NORTHERN Ireland has been quiet of late, mainly because absolutely no progress is being made towards the objective of restarting a power-sharing executive, based on elections held two years ago, by the deadline of November 24. It will not remain quiet, however. This week both Tony Blair and the Irish prime minister Bertie Ahern are due to be in Belfast and jointly read the riot act to Ian Paisley and his majority Democratic Unionist Party, warning them that if they do not agree to participate in power-sharing devolved government by November then government of Northern Ireland will be wholly taken over by Westminster, in consultation with Dublin. It is difficult to judge whether Mr Paisley is playing a waiting game in the expectation that Britain will extend the deadline or offer some variation of power sharing that would make it unnecessary for him to pass the time of day with representatives of Sinn Fein. If that is his plan he is due to be disappointed. Or perhaps he would prefer Westminster to rule rather than let the Catholics have any share of power. Whatever his tactics, they are not in the best interests of the people of Northern Ireland, not even those of his own party's members. Paisley is a political dinosaur and it is time he left the scene. Another reason that Northern Ireland will not remain quiet is the onset of the Protestant marching season. It's to be hoped that this anachronism does not make a difficult situation worse.
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