A profile of Rev. Ian Paisley
"THE PROTESTANT PEOPLE of Ulster are seeing the wonderful works of God this very hour-Jesus stands among us-he has risen us up to fight the forces of Romanism and all its allies. "
"Our cause is righteous and is washed in the Blood of the Lamb." Shouts of " Glory" interspersed with low murmurs of" Praise the Lord."
"We are here to DEFEND the Gospel-not to preach it like Simms and Gallagher. We will defend it with our blood like the martyrs of old who would not bow to the forces of Popery, and the scarlet whore drunk on the BLOOD of the Churches."
Paisley stood among his own people in the Ulster Hall. He had just re turned from his trip to America and he faced his normal congregation of well dressed, dowdy people and young thugs with Clyde Valley badges standing in their midst. His message was a roaring medley of hatred and self-preening. He pleased everybody.
"Let us pause now for prayerremembering those who have left us in the last month-Jack Todd murdered by Fenians after talking peace and Jack Linton shot by a mob of Papists burning and looting Protestant homes. As we pause before the majesty of God we know in our hearts we have no defence except the all-conquering power of God's Grace-Thank God we stand justified and Righteous in the face of the Lord. He has conquered the forces of the Confessional and he will CONQUER AGAIN."
Ian Paisley is at the moment the most influential person in Northern Ireland. For twenty years he has excited the people of the working class areas of Belfast with his incredible mixture of religion and politics. He now has an audience of far greater significance and size than the congregation he held transfigured in the Ulster Hall, he leads the people who neither understand or approve of the tumultuous events of the last year in Ulster, and who are likely to be the dominant force in Northern Ireland in the near future.
"I have hated God's enemies with a perfect hate."
"Dr. Ramsay is a Romaniser, an idolator and a blasphemer."
IAN RICHARD KYLE PAISLEY was born, reputedly in Armagh, in 1927. His father, the Reverend J. Kyle Paisley, was a Baptist preacher in Ballymena, where he later formed a breakaway Tabernacle. Paisley worked as an assistant in a bakery shop and is said to have started preaching in 1943, at the age of sixteen. That same year he enrolled at the Theological College of the Reformed Prebyterian Church in Belfast, where he completed a threeyear course in 1946 having passed his examinations with credit and having been higWy commended as a student and a preacher of the Gospel. By this time his brother Harold Spurgeon Paisley, who had been in the R.A.F. and 10 the Merchant Navy during the war, had given up a post in the R.U.C. to take up an evangelical career.
In 1946 he was ordained by his father and began a pastoral career in the docklands area in Belfast, where his oratorical abilities won him the attention of Unionist M.P.s. He found time to continue his studies at the Barrie School of Evangelism in South Wales, at the Pioneer Theological Seminar in Illinois and at the Barton College and Seminary at Monitou Springs, Colorado, where he received his M.A.
By 1951 Paisley was confident enough of his ability to rally support from the divided Presbyterian Community to set up his own Free Presbyterian Church
in the Ravenhill area of Belfast. The occasion was the refusal of the presbytery of Lissara Presbyterian Church in County Down to allow Paisley the use of their Hall for prayer meetings. The ensuing split in this and other presbyteries provided Mr. Paisley with his initial support.
Consolidated his support
During the fifties he gradually consolidated his support, devoting a lot of his activities to attempting to convert Catholics. Some of these activities led to the kind of publicity which was later to characterise his career. He formed the Ulster Protestant Action movement in the Belfast aircraft factory, under the
patronage of Rear Admiral Slattery. This movcment, which subsequently spread to the Belfast shipyards, was" a necessary counter to Roman Catholic Action" aimed at converting members of the Catholic working-class.
In August 1956, Paisley married Eileen Emily Cassells, a member of the Plymouth Brethren, in Belfast. The service was performed by his father and the best man was Rev. John Wylie of Ballymoney, who had already become Paisley's right-hand man.
Paisley's first major burst of publicity came in 1956 when it was alleged that the proselytising activities of Ulstcr Protestant Action overstepped the mark. At a meeting outside the Ulster Hall on Thursday, December 20, 1956, a recording was played which was claimed to be the voice of a fifteen-and-a-half year-old, Maura Lyons, The voice said that at an early age she had decided to become a nun, but while "training" for a convent life she had met some friends who had impressed her. They made her feel that hers was a religion of fear and theirs was simple and free from fear. Mter she had told her parents of her doubts she returned from work one October evening to find two priests in her room. She escaped from her house and met Mr. Paisley that evening. This announcement was greeted with choruses of "Glory" and "Hallelujah" from the packed congregation - in the Ulster Hall.
