The Paisley Interview

Possibly the most dominant figure in Norn Iron history is the Rev Dr Ian Paisley. He is now 87 years old and is currently not very well.
Is he the most divisive figure in History?
Or the most unifying?

Put more bluntly, is he one of the main reasons, Norn Iron descended into violence? Or is he one of the main reasons that we found a way out? Or is he both?
We talk about a decade of Centenaries that we must negotiate our way thru. How do we handle the upcoming Centenary of the First World War? The Easter Rising? The Somme?
For the record, I have always believed that these Centenaries should not be “handled”. No self-respecting Historian should be (for a fee) advising Governments on how Centenaries must be “handled”.
The Truth is the Truth is the Truth.
But we have proved incapable of “handling” 1690 (Battle of the Boyne) and 2014 (Haass Talks)….we cannot be expected to deal with 1916.
As I am 61 years old…I can actually remember the 1960s….I choose to think of the Fiftieth Anniversary of the Fiftieth Anniversary of the these events.
We are (again) in Pre-Conflict rather than Post-Conflict mode.
And we should not under-estimate the Unexpected.

Rev Ian Paisley is…I say again ….87 years old.
The Queen of England …Mrs Windsor…is around the same age.
The “Duke of Edinburgh” is in his 90s.
“Prince Charles” is 65 years old.
For that matter I am 61 years old.
I dont want to be tasteless or crass but you probably see where I am going with this.
The Decade will end sooner rather than later for many of us.

All of which makes the two “set piece interviews …Paisley and veteran local journalist Eamonn Mallie…quite interesting.
Your reaction might well depend on your reaction to Mallie as much as Paisley.
You might hold the view that Mallie is “peerless” the doyen of Belfast journos….whose insights are sought on 24 Hour News Channels around the world.
(When Norn iron needs explained….Mallie always seems willing).
Or you might hold the view that Mallie is a pompous, self-obsessed faux “Renaissance Man” who is a legend in his own lunchtime.
I make no comment.

Yet the two interviews…and a book deal (??????)…is a scoop for Eamonn.
We should look forward to seeing him in Ian Whytes in Dublin with an auction catalogue.
But what’s in it for 87 year old Ian Paisley?

History can be well served. But will it?
Is it a glorified Autobiography…the most unreliable form of History? Is Eamonn effectively ghost-writing the newest Paisley narrative.
Leaked spoilers appear to be a mixed bag.
We are told that 87 year old Paisley believes Catholics were treated badly in Norn Iron. That surely is to be welcomed. But would History have been different if 37 year old Paisley believed this?
It is certainly reasonable from a unionist perspective that Paisley believed the Civil Rights movement to have been used by “nationalists”.
And his account of Clontibret….a slightly absurd but potentially dangerous “invasion” of a County Monaghan border village by loyalists led by his Deputy …Peter Robinson, now First Minister.
Its an escapade that Robbo The Statesman would like to forget.
The Paisley version is that it was pretty stupid? The Robbo version…we are told …is that the Big Man organised it and that Robbo deputised.
Certainly we can speculate that there is no love lost between Paisley (and presumably the Paisley political dynasty) and Robinson (and presumably the Robinson political dynasty).
Shockingly Paisley is alleged to say that the Irish Government policies were primarily the reason that bombs exploded in Dublin and Monaghan killing almost thirty people.
These bombs are believed to have been the result of collusion between loyalists and RUC “rogue” elements and British Intelligence “handlers”.

Just a few weeks ago, Gerry Adams was castigated for callously suggesting that two RUC Officers were lax about their own security and it led to their deaths, after leaving Dundalk Garda Station.
Paisley is therefore just as callous as Adams, who was lambasted by the “peerless” journalists in Dublin 4 and the “peerless” website Slugger O’Toole.

