Ian Paisley is dead. He was without doubt one of the great figures in Irish politics over the last fifty years and I think he’ll be remembered for two things
The first is that he accepted power-sharing between unionists and republicans and, astonishingly, formed a friendship as First Minister with the Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness. In so doing he set an example to others in his party – an example sad to say many have chosen to ignore. He may have opted for power-sharing as a better option than the only alternative – joint authority – but he did accept it and he played his part fully.
The second reason he’ll be remembered – and I hesitate to say this of a man so recently dead, but if we’re looking at a life in the round – he was for some forty years a rallying-point for those opposed to civil rights and a rallying-point for those who detested Catholicism. Older readers may remember the televised debate from the Oxford Union – this was pre- Troubles – where he openly mocked Catholic belief in the sacrifice of the Mass. In 1969, in the famous Battle of the Bogside, the beleaguered people of that area referred to the loyalist mobs attacking the area as ‘Paisleyites’ – they drew their inspiration from Mr Paisley.
That said, I’m sure everyone, including myself, would want to extend condolences to his family at the painful loss they are presently bearing:
Ar dheis Dé go raibh a anam – May he rest in peace.