‘Paisley and Irish Unification’ by Jessica McGrann

Screen Shot 2015-12-30 at 14.59.12

Paisley was an Irishman, he loved Ulster and claimed you cannot be an Ulsterman without being an Irishman. His hatred of the Catholic Church was intense, and while extreme, the Catholic Church did involve itself too much in the running of the new Irish Free State. It had far too much control of the state which it abused, both in control of its people and the terrible abuse of unmarried mothers and school children. Paisley was proud that St Patrick was a Protestant, in fact you could say  he loved Ireland, but we are in no doubt of his hatred of the Free State which was focussed around Catholicism.

Others too shared his acceptance of Ireland, and one group of loyalists called Tara sought to reclaim Ireland for Britain and restore it to its pre-Catholic days of Protestant ascendancy, and went as far as sourcing arms including blowpipe missiles for that very cause, a cause that was connected to Paisley  who would have been aware of it.

Ironically, it was sexual abuse which both ended the state control of the Catholic Church and the efforts by Tara in procuring weapons for the “invasion of the Irish Free State”.  Abuse which both states were aware off and did nothing to protect its citizens.  The Irish state put votes and political self-interest above its people, British Intelligence allowed abuse in the Kincora Boys Home to continue to protect the identities of English politicians and MI5 operatives who attended, instead using it to leverage information on the other loyalist groupings, and even killed to protect their sources.

Loyalist leaders have since Jim Kilfedder shown an interest in Fine Gael who with full backing of the press, chose to alienate the northern Irish citizens, have amended the constitution which will lead to denial of Irish citizenship for the North, who have corrupted the Gardaí making them tools in the anti-republican struggle along with their media.

Fine Gael have fully cooperated with the British Intelligence corps, allowing them run operations and intelligence-gathering in the south, ending political protection for republicans while protecting loyalists such as those who carried out the Dublin-Monaghan bombings.  They have controlled the Gardaí, sacking the chief commissioner and changing the assessment of the current commissioner to support British intelligence post-conflict – basically participating in a continuation of the new phase propaganda war, the aim of which is to ensure the conflict continues in the minds of the population until their patience is exhausted and Irish Republicanism is defeated peacefully.

Perhaps unification was on the cards.  Fine Gael first of all seeking to strengthen the union within the north, then bring the republic back into the shrinking commonwealth which would earn them good favour in London, then eventual full restoration of Ireland within the United Kingdom.  The British Labour Party have always supported unification and Irish independence, the Tory party which Fine Gael share more commonality with would not.

That was the only way I can see that it was ever going to happen with Paisley’s approval.

Some research for my assessment:

In 1951 Ian Paisley co-founded the fundamentalist Free Presbyterian Church of Ulster and was its leader until 2008.

The Free Presbyterian Church is a fundamentalist, evangelical church, requiring strict separation from “any church which has departed from the fundamental doctrines of the Word of God.”

Paisley promoted a form of Biblical literalism and anti-Catholicism which he described as “Bible Protestantism”. The website of Paisley’s public relations arm, the European Institute of Protestant Studies, describes the institute’s purpose as to “expound the Bible, expose the Papacy, and to promote, defend and maintain Bible Protestantism in Europe and further afield.”

In 1956, he co-founded Ulster Protestant Action (UPA), an Ulster loyalist and Protestant fundamentalist vigilante group which was to organise the defence of Ulster Protestant areas against anticipated Irish Republican Army (IRA) activity. The initial executive of the UPA consisted of John McQuade, Billy Spence, Charles McCullough, Richard Fenton, Frank Millar, Sammy Verner, Herbert Ditty, Bob Newman and Noel Doherty, with Paisley as an ex-officio member.

The Ulster Protestant Volunteers were a loyalist and fundamentalist Christian paramilitary group in Northern Ireland. They were active between 1966 and 1969 and closely linked to the Ulster Constitution Defence Committee (UCDC), established by Ian Paisley and Noel Doherty in 1966.

