Paisley on Carson: “we salute the man who taught us all how to be true Irishmen and women”

Whilst the world and his wife is waiting on the regular knife edge that any march through north Belfast brings, Ian Paisley writes of his hero Carson on the actual date of the Convenant:

Carson’s idea for the future of his country did not tally with that held by men like Pearse or Connolly. His leadership was that of a man who was loved by the people, but in the end cast aside by his colleagues.

He remains in the hearts of Ulster Unionists because he was a man of the masses, not because he was an establishment figure, and that is a rare gem indeed. There are politician’s politicians, and there are people’s politicians.

The former are two a-penny, the latter are one a century. That is why it is Lord Carson who stands on Stormont’s hill, and that is why Ulster and Carson are forever synonymous.

On this 28th day of September, 100 years after his pen touched parchment, we salute the man who taught us all how to be true Irishmen and women.

  • Mick, the complete article is in the News Letter.

  • Mick Fealty

    Quite. It’s where I got the orginal of course. Thumping headache, tooth extraction at 5. Sorry for any confusion.

  • I’m genuinely perplexed by this.

    The Carson quote “then go out of Ireland and leave us to govern ourselves” was contradictory when Carson said it first, although he had the excuse that it was said out of frustration. For Paisley to quote it approvingly without even acknowledging that contradiction is very odd indeed.

  • The Paisley version:

    He was in politics because of Ireland. He cared about the welfare of all classes and creeds, and believed that Ireland was at its best as one unit within the United Kingdom.

    The Dictionary of National Biography version:

    Carson entered his most active political phase only belatedly. But, in a real sense, his Irish experience at the bar had already helped him formulate his political ideas. His early career had been marked by his appearing for tenants under Gladstone’s Land Act; but his experience during the Plan of Campaign, and his concern to defend the landlord system, made him a stern advocate of the landlord class. In 1892 he represented one of the most unpopular landlords, Lord Clanricarde, during the hearings of John Morley’s evicted tenants commission. He condemned the Irish Land Bill of 1895, and led a revolt against the Land Act of 1896, which extended the right of tenants to purchase their farms.

    I’m also leery about all the claims for Carson as the great figurehead of Ulster Unionism. He opposed Home Rule because he was a Unionist, without the qualification. he accepted the six-county fudge as a wartime necessity: ‘if the war is lost, we are all lost’. That lost him the support of Lords Lansdowne and Middleton.

    When the hard-line Ulstermen had exploited him as far as they could, he — along with the southern Unionists he represented — was cynically discarded. His repeat suggestion of a federal solution (which he had advocated in 1914, and which the likes of Churchill refined) was brutally rejected by the UUC. He may have became reconciled to the Two Irelands proposition of the 1920 Bill, even to have chaired the March 1920 UUC meeting, but he notably made no contribution to the debates. His stated view was he would “not vote for home rule. At the same time I shall do nothing to prevent this Bill from becoming law”.

    His final thrust was a untended warning to the Ulster Unionists: “from the outset” they should ensure “the Catholic minority have nothing to fear from the Protestant majority”.

  • michael-mcivor

    ” We salute the man who taught us all how to be true Irishmen and women ”

    Good words from Ian Paisley- its a pity that he never read about Carson years ago-could have saved us a lot of bother-

  • qwerty12345

    So 10% of the Irish made their mark on the covenant.

    What about the other 90%?

  • Alias

    “What about the other 90%?”

    They don’t count, apparently. Lord Paisley can express a preference to be a member of a non-sovereign (Irish) nation because he also expresses a preference to be a member of a sovereign (British) nation. The problem is that the 90% who are Irish aren’t members of the sovereign British nation and have no desire to convert themselves into a non-sovereign Irish nation.

  • “For Paisley to quote it approvingly without even acknowledging that contradiction is very odd indeed”

    Not odd, just normal for Paisley. Carson’s legacy does not belong to Ian Paisley but if it suits Paisley to be disingenuousness and persuade people that he and Carson had shared values, he will do it without hesitation

    Paisley is and always was an Ulster Nationalist with a Union Jack. Carson wanted Ireland to be part of UK mainstream politics and did not like the idea of factionalism as Mike Nesbitt recently acknowledged.

  • Seymour,

    But reading the piece as a whole it is not “normal” Paisley. I knew the man had softened in his old age (or with the privileges of office, one of the two) but even so, “the man who taught us all how to be true Irishmen and women” is hardly what you’d expect from the firebrand of Ulster. Malcolm has put it better than I. Paisley and Carson never belonged in the same sentence together.

