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…
Mick is founding editor of Slugger. He has written papers on the impacts of the Internet on politics and the wider media and is a regular guest and speaking events across Ireland, the UK and Europe. Twitter: @MickFealty