Ian Paisley: a word in favour of a fading patriarch

Eamonn Mallie has always preferred the bludgeon to the rapier. In Episode One he confronted Ian Paisley with some the most unsavoury quotes of an agitator’s past.  Did you really mean it, Mr Paisley?  In episode two he faced him with other people’s hesitant mutterings of rejection. How did you feel Mr Paisley?  What did  he expect the old man to say? Repudiate the past in the first case and turn the other cheek in the second? That is not the Old Testament way. Still, I have sympathy with Eamonn. Had he not led or goaded Paisley he might have ended up with waffle. Now he and we know how the colleagues felt for years, that the old man still had the spark of conviction about him and could strike out unpredictably.  But he was no longer capable of sustained coherent speech.

Is Paisley’s obviously devastating hurt and bitterness about any more than a King Lear complex, best forgotten, the biggest and best pose of Paisley the martyr? Not quite. Although normally ruled  out in an interview, how  astute it was for him (or Eileen  ) to insist that he read out from a paper describing  what “ the deal” at St Andrews meant to him. It was not exactly new but the summing up was convincing: “They did the deal with the weapons and they did accept the principle of consent, They accepted the PSNI and the principle of law. I had to do what I was elected to do. Give leadership”

And so he did. Could Robinson have done it? Not without him and he knew it .Paisley’s and Lady Paisley’s interviews remove any lingering doubt that he was pushed over the edge into it  by Robinson after his “sackcloth and ashes “outburst. For him the deal once sealed became a moral imperative. Others had severe doubts, though not Robinson.

What does the interview tell us about the DUP?   For long shaky, the monolith  has cracked a little more and Paisley junior will need careful handling. There’ll be plenty of schadenfreude among the surviving friends of O’Neill, Faulkner and above all Trimble. But this is not a case of a party ditching its leader and reversing direction. The DUP is much the same DUP as it was five years ago, even if more shamedfaced this morning.

Under a lesser figure” the deal” would have been a far closer run thing than it was, particularly after  they’d savaged Trimble.  Paisley had the effrontery and self belief to carry it off. He showed leadership indeed. And now he’s volunteered contempt for the lesser mortals who he claims did not understand.    Had he remained in office would Paisley have steered a bolder course towards reconciliation  and integration than the push- me- pull- you politics of today? He wasn’t asked but probably not. The time was right for his departure.

Did some of the followers believe that “the deal” was a sin they could not resist  so they took it out on the sinner? Paisley ‘s removal  from the church was wretched  behaviour which exposed the  insecurity at the heart of fundamentalist Protestantism . The faithful can never be sure if it’s the Lord talking or Satan, or their own ego. With their patriarch they feared the worst and many of them are now suffering torment on his behalf. It was that same insecurity that ignited Ian Paisley ‘s furious energy for 65 years and has now left him raging against the dying of the light.

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  • Seamuscamp

    Word in favour? Dementia

  • cynic2

    Paisley has done us a final favour as he departs the political stage. He has exposed the true nature of the DUP and its leaders

  • Mc Slaggart

    “They did the deal with the weapons and they did accept the principle of consent, They accepted the PSNI and principle of law. I had to do what I was elected to do. Give leadership”

    I went to see him in Omagh Orange hall. Their was a big crowd and he did the oratory bit. His followers lapped up his words and I had to get out half way though as I was starting to laugh.

    Moses had the good judgement to lead his people from the desert to the promised land. Paisley did it the other way round.

  • keano10

    This is typical of what ultimately happens in most political parties. The hawks circle and bring to an end a leader’s tenure.

    However, there is one big difference here. Ian Paisley was not just any old leader. He founded this particular party and rightly or wrongly he has been lauded as an iconic figure within the past half century of local politics. The DUP placed him on that iconic pedestal and now they are trying to pull it away. This is very dangerous stuff in terms of the public perception of their party. Revisionism is a very dangerous political game at the best of times, but when an attempt is being made to effectively erase and denegrate Ian Paisley by the DUP itself, then that is fraught with potential consequences.

  • Gopher

    He has written his obituary in his own words, he spent his life fighting the unionism and the union from beginning to end. Interestingly the Götterdämmerung was the principle plot line which validates his self serving personality.