  • Alias

    Carson’s sentiments are freely expressed in this speech:

    Perhaps you will allow me to read a passage from one. This is not from a politician; it is from an official— ‘The feeling here—’that is, Londonderry— ‘is very bitter, and a strong feeling exists that if solid, reliable guarantees could be got, Ulster should join in with a Republican Ireland and wash its hands from all connection with such a perfidious people. In my opinion all faith of the Ulster Protestants in Englishmen’s honesty or capacity has been wrecked.’ That is the record of your message of peace.

    But I say to my Ulster friends, and I say it with all sincerity and solemnity: “Do not be led into any such false line. Stick to your old ideals of closer and closer connection with this country. The Coalition Government, after all, is not the British nation, and the British nation will certainly see you righted. Your interests lie with Great Britain. You have helped her, and you have helped her Empire, and her Empire belongs just as much to you as it does to England. Stick to it, and trust the British people.”

    But I warn the Government of this tendency, because do not imagine that, if any such thing happens, it would be merely that you had achieved your ambition to turn the people of the North of Ireland into Sinn Feiners and assassins. Not at all. Out through the whole Empire—Canada, Australia, New Zealand—Ulstermen are strong and powerful. Toronto is an Ulster city. Do not do something which, throughout the length and breadth of our Empire, will turn Ulster against the British connection. God forbid! And do remember that when, 53 through your laws, Ulstermen were driven out of Ireland and went to America, it was thirty-six Ulstermen, smarting under a grievance, who signed the Declaration of Independence.

    He was a British nationalist warning the British government that its perception as Perfidious Albion among Ulster’s Protestants would force them to become disloyal to the Crown, turning them into Ulster Nationalists.

  • Alias

    ““the man who taught us all how to be true Irishmen and women” is hardly what you’d expect from the firebrand of Ulster.”

    Click the link above and Carson also calls himself an Irishman. There is no difference between Paisley doing that and Carson doing it. They both do it to undermine the right of the Irish nation to self-determination, asserting that this right should be subjugated and exercised within the jurisdiction by the sovereign British nation to which they both belong.

  • Alias,

    There is a world of difference – Carson always called himself an Irishman. He was politically in favour of the Union and against partition. He made no secret that his late conversion to the cause of “Ulster” was borne out of frustration and defeat. At least in that he was consistent.

    Paisley spent his entire political life denying his Irishness, and has now apparently changed his mind. Does this mean that having (at least in one sense) won he has at last seen the light? Or does it mean that he never truly believed his own rhetoric? Colour me cynical, but I lean towards the latter interpretation.

  • Rory Carr

    I am not so sure tnat this song of praise is intended to bring to mind Lord Carson’s merits so much as to prompt (perhaps subconsciously) the reader to make a connection in his mind of the qualities laid before him, not only with Carson, but also perhaps with another great (yet modest) champion of Ulster unionism and of its people.

    His leadership was that of a man who was loved by the people, but in the end cast aside by his colleagues.

    He remains in the hearts of Ulster Unionists because he was a man of the masses, not because he was an establishment figure, and that is a rare gem indeed. There are politician’s politicians, and there are people’s politicians.

    Now who really is being written about here with such bitter-sweet tendresse?

  • Barry the Blender

    Paisley was as big a liability Unionism as Carson was an asset.

  • mark o’kane

    so Ian regards himself as a true irishman. Glad to hear it

  • Alias

    “Paisley spent his entire political life denying his Irishness, and has now apparently changed his mind.”

    He was an Irishman 17 years ago, so his ‘change of mind’ isn’t recent if he ever changed it.

    “I was born in the island of Ireland. I have Irish traits in me – we don’t all have the traits of what came from Scotland, there is the Celtic factor . . . and I am an Irishman because you cannot be an Ulsterman without being an Irishman.” – Ian Paisley quoted in 1995, “Ulster Unionism and British National Identity Since 1885”

  • Alias

    Carson’s seperation of state/government and nation (“The Coalition Government, after all, is not the British nation, and the British nation will certainly see you righted”) is key to his being the first signature on the Covenant – a contract where loyalty to the state is conditional but where loyalty to the nation is absolute. That’s an aspect of unionism and of Ulster character I always liked: if the state does not serve the people, oppose the state. Needless to add, it’s probably also why unionists make poor europhiles and other statist iks.

  • tacapall

    “That’s an aspect of unionism and of Ulster character I always liked: if the state does not serve the people, oppose the state. Needless to add, it’s probably also why unionists make poor europhiles and other statistiks”

    Brilliant, absolutely brilliant ! Unionism is for all the people, and if the state does not serve all the people, then they as a people will oppose the state ? So why didn’t they actually follow that inspiring assumption of what you thought were the attributes of an Ulster Unionist. Why then did we have the Civil Rights movement.

  • The greatest denigration of Carson is that he was implicit in strapping the gun onto the belly of the Beast, and into the whole nature of Irish politics for the rest of the 20th Century.

    The Covenant didn’t come just with signatures (many signed in blood). Money was attached. By 1913 the UVF had £1 million pledged.

