Two prominent hardline unionists who serially obstructed the peace process in the north of Ireland have absurdly been hailed as ‘peacemakers’ at events organised by Queen’s University, Belfast.
North Antrim DUP MP Ian Paisley Jr (pictured, right) was included in an event to commemorate the Good Friday peace deal he bitterly opposed, while the famously intransigent former DUP leader Arlene Foster was honoured for her “significant contribution to peace” at events held by the North’s largest university over the past week.
The university has been hosting an exclusive conference and other high profile events to mark the 25th anniversary of the Good Friday Agreement. They have served to embellish the legacy of a number of controversial political figures including Bertie Ahern, Tony Blair and Bill Clinton.
The involvement of the DUP in the events has caused head scratching, as the party refused to take part in multi-party talks which led up to the agreement, and subsequently rallied opposition against the deal with party leader Ian Paisley Sr haranguing negotiators from outside the talks venues.
The DUP protests grew until the deal was redrafted in 2006 in the interests of hardline unionism and contrary to the terms of public referendums which had backed the 1998 deal.
Ian Paisley Jr, the son of the late DUP leader, continues to defend the party’s opposition to the peace process and the agreement it secured. He is also a a leading opponent within his party of the Windsor Framework, a deal designed in response to the DUP’s demands to remove checks on trade through the north of Ireland in the aftermath of Brexit.
DUP Assembly member Emma Little-Pengelly was also involved in the conference on the legacy of the Good Friday Agreement. But despite appeals from all of the political leaders involved, including the British government, the DUP is continuing its damaging boycott of the political institutions set up under the peace deal.
Among those controversially invited and expected to attend a high security celebratory banquet on Wednesday night were former British Prime Ministers Boris Johnson, Liz Truss, David Cameron, John Major, Tony Blair, Gordon Brown and Theresa May.
Unsurprisingly, the event did not examine Britain’s refusal to fully implement the peace deal or the failure to deliver a peaceful pathway to a united Ireland.
Meanwhile, Queen’s University has defended its decision to make an award to former DUP leader Arlene Foster for her “significant contribution to peace”.
Foster is currently known for her support of an extreme Brexit which would have reimposed a hard border through Ireland. Earlier this month she claimed that US President Joe Biden “hates the UK”, a statement broadcast on the extreme right-wing GB News channel to which she contributes.
Despite this, she was among 25 women to be honoured by Queen’s University Chancellor and former Presidential candidate Hillary Clinton for their “contribution to the peace process”.
Aontú leader Peadar Tóibín said the university should reconsider honouring Mrs Foster, while SDLP Assembly member Matthew O’Toole said it was “very sad” that the former first minister had resorted to “pathetic smears against the US president”.