The Court case which ensued was held in camera and a writ was issued forbidding the press to harass the girl or make any further investigations of the case. Paisley's re joinder was, "the police say 'you are committing an offence' (i.e. in refusing to divulge her whereabouts). Very well, I am committing an offence. I will do time for it. I will be proud to do time for Protestant liberty." Later at a Labour group meeting in Queen's University on the question of Ulster Protestant Action, Paisley, referring to the Catholic Church "as a past master at hiding its own guilt by accusing those who opposed it of every intolerance of which it was guilty itself," added "if you want to ask Maura Lyons about that you will find her in a Convent somewhere."
"This place is full of Papishes"
Third appearance in court
In 1959, after one more abortive appearance in court this time at Donaghadee in 1957, Paisley became involved in a court case with the Reverend Donald Soper, a peer and an exModerator of the Methodist Church in England. The case arose out of disturbances at Ballymena where a meeting addressed by Soper on August 1 had been interrupted by heckling, and a bible and a rosary being used as missiles to dislodge Soper from the platform. Leaflets had also been distributed condemning the speaker. The court case consisted of attacks by Paisley and his supporters on Soper for not believing in the Virgin Birth, to which Soper replied by calling them "intellectual rabbits." Paisley, Wylie and the Reverend H. V. McGowan, who were represented by Desmond Boal Q.C., were each fined five pounds. Paisley claimed he would have afforded Soper the right of free speech if he had come" as an infidel, not as a Christian minister."
Paisley's main activities up to this point had been mainly directed at liberal tendencies in the Protestant Communion. This had become a political consideration when Lord Brookeborough had failed to dismiss from the Unionist party the" radical element" represented by Bryan McGuinness and Sir Clarence Graham. In September 1959 Paisley was himself considering standing for election in East Belfast, claiming that he had been approached by "a few influential people." However, later in the month he dropped this consideration and reverted to his old tack of protesting about tricolours, cribs, Nativity plays and the idolatrous celebration of such festivals as Christmas and Good Friday. These festivities were not in keeping with" our protestantism." I am proud to say that my Church is one of the few that has no Service on Christmas Day." Paisley often gained publicity at this time by the bizarre nature of his protests, such as his encounter with Dr. McLeod who was Head of the monastic Presbyterian lona Community and was particularly distasteful to Mr. Paisley. The ex-Moderator of the Church of Scotland was addressing a meeting in October 1960, when Paisley and Wylie who were present charged him with "being out for unity with Rome." After the showing of a film in which the artistic works of the lona Community were exhibited Paisley claimed he had seen a statue of the Virgin Mary in the exhibition. Bedlam broke out in the audience and one member commented that" it looked more like an atom bomb with a dove on top," to which Paisley rejoined that the film had been shown the wrong way round deliberately to confuse the audience.
In the course of the 1960's the activities of the U.P.A. had become more definitely political. Desmond Boal was supported in a general election in 1960. He was" a man who put protestantism first-not like those who become Protestants and Orangemen when they are looking for nomination," Paisley said at an election rally in his support. Paisley then added that Boal would take a harder line on domestic issues then Lord Brookeborough.
A walk through blood
It was at this time that Paisley developed his great control of aphorism. At the meeting in support of Desmond Boal he said" our Fathers went through blood, surely we can walk through snow." Later in Queens University he announced" this place is full of papishes." At the same meeting referring to the Pope he declared" I have hated God's enemies with a perfect hate." About this time Paisley's activities began to upset the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church. Paisley challenged Dr. Austin Fulton, the Moderator, to substantiate in Court his claims that things were" going on in Northern Ireland which point to the existence of something not unlike a fascist movement" and that" within the ecclesiastical sphere brave and bold demagogues would slander and libel in a fashion that is possible for them because there is little fear of legal action." Paisley took up this fascist charge and used it to describe Roman Catholicism, the I.R.A. and the World Council of Churches. In 1961 the Ecumenical movement became the main pre-occupation of Paisley and his supporters. Paisley was particularly disturbed that" the Archbishop of Canterbury had gone to swim in the unholy waters of Rome."
