There's nothing like a political defection to bring the skeletons out of the cupboards. The betrayed party and its supporters dig out all sorts of old statements and quotes to embarrass the turncoat, and (s)he in turn produces embarrassing counter-quotes. It is fine entertainment for those not directly involved.
And so it has come to pass in Northern Ireland's narrow and incestuous political world. The defection of Ian Parsley from the Alliance Party to the Conservatives has led to a mixture of furious insults and sad head-shaking in the press, on television and in the blogs.
Parsley has left many hostages to fortune in his past, but the one I like best was quoted on the Slugger O'Toole blog - it was a comment that Parsley made in a discussion in 2007:
"After 80 years, there has been no recorded incidence of a Nationalist elected rep defecting to Unionism or vice-versa. Even Conor Cruise O’Brien showed his true colours in the end!
We live in a divided society. Basically, if there’s a Protestant majority the Union’s safe - and if there isn’t, it’s not.
Don’t kid yourself that there’s anything you can do about it."
And there, expressed by a leading light of the Alliance Party (at the time, or recently before, he was Chairperson of Young Alliance), and now a Conservative Councillor, is the basic philosophy of this very blog. So it seems that the religious basis of the political divide in Northern Ireland is more widely accepted than some people would like to admit.
However, expect Parsley to backpedal on this as on many of his other 'principles' in the next few months.