Even though no IRA threat materialised in Belfast, and despite it becoming clear that the IRA’s activities during the border campaign were to be limited to the border areas, Ulster Protestant Action remained in being. Factory and workplace branches were formed under the UPA, including one by Paisley in Belfast’s Ravenhill area under his direct control. The concern of the UPA increasingly came to focus on the defence of “Bible Protestantism” and Protestant interests where jobs and housing were concerned.

As Paisley came to dominate Ulster Protestant Action, he received his first convictions for public order offences. In June 1959, a major riot occurred on the Shankill Road in Belfast following a rally he had spoken at. His moves to form a Protestant unionist political party caused tensions in the group, and Paisley’s supporters formed their own “Premier” branch of the UPA, reinforcing their control of the group.

When Britain’s Princess Margaret and Queen Mother met Pope John XXIII in 1958, Paisley had condemned them for “committing spiritual fornication and adultery with the Antichrist”. When Pope John died in June 1963, Paisley announced to a crowd of followers that “this Romish man of sin is now in Hell!”. He organised protests against the lowering of flags on public buildings to mark the Pope’s death.

Irish republicanism in the 1950s had a fairly inchoate political identity beyond commitment to armed struggle. It was self-described as “Christian, republican, and democratic” From about 1961, the small communist parties of Ireland (themselves divided by  partition since the second World War) became disturbed by  southern Ireland’s declared intention to join the European Economic Community, a bloc counterposed to Comecon, as NATO was counterposed to the Warsaw Pact. Irish communists, therefore, cast about for allies to resist this incorporation of Ireland into the antisoviet ‘west’. The basis for such an alliance, they believed, was left-nationalism.

Roy Johnstone, a leading member of the IRA, was certainly “well versed in communist techniques”, as British intelligence put it. “C. Desmond Greaves, the British communist Party’s Irish expert, was comfortable that Johnstone “draws on our Marxist ideas without acknowledgement and retails them to republicans opportunistically tailored to their prejudices”. Lacking their own ‘organic intellectuals’, republican leaders such as Sean Garland and Cathal Goulding were from about 1964 keen to utilise communist-inspired expertise to ‘modernise’ the republican movement. They adopted the strategy of de-militarising the movement, so as to foster a broad-based National Liberation Front, including Communists, trade unions, and elements of the Labour Party. This, they believed, would lay the basis for organs of popular self-government that could eventually challenge the constitutional state on both sides of the border. At some point, the IRA would be used to break the deadlock of dual-power. As first steps, the Wolfe Tone Society was set up as a popular front ginger group in 1965, and the Northern Ireland Civil Rights Association (NICRA) in 1966. A report by British intelligence produced in June 1969 concluded that under Communist influence, the IRA was dedicated to a “policy of peaceful penetration”.

Also in the 1960s, an Ulster loyalist movement espousing a brand of evangelical Protestantism called Tara was founded by William  who travelled widely throughout Northern Ireland preaching his religious message, which included hard-line Ulster loyalist principles and claimed that Northern Ireland was on the verge of chaos as a result of the Irish Republican Army’s supposed turn to communism.

As part of his virulent anti-communism, McGrath made contact with clandestine religious groups in Eastern Europe and smuggled in Bibles and religious tracts for their use which brought him to the attention of MI6 who wanted him to smuggle propaganda into the Eastern Bloc inside the bibles and also established an association with MI5.

In 1966, Ian Paisley and Noel Doherty established the Ulster Protestant Volunteers controlled by the Ulster Constitution Defence Committee (UCDC) which included Ian Paisley, Noel Doherty and William McGrath.

The UVF who were aligned with the Ulster Unionist Party (UUP) were also formed in 1966 and led by Gusty Spence and the two organisations operated in an alliance between 1966 and 1969.  In 1964 Gusty Spence’s brother Eddie had been the election agent for Jim Kilfedder, supported by UVF in his election campaign and striding to victory with the support of Ian Paisley over his anti- O’Neill views, but who would later oppose him, accusing him of links to Fine Gael from his time as a student at Trinity College where he had attended party meetings.

