By Dannie Gruff
So I guess we are rid of that turbulent Priest.
No I’m not writing about Thomas Beckett but the arguably even more turbulent (and that really isn’t saying too much) Ian Paisley. By all accounts a loyalist to the max, a talented orator, a bit of a bigot, a nuisance – throwing snowballs at the Taoiseach, heckling the Pope – he led quite a life.
Please don’t think this is any kind of obituary. For one thing, I wouldn’t know where to start, I wasn’t a fan personally. This is just some thoughts on his passing.
Compare the two Paisleys – not Ian Senior and his son Ian Junior – but the Paisley at the height of the troubles and the Paisley who passed this week.
From his journey as “Dr. No”, to one half of the Chuckle Brothers with his pal Martin McGuinness, although it seems this ability to share a laugh with his political opponents was nothing new.
In essentials, I suspect Paisley remained much as he always was.
My Mum recounted to me earlier how they were all brought up to fear the man and the ideas he preached.
But it seems there was a change, perhaps an acceptance that an ability to compromise and forgive in the cause of peace might actually improve the lives of his constituents a little more than endless shouting and the occasional ‘Save Ulster from Sodomy’ rally.
Or perhaps he was just tempted by a Higher Power – and when I say that, I mean he was literally tempted by the office of First Minister, not some kind of Jesus in the Desert temptation scenario. (Although if that were the case, surely Peter Mandleson would play the role of Tempter/Satan?)
He was one hell of a heckler. Like a less witty Dennis Skinner. He heckled the Pope, “the scarlet woman of Rome”, denouncing him as the Antichrist. Naturally the Antichrist, the embodiment of evil as we know it would be a woman in Paisley’s mind. But at least he was a fan of Nathaniel Hawthorne.
On a related point to suggest the Pope was a false Prophet was I believe a tad hypocritical. Paisley certainly fancied himself as some kind of Prophet, plus almost everything that came out of his mouth was almost definitely false. I mean he was at one time convinced that seat No. 666 in the European Parliament was reserved for the Antichrist. And no it wasn’t the seat reserved for JP2.
A classic bigot, he held highly conservative and shamelessly anti-Catholic views. That’s Paisley, not JP… Although granted, the two share pretty similar theological principles, just different attitudes to Catholics… Paisley was for want of a better phrase a bit of a “Bible Basher” – I’m not a fan of this term, but there you go – once stating;
“Line dancing is as sinful as any other type of dancing, with its sexual gestures and touching. It is an incitement to lust.”
One can only assume he saw twerking as a one-way ticket to hell.
I don’t need to write about the historic scenes on Devolution Day – maybe I’m too sentimental about such things but I really like re-watching this.
Respect to Tony for that one. Perhaps partly because of Blair’s own background – Grandson of an Orangeman, later famously converting to Catholicism. Sure like many times before and after, Blair was perhaps a little over-optimistic about his own abilities and influence – to quote from Tony Benn’s Diaries:
Wednesday, September 8, 1999:
Meeting with the Garvaghy Road Residents’ Association from Northern Ireland. There have been 200 attempts by the Orange Order to march along the Catholic Garvaghy Road since the march was banned in 1998.
They told me a quite extraordinary story. Jonathan Powell, the Prime Minister’s chief of staff, had been over to see them with the idea that Tony Blair himself would lead the Orange Order march down the Garvaghy Road and Cherie Blair would lead a parallel march of Catholics.
I said: ‘I can’t believe that suggestion was seriously put forward.’
I can. What I can’t believe is why this great idea never came to pass. I’m sure the peace deal would have been a piece of cake after an action like that. What could possibly have gone wrong?
Sure I’m not a fan – But he will go down in the history books. Perhaps for saying so many things with such conviction and then doing the exact opposite; “I will never sit down with Gerry Adams”.
Yes you will.
For his last speech in the Commons he dropped this bombshell;
“There are people in Northern Ireland with diverse religious and political convictions… They can live together as neighbours.”
The fact that political leaders feel the need to say such things reflects how deeply entrenched Sectarianism is in Northern Ireland. For me Paisley’s passing has served as a reminder of how deep these divides go. Of course, few of us were pleased to see the Orange Order sticking their oar in the referendum campaign this weekend. But how some in Scotland draw parallels between their own treatment at the hands of the British Establishment, to the experience of Irish Catholics is beyond me.
Salmond’s no Mandela, I think we can all agree on that one. He’s also no Michael Collins.
I finish with my favourite Paisley quote, one of asking God for help in dealing with Thatcher, that I stumbled across only upon his death. If I can regret one thing, it’s that I never got to see him deliver one of his sermons.
“We pray this night that thou wouldst deal with the prime minister of our country. Oh God, in wrath take vengeance against this wicked, treacherous and lying woman: take vengeance upon her, oh Lord, and grant that we shall see a demonstration of thy power!”
Quite. What an odd man.