    “All political lives, unless they are cut off in midstream at a happy juncture, end in failure, because that is the nature of politics and of human affairs.”

    No use crying now Ian

  • David Crookes

    Getting rid of him allowed those DUP MLAs who were opposed to power-sharing in their hearts to tighten their ungenial grip on the party. Smiling with Martin McGuinness? We can’t have that. Everyone knows that smiling is treachery. Let’s get back to mean cold-hearted scowling. People are depending on us.

    Since IP left office there has not been even such a semblance of geniality as SF might feel obliged to reciprocate. In a tiny country with a tiny population, good will can be a powerful political weapon. Some unionist politicians, not all of them DUP, have chosen not to employ it. Or maybe they are constitutionally incapable of employing it.

    Go back fifty years. Cecil King prodded Harold Wilson to prod Terence O’Neill in the direction of good relations with the RoI. O’Neill invited the RoI’s prime minister up to Stormont. His organization of the visit was a bit high-handed, but he was chiefly motivated by Christian good will. He wasn’t trying to unite Ireland, although Wilson liked the idea of UI. O’Neill was being a good neighbour and taking the initiative.

    When IP visited Dublin as FM, many unionists were very pleased. It seemed that we were growing up and starting to be friendly.

    Bang. I want you gone by Friday. We don’t do friendship.

  • aquifer



  • SirJohnDill

    Paisley did the deal for personal ego and triumph in at long last being Top Dog. The old gulderer makes cynicism and irony redundant. And the DUPers love the salaries and perks they get at Stormont. Trimble had balls. HE achieved keeping NI in the union he valued; Paisley put the union in peril always.History will remember Trimble positively. Paisley always talked the talk and never walked the violent walk but let others do it, and then artfully condemned them half heartedly. Had he died 30 years ago we would have have power sharing last. The BBC series lets him condemn himself in his own weasel words. And his “Dr” title is from the uncredited Bob Jones University, a laughing stock among US colleges, where kids live in the dark ages. Hopefully Wee P will fade into the obscurity he deserves, as another pig at the public trough taking every penny he can get from the state and more. What a family…

  • wild turkey

    “The past is never dead. It’s not even past.”

    ― William Faulkner, Requiem for a Nun

  • Kevsterino

    I think both Ian Paisley’s lamentations and the preemptive statements issued by the DUPers mentioned in the telecast are mutually insincere.

    Ian Paisley, of all people, knows the price that comes with power. He did his best to demand the ouster of enough elected politicians and the eternal damnation of religious opponents. Now he’s lost his leadership of the party he founded, his premiership of the executive, his seat in Westminster, his seat at Brussels, his position at the top of the Free P’s, his ministry at the Martyr’s Memorial that he built. To top it all of he’s lost some of his closest friends over ‘the deal’ and he might be entitled to wonder what it was he was trying to do with his life.

    The DUPers who put out these preemptive statements were in my opinion premature. They should have waited until people saw him doddering about when asked a difficult question and let them see this isn’t ‘your father’s Ian Paisley’. But they must have been thinking they have to cover their asses just in case the old folks are offended by their treatment of their hero.

    I could be wrong, of course, but I suspect there are still a lot of old times who would still follow Ian Paisley, especially were he young enough to lead the way out of the DUP.

  • Am Ghobsmacht

    Dr Paisley?

    Given the monsters that he created I prefer the title Dr Frankenstein.

    Does that make Eamon Mallie Captain Robert Walton?

  • I’m glad that this is not the occasion of his obituary otherwise what I am about to say would earn a yellow, probably red, card.
    Paisley was a monstrous creature who swaggered across the “country” spewing hatred against fellow Christians and creating mayhem in his wake. He certainly didn’t follow Christ’s admonition about loving thy enemy.He was a crafty brute, of course, always scurrying off and being at home or on his way home when the crowds he whipped into frenzied mobs went on the rampage. So nothing to do with him. We also know from David Ervine that he was a pal of the “any taig will do” UVF.
    History will judge him harshly as he and his equally ugly minions were a major obstacle to enacting the necessary reforms to ensure that all citizens were treated equally. The hatred he instilled into them is probably the main reason that virtually nothing has progressed since Paisley became a “chuckle brother”.

