Paisley’s long goodbye comes to a (near) final end…

It’s a long time since Ian Paisley has been able to fill the full frame of that dramatic pulpit of his at the Martyrs Memorial Church… Designed to give him maximal eye contact with people in the balcony as much as the stalls (if I may be so irreverent), he knew precisely how to work that particular piece of architectural ‘technology’.

He was fond of mentioning his humble beginnings as a preacher in Belfast, at a little gospel hall at the foot of the Ravenhill Road. I also recall a friend who’d watched him ‘preach’ on secular issues from a flat backed lorry in Holywood in 1966, who had noticed a hole in his shoe when he sat down.

His skills of oratory were of another, pre amplified age. With this he had much in common with some of his local political opponents (Eamonn McCann, Bernadette Devlin come to mind), and a whole generation of working class Labour and Trades Union leaders in Britain whose sability to convene a keen sense of anger served as a potent cypher for their class interests.

Paisley had few friends amongst that class who saw the Catholic working classes as more deserving of their class sympathies. But it is no conincidence the extent to which Paisley’s political enterprise was able to soak up working class discontent amongst the Protestant working classes of Belfast left unrepresented in the wake of the demise of the Northern Ireland Labour Party.

As for an accurate assay of the effects of his religous career, I will leave to others more familiar with the politics of protestantism to offer a more precise analysis.

News Letter: Paisley delivers his final sermon…

  • Cynic2


    Brave leaving this one open for comment!!!!!

    I’d have a few buckets ready for the phlegm and bile.

  • Cynic2

    By the way, when I post now a ‘black spot’ message appears. What does that mean? Am I being watched or something?

  • Manfarang

    Is abstaining from the devils milk the secret of long life?

  • John Ó Néill

    Mick – are you so sure that you can disentangle Paisley’s religious and political careers so easily?

  • When I first began to see Paisley on TV [which would’ve been late sixties] I noticed he held the blink of the eyes for quite a few seconds, and when I got older and heard more of his rants, I developed the theory he had deliberately done this to avoid the impression people might have that his staring eyes would make him appear mad otherwise. Paisley wish to serve out the whole four years as FM reveals that he knew well that just one year in the post would have no hope of changing history’s view of him in his 40 previous years. Even four years as FM wouldn’t have changed that anyway.

  • Mick Fealty

    Well, John, I don’t see a cordon sanitaire running between the two. His preacherly tones were clearly part of his political brand.

    But ones theological the others political and he got into politics long after he became a minister. Thought its worth while to let those who might be able to tell us more on that side have time and space to tell us more.

    I’ve heard him preach twice, once in the eighties, then twenty five years later. The difference was a mans mortality, and inability to inspire fear in his congregation.

    But what effects he had on the wider religious discourse with the Protestant community, I have no clue.

  • John Ó Néill

    Mick, I’m not really commenting on Paisley’s theological stance, rather than his inescapable meshing of politics and religion (for himself, and by extension of his oratorical policing, many others) and the extent to which this may have been instrumental in, inter alia, the collapse of real or potential cross-community class-based political support for the likes of NILP. You make it sound as if Paisley was almost an accidental beneficiary of this, rather than an architect or significant influencer. Paisley intentionally kept religion in the centre of political focus.

  • pauluk

    cynic2, I’ve got the Black Spot too!

    Where did we go wrong?

  • Whatever else about Paisley, he was a powerful orator. When you cast your eye over the Assembly and watch MLAs these days mumble their speeches, head bent down to read the page, it makes one despair slightly.

  • keano10


    Correct me if i’m wrong, but Paisley was only 24 years old when he first actively became involved in politics (he campaigned on behalf of The Unionist Party’s James McManaway in the Belfast West constituency in 1950.

    Therefore he was still very young when the fusion of his overt religous rhetoric and active political involvement began to emerge.

    Just six years later in 1956, he became a founding member of the UPA which was set up to “defend” Protestant areas against potential IRA attacks. (which never actually came…)

    The main concern of the UPA became to focus increasingly on Bible Protestantism and Protestant interests where jobs and housing were concerned.

