Ian Paisley Retires

With Gordon Brown paying tribute to Rev Ian Paisley’s “huge contribution to political life in Northern Ireland and the United Kingdom”, this YouTube video reminds us of his contribution to political life in Europe:

Of course, the above bit of theatre is just one of the more clownish incidents in a long and ignoble history of religious bigotry and political extremism, which on the whole was not particularly funny. I’m sure Paisley’s retirement will unleash a tidal wave of anecdotes and analysis; Oliver Kamm notes one incident which shows us Paisley’s true character. Browsing through Martin Dillon’s God and the Gun is also instructive, and the book includes a discussion of one interesting association (p.220, date typo fixed):

Paisley…attended the launch of Ulster Resistance, at a secret paramilitary display in November 198[6] after the signing of the Anglo-Irish Agreement. Several days beforehand, Paisley informed me that he could not undertake a broadcast at a scheduled time because he was due to attend a prayer meeting. The ‘prayer meeting’, in the Ulster Hall in Belfast, was in fact a paramilitary rally to launch Ulster Resistance with Paisley on the platform wearing a red beret. Ulster Resistance was later involved with the UFF/UVF in arms procurement when Paisley was no longer associated with it.

(The later arms procurement involved plotting in South Africa and arrests in Paris.)

Some months ago, Christopher Hitchens wrote a typically polemical piece, in which he explained that:

The British laws of libel forbid me to tell what I heard when I was a young reporter in the pubs and back streets of Belfast, but I’ll put it like this: Both Paisley and [Gerry] Adams know very well of things that happened that should never have happened. And both of them, in order to arrive at that smug power-sharing press conference, have had to arrange to seem adequately uninformed about such horrid past events. Both have been photographed carrying coffins at political funerals—funerals that were at one time the main cultural activity in each of their “communities.” One day, their private role in filling those coffins will be fully exposed. In the meantime, they are the recognized and designated peacemakers.

In the USA, Paisley was close to Bob Jones; a 2000 report from Jewish World Review reminds us of the details:

In 1966, two days after Paisley was released from prison [Paisley had refused to pay a fine for a public order charge – RB], Jones traveled to Northern Ireland to give Paisley an honorary degree from Bob Jones University. (Others who received Bob Jones honorary degrees around the same time were George Wallace, Strom Thurmond and Lester Maddox.)

…Paisley has made more than 50 trips to speak at Bob Jones University. On a 1981 trip, Paisley gave the opening prayer in the South Carolina House of Representatives. Catholics were outraged.

…Partly out of embarrassment, the administration decided to deny the incendiary Paisley a visa in 1982. Angry over this denial, Bob Jones Jr. called on G-d to smite Secretary of State Alexander Haig “hip and thigh, bone and marrow, heart and lungs.” Jones charged that the action by Haig, a Catholic, was “absolutely nothing but Catholic bigotry,” and for good measure he called Pope John Paul a “perfect example of anti-Christ.”

2 Responses

  1. It’s all very well listing all the negative things about a person you particularly despise, without listing any positive aspects. A good thing to do if you want to engage in a biased approach.

    If a minor disruption in the European Parliament is the worst example of “political extremism” you can come up with, I’d hate to see the picture you’d paint of someone like the ‘honourable’ Gerry Adams or the equally ‘honourable’ Martin McGuinness.

    Perhaps you think they’re very nice people because they’ve never heckled a Pope.

    Why don’t you remind us all who brought electricity to Rathlin Island – a wholly Roman Catholic place..?

  2. The above apologist for Paisley’s bigotry is as pathetic as he is biased.

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