Let me be clear here. Private citizens like you and me have a certain licence to say things. Because we largely express these views to a limited private circle of family and friends.
You might therefore have expressed views on the deaths of (say) President Kennedy, Che Guevara, the Twin Towers, Margaret Thatcher, General Pinochet, paratroopers at Narrow Water…..if you did not, then you have certainly heard callous things said. And certainly if you knew that your views were in the public domain, you might have chosen a reasonable form of words.
To that very narrow extent, I have a certain sympathy with Adams and Paisley.
In being direct about those RUC deaths and Dublin-Monaghan, they were not expressing view that have not been heard before…representative of a stream of nationalist and unionist thought.
Of course Paisley is much more popular than Gerry Adams in the Dublin Media…and of course Slugger O’Toole. Dont expect a lot of threads on how shocking Paisleys thoughts are. Expect the word “context” to be used a lot.

But will Mr Mallie, a South Armagh man mention the three Reavey Brothers, murdered in 1976?
Will he mention that Paisley, then a Member of Parliament used House of Commons privelege to name a fourth brother as involved in a reprisal killing?
It was of course complete nonsense…but the Big Man has not so far been big enough to admit his part in a gross injustice?
Credit therefore to another South Armagh man…Dominic Bradley MLA ….for daring to keep this in the public domain.

Will Slugger O’Toole dare mention the Reavey Brothers?
Is there not at least a duty on Paisley to face up to this?
Slugger are often tenacious about other injustices….Jean McConville for example.

But wasn’t Eamonn Mallie, one of the journos to whom the cuckolded Peter Robinson poured out his heart four years ago?
Is this going to be as robust as Mallie claims?
Or will it feature “Lord Paisley” and “Lady Bannside” walking in a garden with obligatory elderly Labrador (hired from Central Casting) to show the softer side of the Great Statesman? Our very own Nelson Mandela.
I will judge Mr Mallie, not so much on the questions Paisley answers but rather the subjects that a lesser journalist than Eamonn might be tempted to forget.
Here is a handy check list for you to tick as Mallie brings them up.
Maura Lyons.
Valerie Shaw.
Reavey Brothers.

If you have to look these names up on Wikipedia, then it is probably evidence that Mallie needs to mention them.

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18 Responses to The Paisley Interview

  1. In relation to the Reavey/O’Dowd murders the perpetrators included serving British paramilitary police officers and soldiers: John Weir (RUC), Robert McConnell (British Army) and Laurence McClure (RUC). Their activities were condoned or ignored by senior RUC officers including Brian Fitzsimmons, later Assistant Chief Constable RUC, and Harry Breen, later Chief Superintendent RUC (killed by PIRA in 1989).

    But I don’t suppose one is going to hear any of that on the media in Ireland or Britain. Or from Paisley.

    • Well in a sense, I wouldn’t blame Paisley for not bringing it up.
      Nor would I expect him to bring up that 1966 quote”I wish I had never heard of that man Paisley”
      But there is something to be scrutinised here…The long journey beginning in the 1950s as just another preacher with a big tent to 1960s Oxford Union Debate.
      Circa 1963 my father worked in a bar near Musgrave Street RUC. Apparently the RUC shorthand writers used to go to his Ulster Hall meetings and told my father. “That Man Paisley will be trouble”
      Occasionally my father would bring home copies of the Protestant Telegraph….all red whore of Babylon stuff.
      So how did he rise, via Divis Street, Cromac Street, to Rabble Rouser to Statesman….even Cuddly Statesman.
      What about the Money?
      Look at the people that are part of the Paisley Story….”Major” Ronald Bunting, Rev William Beattie…Beryl Holland (she was always good for a laugh), Johnny McQuade,
      How did he get to be “Lord” Bannside…AND a peerage for his wife.
      No I cant see any autobiography bringing up stuff like that.
      But a fearless investigative reporter might so do.
      But somehow I dont see Eamonn Mallie as a fearless, investigative reporter.
      Theres nothing in it for Paisley….but securing Posterity is kinder than it should be.
      And theres an element of score-settling with Robinson.
      But what’s in it for Mallie?
      Is there really a book to be launched?
      Appearances on The View, Stephen Nolan, The Late Late Show.
      He himself has come a long way from downtown Radio to be ….well an Internet parody.
      maybe Mallie is looking to his own Legacy.