The UPV alongside the UVF launched a bombing campaign to destabilise the Northern Ireland government, whose reforms they opposed. There were bombings on 30 March, 4 April, 20 April, 24 and 26 April. It also took part in most of the counter-demonstrations organised by Paisley in response to the Catholic civil rights marches of the late 1960s. One example of their many counter-demonstrations was the Battle of the Bogside where the UPV along with many other loyalists were involved in throwing stones, bottles, and bricks at Catholic residents. The motto of the UPV was “For God and Ulster” and many of its members also belonged to the Ulster Volunteer Force.

Paisley organized a picket against a liberal church parade on April 6, 1966. He felt that the church supported Terence O’Neill’s political viewpoint which Paisley opposed. The parade went through a Catholic area and a riot broke out (the Presbyterian General Assembly riot). Four policemen were badly injured which began an open hostility between the RUC and Paisley. The Orange Order, the liberal Presbyterian Church and official unionism disassociated themselves from Paisley and said his organizations “represent a definace of lawful authority no less serious in essence that that of the IRA.”

A murder outside a bar known as the Malvern Arms was investigated and the UCDC, led by Ian Paisley, was implicated but he denied any knowledge. Gusty Spence, Hugh McClean and Robert Williamson from the UVF, shot four barmen they presumed were IRA men. None of the barmen had any connection with the IRA but they did work in a hotel where earlier that year, republicans had attended a function to commemorate the 50th anniverary of the Easter Rising in Dublin. Off- duty RUC men were in the back room of the bar and arrests were made. The three gunmen were convicted and sentenced to life imprisonment.

RUC Special branch were anxious to uncover links between the UVF and Jim Kilfedder and believed Gusty Spence had received tutoring from Kilfedder who was a barrister, on how to deal with interrogation.However when interviewed by police at Brown Square when arrested and charged with the murder of Peter Ward, police recorded Dandy McClean as saying “I am terribly sorry I ever heard of that man Paisley or decided to follow him”.

The brutality of Malvern Arms shootings shocked both communities and most Protestant people on the Shankill were disgusted at what the UVF had done in their name.

Terence O’Neill banned the UVF under the Civil Authorities (Special Powers) Act of 1932. The UCDC and the UPV were not banned but O’Neill made many attempts to tie the organizations together, implying that Ian Paisley was the leader. Ian Paisley denied any connection with the UVF and along with James McConnell, the vice-chairman of the UCDC, expelled Noel Doherty who was sentenced to two years on an explosive charges

The quarryman who supplied the explosives, Jim Marshall was fined £200.

William McGrath  founded Tara, a name chosen to reflect his belief in the Irish heritage which he tried to promote as part of his drive for a Protestant all-Ireland whilst also utilising Gaelic terms and symbols and naming his Orange Lodge, the “Ireland’s Heritage” Lodge (LOL 1303).

Tara was intended as an outlet for virulent anti-Catholicism. The group endorsed British Israelism that people of Western European and Northern European descent, particularly those in Great Britain, are the direct lineal descendants of the Ten Lost Tribes of the ancient Israelites. The doctrine often includes the tenet that the British Royal Family is directly descended from the line of King David and it claimed that the early inhabitants of Ireland had come from modern Scotland before being displaced by the Irish with Ulster Protestants being descendants of the Lost tribe of Israel.

The group continued to speak of a coming “doomsday” scenario in which they would have to take the lead in battling the Irish government and returning the island to its pre-Catholic roots for which McGrath imported a quantity of rifles, machine guns and ammunition from hard-line Protestants in the Netherlands with whom he had close links plus he also sought to build links with Rhodesia and even sent two members of Tara to join the Rhodesian Army. Further members were settled in South Africa where they would eventually become involved in securing a cache of weapons for the UDA and Ulster Resistance (although McGrath was not involved in this smuggling, which occurred after his imprisonment).

