Tuesday 4 March 2008

Ian Paisley steps down

Ian Paisley - the senior figure in the comedy duo that is the Chuckle Brothers - is to step down as First Minister in Northern Ireland. His contribution to the process that began with the Good Friday agreement has been creditable: he was right to demand full demilitarisation by the IRA and he was right to share power with Sinn Fein and his co-chuckle brother, Martin McGuinness in the end. But it was his extremism in the sixties that probably contributed as much to the birth of the Provisional IRA as anything, and his flirtation with the brutal end of loyalist paramilitarism was inexcusable. Nevertheless, his work over the last few years have shown the other side of a remarkable man; his constituents had always seen it, and now Northern Ireland has benefited from the stability of his leadership for the best part of a year. Peter Robinson, if it is he who succeeds him as First Minister, will have a tough act to follow.

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