Ian Richard Kyle Paisley
Iain Paisley was best-known as the leader of the DUP (Democratic Unionist Party)1 in Northern Ireland. He represented his constituents as
an MLA at Stormont, an MP at Westminster (for the constituency of North
Antrim since 1971), and a MEP (since 1979; retiring from this role in 2004).
He first entered politics in 1959 to counter Gerry Fitt's socialist appeal to Belfast dockworkers. His early years in public life were marked by a couple of convictions for public order offences. Well, he was an intensely irritating man.
As a Unionist, he was fiercely in favour of the union of Great Britain and Northern Ireland (the United Kingdom), and was
opposed to any involvement by the government of the Republic of Ireland in its affairs. His party had a policy of minimal
participation in talks processes and bodies that they fear may weaken the union. It is best summed up by his slogan
which was hung on banners all over Northern Ireland at the time of the Hillsborough Agreement: "Ulster Says No!"
This approach was at best mindless, and at worst dangerous idiocy that directly contributed to the climate of
fear and mistrust in the province, and played into the hands of his political enemies2.
He was the leader of the Free Presbyterian Church, known for his hellfire and brimstone approach to sermons. His career as a street preacher gave him a remarkable, strident bellow which he once deployed to decry terrorist actions and steps to closer ties with Dublin alike.
His biblical knowledge was formidable- he was schooled at Bible colleges in Belfast, Wales and South Carolina (the
infamous Bob Jones University). But his
faith was of the intransigent, sectarian, anti-catholic variety. Where many Christian leaders often favour the idea that they
can learn from other creeds, Paisley says, "If you lie down with ecumenical dogs, you rise with papist fleas". He was
also intolerant of simple, wholesome (if boring) pastimes, famously saying, "[line dancing is] as sinful as any other
type of dancing, with its sexual gestures and touching".
In May 2005, his party overtook the rival UUP, and is currently the largest single party in Northern Ireland, his sceptical (or obstructionist) approach to the Good Friday Agreement and Northern Ireland Assembly being rewarded. By late 2005, perhaps in recognition of his long experience of politics, he was appointed to the Privy Council. This made him one of The Queen's 500-or-so top advisors.
Perhaps this exposure to the great and good of UK politics mellowed him in his later years. In 2007 his DUP was the largest in NI, and so he was appointed First Minister of Northern Ireland (a sort of devolved, regional Prime Minister). The Assembly's unique coalition executive system saw him serving alongside a deputy from Sinn Fein.
In addition to his church and political duties, he was the leader of the Free Orange Order (one of Ireland's Marching Orders). One suspects that the
normal Orange Order wasn't quite protestant enough for him. Anyway, this gives him a full title of-
The Right Honourable Worshipful Grandmaster Reverend Doctor Ian R.K. Paisley, MP MEP MLA
In his favour, Paisley was known as a hardworking constituency MP, and for this reason even some Catholic ward
s such as Rathlin Island
regularly vote for him.
- Not to be confused with the much nastier paramilitry hangers-on in the UDP- the Ulster Democratic Party
- (Although, to be fair to him, by 10/12/2004 he had completed a semi-succesful round of negotiations with Sinn Fein, since they and the DUP (alarmingly) were at that time the largest two parties within their communities)