It appears that Gordon Brown has made a spurned offer to Paddy Ashdown of the Northern Ireland secretaryship.
The offer indicates that Brown intends to appoint a minister specifically to head the Northern Ireland Office. Predictably this has provoked the usual cogent response from the DUP (as noted on Slugger O’Toole).
The Irish Times reported “ DUP MP Nigel Dodds said he would like to see Mr Brown reinstate the position of a full-time Northern Ireland secretary. Provided ‘the lines of responsibility’ were clearly drawn between Westminster and the devolved Northern Ireland Assembly”, whilst Ian Paisley Junior “confirmed his expectation that - whatever cabinet appointments are initially announced next week - the new prime minister would probably eventually appoint “a minister responsible for all the regions” embracing Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales”.
Dodds viewpoint is undoubtedly sounder from a unionist perspective. A full-time Northern Ireland Secretary keeps our affairs to the fore in the cabinet, can devote time to matters not yet devolved to the Assembly and provides a centrifugal link between our region and Westminster which can only help to maintain central government’s pivotal role in the new devolved United Kingdom.
Paisley’s view is perhaps more consistent with the Ulster nationalist furrow being ploughed by his father however. The DUP have begun their tenure as the largest party in the Assembly by setting themselves up as agitants against Westminster. Paisley Snr sees his relationship with central government as essentially confrontational.
In forming an alliance of convenience with Alex Salmond he has already shown that he has no regard for the sovereignty of the United Kingdom. He is prepared to undermine the Union in order to consolidate his own personal fiefdom. For Paisley the parliament at Westminster is a golden teat to be suckled on for all he is worth, rather than an institution to which he feels any real allegiance.
Those in the DUP who retain any pretence of being unionists and who in any way attribute an intrinsic value to the Union (rather than merely viewing it as a marriage of convenience to be exploited) should look seriously at the fissures in their own party, and the route the present leader is taking them.