Colin Kidd, 6 May 2021
Was peace long delayed as a result of Protestant stubbornness? Unionist constipation should never be discounted, though it’s far from the whole truth to assert that they kept up an unthinking veto. While many of the mainstream leaders of Ulster Protestantism conformed to caricature as unimaginative defenders of their laager, others, including Desmond Boal, a close collaborator of the Democratic Unionist Party leader, Ian Paisley, were willing to explore the idea of a federal Ireland. Paisley was quick to retreat from this, but did not denounce his friend. (Indeed, Paisley’s reputation as an irreconcilable afforded him some opportunistic licence: he had briefly contemplated an all-Ireland deal with a de-Catholicised Republic shorn of its 1937 constitution.) Most imaginative of all were Ulster’s loyalist extremists, who in the 1970s considered the idea of an independent Ulster with a Bill of Rights for the Catholic minority.