      But a Book Launch? At the Long gallery at Stormont? Wine and Cheese….a mixture of politicians, journalists and Quintin Oliver?….and pics in the Ulster Tatler? Serialisation in a low rent newspaper?
      Its a funny old world.

  2. Political Tourist says:

    I’m still trying to figure out how Big Ian managed to stay out of WW2.
    1926-1944 would him 18.
    The right age for doing a Private Ryan in real life.
    Did he fail the medical?
    As for off the wall anti catholic evangelist preachers i’d guess in 1950s Belfast or Glasgow or Liverpool they were 10 a penny.
    But how many became an MP and MEP.
    And that says a lot about North Antrim and NI in general.

    • In fairness WW2 would have been winding down and there was no conscription in Norn Iron. I wouldn’t hold that against him.
      My recollection of early 1960s is a bit hazy but I think the Saturday night paper usually had about a page of adverts for Gospel Hall preachers. I remember one name …Rev Norman Porter I think who was occasionally on TV.
      How Paisley climbed the ladder. To the top of that field might be interesting.
      But its probably already in a lot of the books in Easons.

  3. zig70 says:

    I’d add the Quinn brothers to that list. I don’t think you can call on the rabble to have a ‘settling day’ in a background of violent attacks and walk away unsullied. Ref on Cain.

  4. boondock says:

    The one thing that frightens me is when this evil man dies watch the news channels air brush out all his menace and worse still he will no doubt be given some sort of state funeral, pass me a bucket I think Im going to puke.

    • Thats inevitable.
      In some ways…Kenyatta, Makarios, DeValera were statesmen ….Fathers of their Nations ….who were reviled in their own countries by a lot of people.
      Dr Paisley has been reincarnated more times than Dr Who.
      And rather like people prefer David Tennant or Jon Pertwee….theres an image of Paisley in different incarnations.
      Its a consequence of being on TV as long as Dr Who.

      At first a buffoon on the fringe, with the old “I love you but hate your Popery” attitude. Then the ultra-unionist…who shook up dynastic unionist politics, only to become a political big house unionist himself…with a dynasty.
      The man that people “wished they had never heard of” in 1966.
      The Protestant martyr jailed in Crumlin Road.
      The person who raised the rhetoric but never quite associated with the bad guys.
      The 1970s 1980s and even 1998 image of a rejectionist.
      But what actually happened him in the 21st century.?
      A personal conversation with GOD ?
      Or maybe just destroying the UUP and getting DUP at the top and in his 80s becoming First Minister alongside Martin McGuinness?
      I dont like Paisley. I wont buy into the image of Father of the Nation or Grandfather of the Nation.
      I just dont think he deserves it.
      But curiously had he been ten years as First Minister, more might have been achieved.
      Much as I dislike Paisley….I dislike Robinson more.
      Perhaps generational on my part but I doubt if many Catholics and Nationalists of my vintage would disagree.
      Paisley was a Man of His Time.
      I doubt that in his early years, he knew better.
      But I think he DID learn.
      Robinson is a man who should really know better. Nasty Boy.

  5. Political Tourist says:

    Makes you wonder what the British State ie Whitehall thinks.
    They made him a Lord.
    And the good folks of North Antrim elected him every election for 30 years.
    Not forgetting that 33% in a Euro election.

    • Mrs Paisley got her peerage first I think.
      For all her good work as Paisleys wife….its not a PUBLIC role and I think that peerage is much more difficult to justify than Paisleys own. Most veteran MPs and Party Leaders would get one.
      But the peerage for Eileen Paisley….who recommended it??
      And did Ian Paisley mellow after that?

  6. Political Tourist says:

    I wonder how the “unionist family” view him.
    Is he a Lundy who in the end sold out completely?
    His own church ending up showing him the door.
    Do the unionists feel conned by him?
    Was he just a unionist version of Dev?

