Friday, September 12, 2014

Ian Paisley 1926-2014

Ian Paisley was proof that there are other countries divided by fanatics and snowball throwers. His death leaves a hole in the politics of Northern Ireland which will have to be filled somehow.

Loyalist paramilitaries became increasingly hostile towards Paisley, particularly over his various "stunts" such as the establishment of a so-called third force in 1981 and later the establishment of the quasi-paramilitary Ulster Resistance four years later.

As well as leading the DUP in Westminster, Paisley got elected to the European parliament in 1979. He caused outrage among fellow MEPs when he interrupted an address by the late Pope John Paul II in Strasbourg in 1988.

Paisley also caused the normally mild-mannered John Major to lose his temper. In a TV documentary on the peace process Major recalled that he asked Paisley to leave Downing Street after the DUP leader continually accused the then prime minister of lying over secret talks between the IRA and the government.

From the IRA ceasefire of 1994 to the Good Friday agreement four years later, Paisley opposed any moves to bring Sinn Féin in from the cold as a way of ending violence. In that period Paisley depicted his unionist rival David Trimble as a traitor and a sell-out over the Ulster Unionist leader's willingness to enter government with Sinn Féin.

Eight years after the 1998 Good Friday accord however Paisley followed Trimble down the same path and agreed to set up a new power-sharing coalition that included his one-time mortal enemies. Asked why he had finally done the deal with his old foes, Paisley explained that the time was now right, now that he was on top and the number one force in unionism.

Anyway, the Irish can sort this all out. Once Scotland cuts the umbilical cord, I have a feeling Northern Ireland can finally do the same. That will be easier now with Paisley gone.

One of the last "respectable" terrorists of our age goes on his way, straight to hell, without a return trip.

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