of the UUP in June 2005. The party’s every wish was granted.
We still don’t know the full extent of deals done in this period when Tony Blair and Peter Hain played the old man like a fish on a line.
The last thing they needed was Ian Og cutting the line.
All that’s over now. Da’s in the net. Ian Og’s still needed to guide him up and down steps and prompt him from behind when he forgets his lines. When da steps down finally and at last as party leader, what’s Ian Og for then?
Last week showed what’s going to happen. Not a voice raised in the DUP assembly group in his support.
On the contrary, senior DUP figures sticking the knife in, delighted that he’s got his come-uppance, enjoying watching him wriggle and twist and change his answers over the months, briefing journalists about what to ask him next.
So we have a good idea of Ian Og’s fate when he’s no longer able to call on the da for protection from abler, more politically talented DUP members who deplore his lack of political judgement and sheer cheek.
He rose without trace on his da’s coat tails and has displayed no particular talent for politics and certainly no talent comparable to his father’s for public speaking or for identifying issues.
As the end of his father’s leadership of the DUP approaches, Ian Og will be thrown back on his own merits and will have to slug it out on equal terms with others in the party.
Not an enticing prospect for someone who has never had to build alliances or felt the need to court favour from anyone else except the da.
It seems therefore that the reign of the north’s new ruling family will not be long, certainly not long enough to create a dynasty.
Even Ian Og accepts that it would be preposterous for him to imagine that he could become party leader. He has indicated that he will not even seek the job, at the same time endearing himself to Nigel Dodds by heaping fulsome praise on Peter Robinson and announcing with a characteristic exhibition of political astuteness that Robinson is the obvious choice for leader, just as the da told the press he has no intention of standing down.
If events turn out as Ian Og predicts then the DUP will swap one ruling family for another, in this case the Robinsons with two MPs in impregnable seats.
Be thankful for small mercies. At least they haven’t tried to foist a son on the public.