    • its a very dysfunctional family.
      All those elderly religious people who worshipped him in the 1960s are all dead.
      You had to see Beryl Holland to believe her.
      But the Free Presbyterians are a strange bunch.
      A lot of DUP people are members but paradoxically there is a strand within all the fringe Protestant churches that does not like political involvement….GOD and Mammon and all that.
      To some extent, politicians can stay on too long…and have multiple legacies …dividing opinion …rather than a single version.

  7. Political Tourist says:

    I wonder if Beryl was a member of the local USC (B-Special) gun club.

    Before we give a grant to your wee club can we have a couple of details please, eh how many members have you got, what dues to you pay etc.

    Loved the answer they gave.

    Nope, nope and nope.

    • When I was young Beryl was seemingly an elderly woman …an old hag with a hat.
      She was from Bangor and followed Paisley everywhere.
      She occasionally appeared on TV and was always writing to the Belfast Telegrapgh.
      Actually lived to a ripe old age….even older than she always was.
      She was the Ruth Patterson pf her day.

  8. We all have a hobby horse and mine is the importance of looking at 1922-72 with as much importance as 1969-98. In fairness to Lord Mallie, he did indeed do that and in doing so showed how important it is.

    The likes of Gregory Campbell drag up a story of some oul great uncle who lived in poor conditions to negate any discrimination. Oddly enough, I heard David McNarry briefly (very briefly) acknowledge what happened on The View, or some such show. My immediate emotion was admiration rather than the anger, some unionists probably fear as a response. It would do, IMHO, immeasurable good for unionism to do as the above but it would challenge their delusions too much.

    • Yes. Pre 1969 is important for context.
      But Mallie let too much go.
      Maura Lyons…went unmentioned. And important to see that in the early Paisley days, he cast a long shadow over West Belfast.
      Even when I started work..after 1969..I was well warned by my Auntie Sheila that Protestants would give me stuff to read.
      Certainly happened a few times.
      I was such a “nice person” …didnt drink (a lifelong pioneer) did not use bad language (that didnt last a lifetime) and was clearly well bought up, a compliment to my parents who laboured under the superstition of Rome.
      It bothered Mr Hewitt and especially Mrs Jones that I was going to go to Hell…so they use to give me little gospel stories to read. And Mrs Jones even gave me a Bible.

      That was early 1970s. I suppose that workplaces are now obliged to be neutral and that no longer happens to the same extent but important that Mallie put some context on the RELIGIOUS divide at the time.
      At heart, these “saved” people believed themselves superior to the rest of us.
      Paisley even admitted on Monday night to still believing that people are saved or not saved.
      This means that a considerable number of people who actually voted for him…the drinkers and the fornicators are actually going to Hell…in his terms.
      Which should have made for some interesting victory speeches.

      “Id like to thank the 150,000 people who voted for me but would like to point out most of them are going to Hell because they are not saved by Jesus Christ”
      But seriously isnt it odd that Paisley recognises the Justice of Civil Rights but couldn’t support it because it was about a “united Ireland”
      Yet he took support from the Hell-bound.

  9. zig70 says:

    Getting back to your comment on Paisley, a man of his Time. Interesting comment, not sure where I stand on it. You’re forgiving him for having a child like approach to right and wrong and arguably he wouldn’t have flourished without the hard hearts to support him. However I still think he must have known the consequences of his actions and carried on. My Dad sometimes talks about the difference he brought to Bangor and having to move soon after. In terms of damage done I’d say he is streets ahead of Robbo, but then it’s hard to weigh up the whispers in dark corners versus the shouters. There are some folk in work that are very nice to me personally but I’ve seen their Facebook, I reckon if I got attacked they would skulk off. I nearly prefer my freeP colleague who tells me I’m going to hell but wouldn’t see me harmed. Paisley’s change is maybe more wrought by being brought to face with republicans and not having the strength to say what he would to his own cabal though I still reckon would skulk off too given a chance.

    • Im not so sure.
      Paisley had a lot of cunning. But ultimately a man of his time like a small town preacher-boss in Mississippi in the Civil Rights era.
      Robinson….he should have known better.

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