Cal  Thomas

(NOTICE: Rev. Ian Paisley is leader of the Democratic Unionist Party and first minister in the upcoming legislative assembly scheduled to begin May 8. This 938-word interview took place on April 11, 2007 via telephone.)

After decades of ruthless sectarian violence in Northern Ireland, Ian Paisley, the province's most outspoken Protestant leader, and Gerry Adams, a Catholic and alleged member of the Irish Republican Army, met to hammer out an historic agreement to form a new local government in which Protestants and Catholics will share power. On May 8, the Northern Ireland Assembly will elect a 12-member administration, which Paisley will lead.

CAL THOMAS: In America, we have a phrase "tipping point." It means you've gone beyond the point of no return and can't go back. Was there a tipping point in your negotiations with Sinn Fein when you realized that a deal was going to be done?

REV. IAN PAISLEY: "Yes. But, unfortunately, this became a time factor with the British government and they made another fool of themselves by doing that. If we had more time, I think, we could have gotten an even better deal than we got. But we have got a fairly good deal altogether, considering the great changes that they made to the agreement and considering that no member of the executive, no matter from what side they come, can do anything on his own.

And for the first time, the IRA had to swear allegiance to the police. The old time Republican terrorists had said they would never give allegiance to the police of the United Kingdom. If we had gone back on this and not done the deal, we would have been ruled jointly by the United Kingdom and Dublin. No elected representative from Northern Ireland would have had any say in anything that was being done.

CT: Could anything go wrong that might prevent the new joint government from going forward next month?

IP: No, I think it is a certainty that will go. But there will be a lot of hiccups along the way, a lot of tough negotiations and bitterness. We are asked to do something no other part of the United Kingdom has been asked to do and that is to go into government with a party (Sinn Fein) that has basically sprung from a terrorist organization (The Irish Republican Army).

CT. You mentioned bitterness. For the last 30 years there has been a lot of that. More than 3,500 people have been killed. How long do you think it will take to heal the wounds? Can it occur quickly, or will it take many years?

Cal Thomas

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Cal Thomas is co-author (with Bob Beckel) of the book, "Common Ground: How to Stop the Partisan War That is Destroying America".
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