Posted By: January 13, 2014

Did the notorious  racist Governor George Wallace have a true conversion? Did he really believe those terrible things about African-Americans, or did he just use those things to come to power?

The same question now arises about the new look to Rev. Ian Paisley. Did he really believe the poisonous and venemous things he said about Catholics or did he just say them to come to power in Northern Ireland? Did he merely exploit and manipulate Protestant anti-Catholic bigotry  to become the top Protestant in “ the Protestant State for a Protestant people”?
Tom Kelly is clear about  this question.

POLITICS is littered with politicians whose memories get more selective with age.

The late Brian Lenihan discovered that it was a moment of “mature reflection” that sank his presidential ambitions and allowed Mary Robinson to canter into the Aras.

Before the Labour landslide in 1997, the then Labour Leader Tony Blair, unsure of outright victory, flirted with the notion of a Labour-Liberal government and discussed the matter with his Liberal counterpart, Paddy Ashdown. When Labour won its stunning victory the Liberals were quickly cast aside.

When asked if Blair had been disingenuous Ashdown replied he believed the prime minister was “being truthful at the time when he spoke to him”.

Blair often had selective recall throughout his premiership. Gerry Adams is also a man who struggles to recall people, places and events unless of course its matters pertain to his role as a peacemaker. Therefore it should come as little surprise that now Ian Paisley should attempt to rewrite his role in the tragic events of the past 50 years.

Paisley in a revealing and probing interview with the veteran broadcaster Eamonn Mallie would have us see him through rose-tinted glasses.

It’s little wonder that his comments caught his long time deputy and now first minister, Peter Robinson off guard. Paisley would have us believe that he is some kind of benign fatherly figure – all cuddles and chuckles.

He is far from it. This is the man who craved power and who hounded every moderate unionist leader from office until he finally got it on his own terms.

Most Catholics won’t be taken in by his late conversion to Taig[ pejorative  Protestant-term for Catholics] hugging. This is the man who once told a loyalist rally in 1969 that Catholics “breed like rabbits and multiply like vermin”. He accused Catholic clergy of handing out sub-machine guns and called the late Cardinal O’ fiaich “the IRA’s Bishop from Crossmaglen”. He even famously got ejected from the European Parliament for trying to reach Pope John Paul II, denouncing him as the “Anti-Christ”.

Paisley may see himself like a latter-day John Knox but to many he was for the most of his career little more than a rabble-rousing street agitator – albeit, it has to be said, a very popular one.

Civil rights leaders are aghast that Paisley now claims Catholics were wronged and discriminated against.

His recollection is obviously dimmed by age. Paisley harangued civil rights leaders. His supporters were often incited to much more by his inflammatory use of language. Many political observers have noticed how Paisley conveniently got himself offside before or during many loyalist incidents. It appears according to Peter Robinson that during the ill fated raid on Clontibret that the then DUP deputy leader stood in for the absent Dr Paisley who had to attend a funeral.

Many people seem to have taken the most offence to Paisley’s claim in the BBC documentary that the Irish government bought the 1974 Dublin and Monaghan UVF bombs on themselves.

Again it was left to the first minister to dispel this ridiculous and dangerous notion that anyone other than terrorists are responsible terrorist acts. But why is anyone surprised that this is Paisley’s view? After all, in 1974 Paisley is reported as having said of the Irish government “that if they don’t behave themselves in the south, it will be shots across the border.”

And Paisley did not confine himself to threats against the Southern authorities.

In 1986 in protest against the Anglo-Irish Agreement when he was forcibly removed by police officers from Stormont, he menacingly said to the police: “Don’t come crying to me if your homes are attacked. You will reap what you sow.” Paisley’s reputation has been rehabilitated somewhat by his bonhomie with former taoiseach Bertie Ahern and his chuckle brothers double act with Martin McGuinness but his past is as murky and shadowy as that of any protagonist.

Throughout the Troubles some commentators used to say that his anti-Catholic rhetoric and sectarian coat trailing made him the best recruiting sergeant the IRA could have ever asked for. As the late UVF leader David Ervine remarked, countless young loyalists wasted away their lives in prison because of the incendiary language used by Paisley and others.

Whether it was waving gun licences in the Antrim Hills, midnight fly-posting in Dublin or donning paramilitary-style red berets, Paisley is the quintessential grand old duke of York now living in his own Quixote-style memories. He fools no-one.