20 April 2008

Ian Paisley visits Cobh and Cork

As I have been away since Friday, this item of news only reached me today. But I think that it is still worth to mention it, as it shows a development in Irish politics that would have been unthinkable only a few years ago.

Ian Paisley, First Minister of the North and until recently leader of the DUP, has been on an official visit to Cobh, Co. Cork on Friday and to Cork City on Saturday.
Yes, you are reading correctly, and I was as astonished as you might be when I heard of it.

Paisley said he had accepted an invitation to address the Cobh Chamber of Commerce in their 50th year because of the growing "Titanic" tourism links between Belfast and Cobh. Earlier on Friday, like thousands of tourists before him, he and his wife Eileen did the "Titanic Trail" and visited Cobh Cathedral, as well as the town's old cemetery, where both republicans and many who served the British Crown in two wars, are buried.

But the visit was not only all sunshine and happiness for Ian Paisley. About 30 Gardaí were on standby in Cobh on Friday evening, since a group of local people protested against his arrival at the town's Chamber of Commerce. But they were not needed to intervene, as the protest was noisy, but it was also peaceful. Thus the visit of the North's First Minister and former leader of the DUP went on as scheduled.

After staying overnight in Cobh, Ian Paisley received also a civic reception at Cobh's town hall on Saturday morning. Later he drove on to Cork City and paid a courtesy visit to the Lord Mayor of Cork, Donal Counihan.

If there is any need for evidence that the political landscape of Ireland has changed dramatically in the past year - since the new power-sharing administration in the North took office - this visit would be it. And it also shows that as an octogenarian soon-to-be political pensioner Ian Paisley has clearly mellowed and is no longer the vociferous and uncompromising "Dr. No".

The Emerald Islander

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