It's time to kick Rev Ian upstairs - Paisley for President


NEWTON'S OPTIC:AS THE DUP moves to oust Dr Ian Paisley, the question of his political future concerns all the people of the islands we call "these".

Stormont has been in operation for less than a year and the devolved institutions are still bedding in. A crisis at this early juncture could threaten the stability of everything Dr Paisley has worked for since he stopped working to destabilise everything.

For the sake of cohesion and maintaining a sense of forward momentum, it is clear that Dr Paisley must now be nominated for the Irish presidency.

Persuading Dr Paisley to accept the post should be relatively straightforward. Once he learns that he can move his entire family into a large house in central Dublin, free of charge, he will jump at the chance.

Plans to replace Áras an Uachtaráin with an even larger residence were approved in 1938 and while this was never built, the Paisleys are always interested in sites with outstanding planning permission.

There is a small problem over how such a move might play with the unionist population. However, if Dr Paisley was an all-party nominee he would become an unelected head of state and could therefore, technically, call himself "King". It is no secret that this has always been Dr Paisley's ultimate ambition.

Concerns over Dr Paisley's age can also be easily dismissed. At 81, he is four years younger than Douglas Hyde was while still in office and three years younger than Éamon de Valera was when re-elected. The fact that Dr Paisley could easily live for another 20 years only makes it all the more important that he be given something to do.

Of greater concern is the timing of Dr Paisley's inevitable appointment. Although the current president has been vacant for some time, the post of president does not become vacant until 2011. The prospect of an unemployed Ian Paisley on the loose in Northern Ireland until then is clearly unacceptable.

Fortunately, there are several options to remove President McAleese from office mid-term. She could be asked to step down in the cause of powersharing, bridge-building, understanding between our divided peoples or anything else she has repeated ad nauseam in community centres over the past 11 years. She could be reminded that her own appointment was a peace process gesture and now it is time to give the unionists a go.

Alternatively, she might be persuaded that Dr Paisley's loyalist contacts will improve her husband's golf game.

This just leaves the problem of selling a Paisley presidency to the Irish people. While transforming oneself from a dangerous young bigot into a sentimental old fool is the traditional route to the Áras, traditional sentiment obviously prefers the old fool to be a nationalist. But there is no reason why this should be an insurmountable obstacle.

President Paisley is no more absurd an idea than President Gerry Adams - and only marginally less absurd than Dr Paisley himself.

Newton Emerson's satirical take on life, North and South, will appear weekly on Wednesdays