The relationship between the UVF and Tara was terminated when they realised McGrath was gay and that he was using the Tara-UVF link as a way to pick up young men.

McGrath sought to boost the ailing movement by linking up with John McKeague, a member of the Free Presbyterian Church and founder of the Red Hand Commando who allegedly shared McGrath’s sexual attraction to men and children. The pair met at the Kincora Boys’ Home, where McGrath took up a position in 1971, to discuss trading weapons for their respective groups. Around this time McGrath also made contact with another leading homosexual unionist, Sir Knox Cunningham, and secured funding for Tara from him as well as being intruduced to prominent politicians and political personalities in England including MI5 operative Sir Anthony Blunt who later turned out to be a Soviet spy as outed by Margaret Thatcher.

The list of visitors to Kincora and the contacts McGrath was making have been denied on national security, but it was allowed to continue by the security forces while William McGrath and John McKeague wre both working with the Intelligence Corps and used by them to obtain information on other loyalist paramilitaries.

In January 1982 McKeague was interviewed by detectives investigating Kincora about his involvement in the sexual abuse. Fearful of returning to prison, McKeague told friends that he was prepared to name others involved in the paedophile ring to avoid a sentence. However on 29 January 1982, McKeague was shot dead in his shop on the Albertbridge Road, East Belfast.

It has been argued that following McKeague’s threats to go public about all of those involved in Kincora, his killing had been ordered by the Intelligence Corps, as many of those who could have been named were also agents (often more effective than McKeague, who by that time was highly peripheral in paramilitary circles). To support this suggestion it has been stated by Jack Holland and Henry McDonald that of the two gunmen who shot McKeague, one was a known Special Branch agent and the other was rumoured to have military intelligence links.





Book: The IRA and Communism in the 1960s


Book: Milestones in Murder: Defining Moments in Ulster’s Terror War


3 Responses to ‘Paisley and Irish Unification’ by Jessica McGrann

  1. Sherdy December 30, 2015 at 3:57 pm #

    You mention Kincora being used by English politicians.
    At least one was a Secretary of State who arrived on a weekly basis, when his security detail would enter the premises first to check it for safety, and then stand guard while he ‘made use of the facilities’!

  2. Mark December 30, 2015 at 4:25 pm #

    Once again Jessica, a well researched article, one line in particular struck me as it reminded me of a conversation I had, at work, in 1988, with a loyalist paramilitary, just released from Long Kesh POW camp.
    I shan’t name him but, it was a small loyalist estate in Belfast, the sort of place where, a few years before, men had all left home each morning for work in the shipyard, Sirocco, Mackey’s etc but, now, thank’s to their loyalist support for the Ulster Worker’s Strike, the brit’s had pulled support for industry and were permitting them to face unemployment instead.
    This man had served seven year’s in the Kesh for attempted murder of a young Catholic, who somehow worked there, and, now released, was returning to his old job, (queerly).
    I was there to advise people, pre-graduation, and, since he was something of a local hero, shut up shop to concentrate on providing him what advice he needed, in those day’s one could obtain Supp. Ben. for returning to work after gaol.
    We spoke for one hundred minutes, arranging benefits to purchase new tools, clothes and whatever else he needed but, at the end I asked him, since I was curious as he’d left a pretty wife and children behind, ‘Why did you do it’?
    His reply was stark, ‘I listened to Paisley’, which intrigued me as he was loyalist, and I was then at university with Ian óg so, I pressed further, it became clear this man had learned from what had happened him and that the fire stoked in his belly to hate all things ‘Fenian’ derived from listening to their chief hate monger. His lost years rankled with him and, of course, Ian sean was not, nor for long, had been in prison.
    Unfortunately, insufficient of his paramilitary colleagues learned the same lesson he did.
    On Kilfedder, he was as straight as a three pound note, it is said, but loyalism was, and perhaps is, still filled with such, especially the FP/DUP!

  3. billy December 30, 2015 at 5:24 pm #

    another protected species.