    Therefore to insinuate that there is no direct correlation between Paisley’s religous and political careers seems almost ludicrous to be honest. They were deeply inter-twined from the outset and in many respects, each one often fed the other…

  • Black spots appeared against everyone names when posting a few months back due to a software hiccup. It persisted for a few days.

  • Keano10. Your point is borne by the events a couple of years ago when Paisley had to give up his moderatorship of the FPs. He’s always claimed that his calling wasd to the church he set up rather than the political side, but this was exposed as lies when for the only time in his career, he was given a choice by his brethern in the Frees between keeping his position in the church and his position as FM. He gave up the church role to remain as First Minister, only for that job to go as well after only a few months. A suitably humiating end to to a malign and cynical career.

  • The yokel

    Not cynical 55, he absolutely believed in what he was doing was right. His bloated ego removed any chance of self doubt.

  • I also heard him preach in 1970s. It was a kinda rite of passage for people like me…daring each other to go to see him.
    I suppose its a sign of the times that few people do that now. I havent heard him since then…except of course for the regular Friday lunch time preaching at the City Hall.

    I think I can certainly differentiate Paisley the Minister and Paisley the Politician.
    And in fairness to him, I think that 21st century Preacher Paisley would not be doing what he did at the Oxford Union or at the Presbyterian Assembly and Politician Paisley would not be getting carried out of Stormont in protest.
    A much more mellow man.
    We all get a bit of sense in the end.
    Possibly I will too.
    But hes absolutely right about the Devils Buttermilk. The good Doctor and myself share the same views on DRINK.

    Which means that his family and my family will go to Heaven and share Eternity together. Which Im sure will be as pleasant for him as it will be for me.

  • Mick Fealty

    Is it really so hard? We know Paisley the politician. We’re less familiar with the religious man. His was a very socially conservative church.

    He disapproved of divorce, abortion and many other matters which now put him on the same side as the Catholic church – which he loathed with a barely concealed incandescent passion for most of his professional life – against modern secularism.

    Then there was his spiritual congress with Martin McGuinness. Forgiveness and redemption is a strong theme amongst fundamentalist Christians. So too is judgement. The clarity of one underscores the other.

    It seems to me this that is little understood either amongst middle class secularists and Catholics. One reason why it is important to disentangle the two.

  • dwatch

    Watched Paisley on UTV news and was surprised to see only half of the pews filled in this final sermon. Shows the real truth on how he is respected by only 50% of todays congregation in the Church he was responsible for building.

  • vanhelsing

    @dwatch many folk left after he took the DUP into government. I guess they just couldn’t take the leap.

    I went to the service last night, felt a little like a religious tourist! The message was clear-the Good News. No politics at all.

    He spoke with good humour and a passion for the Gospel.

    We clearly will not see his like again..

  • BluesJazz

    I had the depressing experience of (briefly) visiting one of his ‘Independent Christian Schools’ recently. Deeply depressing. because not quite like the Amish, who came across quite comfortable in their environment in the recent documentary on teenagers spending time there.
    More ‘North Korea like’ in the insular surroundings.
    And the look/ coldness of disapproval towards ‘outsiders’ those who were not of their cult.
    Actually it was extremely ‘anti British’ in any real sense of that term. As much so as any North London mosque.
    The nearby CCMS school had a big picture of David Beckham on display. Go Figure.

  • BluesJazz

    We clearly will not see his like again..

    Like Kim Jong Il, is that not a good thing?

    Both were of the same level of education. And both desired the same adulation.

  • vanhelsing

    Clearly you think so. I do not. I won’t troll the thread with you on this but your comment is purile in the extremis and I will leave it there..

  • Mick Fealty


    I mean to cap that post with just that phrase you used earlier, but I thought it might put some off, ní beidh a leithéid arís ann.

  • BluesJazz

    Fair enough Van Helsing
    But I don’t think it is ‘puerile’.

    I don’t need to look too far back to display evidence of the invective this man displayed. His recent portrayal of a much more ‘pleasant’ character might help his self delusion, not anyone elses.
    Some of us have longer memories than others.

  • The yokel

    This morning’s first reading is from St Christopher the Trot:
    Both Paisley and 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. If you can bring yourself to applaud this, you are a masochist clapping a well-matched pair of sadists.

    Blessed are the cheese makers – not to be taken literally of course