In Northern Ireland nothing is simple

December 10, 2004 ,

THE Northern Ireland Secretary Paul Murphy is the kind of politician who no-one has a bad word for.

He is friendly, thoughtful, hardworking and wise.

In the past few months he has been quietly plugging away behind the scenes trying to organise a political miracle.

The miracle in question would be to get the Reverend Ian Paisley to say yes to sharing power with Gerry Adams and Martin McGuiness of Sinn Fein.

Anyone with a passing knowledge of Northern Ireland politics would understand why this would be a miracle.

Ian Paisley became famous in the 1960s for opposing civil rights for the minority Catholic community in Northern Ireland.

His campaign to have the Irish flag removed from a shop window in Belfast in 1964, is often cited as the incident that sparked off the troubles.

His image is that of a fanatical, loud mouthed demagogue, yet around the House of Commons he can be personally charming and polite.

Gerry Adams and Martin McGuiness both have very close links to the IRA and those who carried out the campaign of bombing and shooting which beset Northern Ireland.

I’ve known Paul Murphy personally for over 20 years, through the Welsh Labour Party.

If he could get Ian Paisley as First Minister and Martin McGuiness as Deputy First Minister, he’ll deserve the Nobel Peace Prize, and I’ll personally nominate him.

Unfortunately the deal fell apart over a row about photographing the weapons which the IRA had agreed to give up.

In Northern Ireland nothing is simple. Even a photograph can be used as a weapon to prevent agreement.

But I believe miracles do happen, and that it is only a matter of time before this one does.

And when it happens we should remember to congratulate our own quiet man, Paul Murphy.