  • JoeBryce

    Paisley’s victory over Trimble was a decisive moment. Trimble’s vision, which I at the time fully shared, was an inclusive NI within a pluralist Union. Paisley’s victory was a rejection of that vision and, implicitly, an acknowledgement of the inevitability of an all-Ireland future in which the PUL electorate wanted its loudest voice to negotiate its place. At the time I was distressed by the electorate’s choice but I have come to think it wise, especially as it becomes seriously possible that Scotland will leave the Union. There will need to be another Chuckle Brother in the coming years.

  • quality

    David Crookes

    “Since IP left office there has not been even such a semblance of geniality as SF might feel obliged to reciprocate.”

    Not sure about that, didn’t Robbo shake his hand? Something the presumably genial Paisley made a point of never doing (as I recall)?

    Robinson, when he feels like it/when it is political expedient, acts the ‘statesman’. Sammy, Dodds, Arlene and Daniel O’Donnell do the hardline stuff at conference. Now they’re circling for Robinson.

    Ethnic outbidding within the same party. Interesting (well, not really).

  • Quality[10.25] ‘Now they’re circling for Robinson’
    It make’s you think that series ‘House of Cards’ was wasted on Westminster affairs as they could have set it in the DUP instead, the only question is who would get to do the soliliquoys a la Urquhart.If Shakespeare lived in these times he’d probably have based the character Iago in Othello on Paisley. The names are similar even.

  • quality


    Based on the US version, the personal shenanigans would be far more explosive than simply an affair with a pretty young journalist (allegedly).

    Have to let Sammy do the soliliquoys, he loves the sound of his own voice, laughs at his own jokes etc. Might give it more of an ‘On the buses’ vibe than a serious political drama though.

  • Michael Gillespie

    Paisley did what British Constitution empowered him to do
    Paisley is the product of the old British Constitution. A Key element of that constitution is found in the Coronation Oath by which the monarch swears to uphold and maintain the reformed faith throughout the Kingdom. Thus the Kingdom is constitutionally Protestant. Paisley in his career put that key element of British Constitution into practice. In the Kingdom in Ireland he preached and maintained the fascism that Crown British rule in Ireland is Protestant. This fascism that underpins the statelet of N. Ireland makes the Kingdom a cold house for Catholics. This fascism was opposed by the counter fascism of Sinn Fein who in their actions and membership asserted that Irish Republican rule is Catholic. The Kingdom being constitutionally Protestant made it a cold house for Catholics both in Ireland and in Great Britain. Paisleys fascism is derived from the Coronation Oath which is the root cause of sectarianism in Ireland and in Scotland.
    If there are to be no Paisley’s in the future British Constitution in relation to Ireland will have to change and the Coronation Oath changed from “the reformed faith” to “the Christian Faith”. In my book —The Theoretical Solution to the British/ Irish Problem—I have suggested a written National Government of Ireland Act that resolves the difficulty of the Coronation Oath. It’s all there.
    But as well as acting constitutionally Paisley acted politically in bringing a devolved government back to Stormont as a shield to protect the people of N. Ireland from having evil legislation at Westminster imposed on them as it would be under direct rule. That makes the kingdom not united but quasi-federal and Paisley’s DUP, crypto nationalist of an unspecified nature.
    Michael Gillespie

  • Quality[11.05] On the Buses? Sammy missed his true calling alright, although at this years DUP conference he was notable by his absense from the stage for the old ‘red meat throwing to the slavering hordes’ session. Can’t see gregory getting the job in his place somehow..

  • Charles_Gould

    Getting rid of a reluctant leader is never smooth. Think Thatcher , think Blair, think The DUP did it quite well. The survey of party opinion made it seem much more “evidence based” and left no Knife wieldedfrom anyone in particular.

    There’s a nice piece in the ( excellent as ever) Newsletter which interviews folk in Ballymena. They said “he was old and should have not been surprised” that his party wanted him to move on. They also thought he should not have made the tv show, after all it just made him look like he expected to go on forever…not realistic.

  • aquifer

    The idol comes crashing to the floor
    Broken clay sharp under our feet

    Time to move on