    Beyond Carson was Major Fred Crawford of “Young Ulster”, who had been infiltrating small quantities of weapons (about £70,000 in value) through Lord Leitrim’s estates in Donegal. When the UK government interdicted this in-flow, and Leitrim’s private paddle-steamer gave up the ghost, Crawford persuaded the UUC to go for the big time: blow the money on enough munitions to bandolier and equip the entire UVF. According to ATQ Stewart, The Ulster Crisis, p177, Carson was in full support: “Crawford, I’ll see you through this business, if I should have to go to prison for it.”

    For the record, Carson had been a Queen’s Counsel since 1889.

    Loyalty and ethically legal, indeed.

  • Alias

    “Brilliant, absolutely brilliant ! Unionism is for all the people, and if the state does not serve all the people, then they as a people will oppose the state ? So why didn’t they actually follow that inspiring assumption of what you thought were the attributes of an Ulster Unionist. Why then did we have the Civil Rights movement.”

    Someone didn’t get that extra lamb chop with his dinner?

    A state is for all of the nation, not for all of the people. Also, I think I’d read you describe yourself as an Irish republican but, if so, you appear not to believe in a core principle of Irish republicanism, i.e that the nation is sovereign first and foremost.

    Article 6 declares that “All powers of government, legislative, executive and judicial, derive, under God, from the people, whose right it is to designate the rulers of the State and, in final appeal, to decide all questions of national policy, according to the requirements of the common good.”

    As the sovereignty belongs to the nation, and not to the state, that is why referendums are held to seek their consent where their sovereignty is derogated to third parties such as the EU. As Justice J. Hederman expressed it in Crotty: “The State’s organs cannot contract…in any way to fetter powers bestowed unfettered by the Constitution. They are the guardians of these powers – not the disposers of them.”

    In that regard, Ulster unionists have more in common with Irish republicans than you think – both have a ‘covenant’ at the core.

  • Greenflag

    Doc Paisley’s comment

    ‘He (Carson ) was in politics because of Ireland. He cared about the welfare of all classes and creeds, and believed that Ireland was at its best as one unit within the United Kingdom.’

    deserves some expansion .

    Carson like Castlereagh before him was a British Imperialist first and foremost and the Empire came first . Being Irish or Ulster came second and third or third and second -take your pick .

    Both more especially Castlereagh believed that Ireland would be better governed directly as part of Britain and that the island’s economic interests were best served through belonging to the worldwide market of the Empire . Castlereagh also believed that Ireland would descend into chaos and sectarian strife if it was not kept within the the British State .

    So in essence both Carson and Castlereagh were saying that the Irish were ‘incapable ‘ of ruling themselves without descending the sectarian spiral to probable chaos and destitution .

    It could be said that they both had a point looking at history at least from a narrow view of recent (80 year history ) .

    ‘We are all of our time and can only do the best in the circumstances we find ourselves in. ‘

    Wise pragmatic words from the Rev Paisley . We forget that politicians are limited to what is ‘possible ‘ and what is ‘possible ‘ is subject to a changing dynamic .

    ‘ We can only lead in the present, but we can prepare for the future.’

    Again more wisdom for the sage of North Antrim 😉 Back to the future then folks?

  • Greenflag

    Some of us continue to believe that we can rule ourselves without inevitably descending into outdated sectarian conflict and we even believe that it’s possible for all people living on the island to have a prosperous future without having to be ‘mothered ‘ by Westminster .

    But then both parts of Ireland have had ‘exposure ‘ to varying degrees of independence /local government call it what you will over the past century almost and while there have been many failings there have also been some successes .

    I believe the chance of returning to anything like the past 40 years of ‘stupid sectarian violence ‘ in NI is remote and becoming ever more so but we still lack politicians who can focus on the future instead of trying forever to rewrite the past or worse use the past to score ‘bonus ‘ points in the struggle for the future 🙁

  • GavBelfast

    It’s almost reassuring to see that attempting to bask in reflected glory, married with barely-concealed narcissism, is still there.

    Good old Paisley.

  • Greenflag

    @ GavBelfast

    It’s almost reassuring —-

    Lets face it -he hasn’t had any real competition on the unionist side since Capt O’Neill. ? But which one of these is the real Doc ?

    The Great Communicator ?
    The Great Manipulator ?
    The Great Ulsterman ?
    The Great Irishman ?
    The Great Reconciliator ?
    The Great Snowball Thrower ?
    The Great Uphill Marcher ?
    The Great Dictator ?
    The Great Preacher ?
    The Great Do As I Sayer ?
    The Great Pamphleteer ?
    The Great No Sayer ?
    The Great Perhaps Sayer ?
    The Great Yes Sayer?
    The Great Seer ?

    All hail the Doc or should that be Docs ;)?