I was watching television footage recently of a war party of chimpanzees setting out to murder and eat some near-relatives, when I suddenly realised that I had seen that same sinister, shambling gait before. It was in Belfast, as a group of young men trooped down a dingy street, intent on mayhem. Unsocialised, mankind consists of high-end primates, motivated by the same appetites for hierarchical deference and violence as our hideous simian cousins of west Africa. Stripped of civilising norms, we revert to membership of primate society, in which we are driven by competing hierarchies, with violence both a norm and a prerequisite.
Northern Ireland’s Troubles seem to have provided the perfect small-scale laboratory – nothing too large or Third Reichian, but tastefully compressed into an area the size of Yorkshire – for this theory to be tested. And Ian Paisley’s place in the primate hierarchy seems to have been the key to