• Ronan McSherry offers his view on the BBC interview with Ian Paisley
Singer/songwriter Kris Kristofferson wrote ‘The Pilgrim’ in 1971, around the time Ian Paisley was vehemently opposing Civil Rights marchers despite agreeing with their aims; or so he now tells us.
“…he’s a pilgrim and a preacher, and a problem when he’s stoned, he’s a walkin’ contradiction, partly truth and partly fiction, takin’ ev’ry wrong direction on his lonely way back home.”
Ian Richard Kyle Paisley has made his lonely way back home having led hundreds of thousands with his rabble rousing orations as he waved bibles and gun licences. He was prepared to fight to the last drop of other people’s blood. While Eamonn Maille has put Dr Ian to the pin of his collar thus far, this week’s much vaunted interview has glaring omissions.
We can but hope these gaps will be filled in tonight’s instalment of ‘From Genesis to Revelation.’
It seems tonight (Monday) Ian will pour scorn on the leaders and elders of the DUP party and perhaps the Free Presbyterian Church he both founded and led for decades before they put him out to pasture, an octogenarian.
Now he sits at home, with Eileen by his side, singing off the same hymn sheet “…and losing all he loved along the way.”
An impersonator’s dream, Big Doc’s legacy is not funny nor was he a statesman. Rather a lot of very impressionable young working class Protestants were whipped up by his rhetoric while he washed his hands in the great tradition of Pontius Pilate.
In 1966 Belfast, UVF man Hugh McClean who was charged with murdering 18-year-old Catholic, Peter Ward, said, “I am terribly sorry I ever heard of that man Paisley or decided to follow him. I am definitely ashamed of myself to be in such a position.”
Decades later the late UVF leader David Ervine remarked that countless young loyalists wasted away their lives in prison because of Paisley’s inflammatory diatribe.
An abiding voice from the historic Good Friday Agreement in 1998 came from a faceless loyalist in the Ervine camp.
It was played on Monday night’s programme, recalling Ian leading a band to Stormont where he held an impromptu press conference flanked by Willie McCrea and his now nemesis Peter Robinson. As Ian thundered yet again against the idea of an agreement between Protestant and Catholic, the green and the orange, the British and Irish, a PUP voice in the room asked, “Ian, where are you going to take us? The Grand Old Duke of York, mark I and mark II.”
Obviously an intelligent man, Paisley apparently has no understanding of the theory of cause and effect. He organised march after protest… from an attempt to remove a tricolour in Divis Street in 1964 through to opposing the Civil Rights movement, the Ulster Workers Council strike in 1974 that crippled the North and rallying the Third Force with inflammatory speeches a decade later. These were often followed by riots and atrocities including the Dublin and Monaghan bombings.
“Nothing to do with me guvnor,” was his mantra.
He chuckled from his armchair when Eamonn Maille recalled the words of former British Ministers and Prime Ministers. Jim Callaghan said Paisley “used the language of war cast in biblical mode,” Edward Health called him a “demigod and a wrecker” while Roy Mason described him as “an oafish bully and a poisonous wrecker.”
Ian recalled the day he found God on in a field in Sixmilecross. He was ready “to go where the Lord wanted me to go and say what the Lord wanted me to say.”
It seems the Lord had plans for him to dedicate his life to being a roaring anti-Catholic bigot. In 1963, when the beloved Pope John XXIII died, Paisley commented, “The Romish man of sin is now in Hell.”
Four years later at a talk in Oxford University he brandished the Host used in the sacrament of Mass to ridicule Catholicism, while his coup de grace was to suggest, “Catholics breed like rabbits and multiply like vermin.”
It was rhetoric becoming of the Ku Klux Klan in deep Mississippi and nowadays would be deemed as ‘hate speech’ in a court of law.
Rather than finding God on that Tyrone farm, as he claimed, it is unfortunate Ian did not seek out his fellow man as Presbyterian Minister Rev David Armstrong did. Rev Armstrong was driven out of Limavady in 1985 for exchanging greetings with his Catholic counterpart Fr Kevin Mullan, now PP in Drumquin. Paisley welcomed the news of Reverend Armstrong’s departure from the pulpit.
Following this week’s TV programme, the Presbyterian Minister called on the Rev Ian to apologise for years of “hate-filled bigotry.”
Paisley also owes a heartfelt apology to Eugene Reavey and his family from Whitecross, Co Armagh. He used the cowardly soapbox of Parliamentary privilege to accuse Mr Reavey of involvement in the Kingsmill massacre of ten Protestant workers (Mr Reavey’s three brothers were shot dead by loyalists the previous night). The police and politicians of all hues confirmed Mr Reavey had absolutely no involvement in the killing of the workmen.
On Monday night Paisley did not come across as a man who is about to apologise to anyone… “see him wasted on the sidewalk in his jacket and his jeans, wearin’ yesterday’s misfortunes like a smile.”
He can chuckle and change his mind and claim to forget what he said, but the Doctor Reverend Lord Paisley fools no-one.
… “there’s a lotta wrong directions on that lonely way back home.”