First visit to the Vatican
However it was not until August 1962 on the occasion of the opening of the Vatican Council that Paisley made his momentous visit to Rome. Claiming that his real protest was directed at Protestant ministers selling out to Popery on the Reformation, he added that the Pope could have as many Councils as he wished. However he did send a telegram to the Pope to inform him that his" claims and doctrines are contrary to the Word of God." Paisley was followed around in Rome by "guards of the Great Inquisition and by the Pope's Gestapo," and his distribution of leaflets and Italian language Bibles was intercepted by the Roman police. On his return to Belfast he was escorted to a police station and questioned, he organised a protest march to the Italian Consulate and the Belfast Telegraph, posters were stuck on B.B.C. saying" B.B.C. the Voice of Popery" and he released a colour film entitled" In the hands of the Pope's Gestapo."
On June 4, 1963, the Union Jack on the City Hall was lowered on the death of Pope John XXIII. This provoked a protest march by Paisley and his followers. The march was banned and Paisley was subsequently arrested under the Special Powers Act. This was the first occasion that this Act was used against a Loyalist parade. When Paisley refused to pay a fine of ten pounds, choosing to undergo the two months jail sentence instead, the fine was mysteriously paid for him. Later Paisley claimed that he had conclusive proof that the fine was paid by the Government and sent a telegram of gratitude to Captain O'Neill.
From this period Paisley became an increasingly serious political figure in Ireland. In the last five years while he has continued to agitate consistently about ecumenism and on religious issues his public demonstrations on non-religious issues have assumed more and more importance. During the general election campaign of September 1964, Paisley demanded that a tricolour flying from the Republican headquarters at Divis Street be removed. Shortly afterwards, James Kilfedder, the Unionist candidate in West Belfast, sent a telegram to Brian McConnell the Minister of Home Affairs, which said" Remove tricolour in Divis Street which is aimed to provoke and insult loyalists of Belfast."Paisley then announced a meeting at the City Hall, to be followed by a march. At exactly the same time the R.U.C. used pickaxes to break down the door of the Republican headquarters and seize the tricolour. Next day the tricolour was replaced and severe rioting began in Divis Street when the R.U.C. returned to remove the flag. This continued all night and thirty people had to receive urgent hospital treatment. On October 16th Kilfedder was elected with a 6,000 majority and proceeded to thank Ian Paisley" without whose help it could not have been done."
Protest at cross-border meetings
Next year saw the first of the crossborder meetings between O'Neill and Lemass. Paisley protested, carried on an extensive campaign and called for the removal of O'Neill from office having betrayed the Ulster Constitution by meeting the Prime Minister of the Republic. Paisley formed the Ulster Constitution Defence Committee" so that the enemies of the province must see, by a massive outward demonstration, that Ulster Protestants would not surrender to Rome or the Republic, nor will they tolerate these betrayals by politicians or clergymen." About the same time he formed a personal bodyguard which was later to become the Ulster Volunteer Force and be disowned by Paisley. In 1966 Paisley reached a peak in prestige and popularity which he did not reach again until the second half of 1969, Through the first part of the year he campaigned for a ban to be imposed on all demonstrations marking the 50th anniversiary of the Easter Rising, which he called a " rebellion" and "a stab in the back for the Empire." This campaign failed and Paisley bitterly villified Captain O'Neill for" shaking hands with men who were covered in the blood of Britons." He claimed that" over Easter the soil of Ulster was desecrated by the rebels After Easter Paisley travelled to Rome again to protest against the visit of the Archbishop of Canterbury to Pope Paul. He was not allowed enter Rome and was sent back to London Airport where he was kept in custody for 24 hours. On his return to Belfast he claimed that the British were sympathetic to his cause and that" Rome had burnt Cranmer, but had embraced Ramsey. Ramsey had sold out on the Reformation, the Articles of Faith, and the British Constitution."
In June he announced his intention to march for the fourth time in succession on the General .Assembly of the Presbyterian Church to protest its Romeward trend.On June 6th he marched to the General Assembly by way of Cromac Square. The marchers led by Paisley were attacked on reaching Cromac Square, but they quickly passed through the area leaving the R.U.C. and the local residents fighting bitterly. The riot at Cromac Square lasted for a few hours and caused considerable damage to cars, shops, and to the local Post Office.
When he reached the General Assembly the R.U.C. had to restrain his followers from attacking Governor and Lady Erskine. Earlier Paisley had bitterly attacked the Governor" for interfering in internal matters" when he had suggested that the naming of a new bridge after Craigavon was provocative. Paisley was charged with unlawful assembly and, on refusing to be bound over to keep the peace for two years, he was sent to prison for three months.
Riots outside jail
Shortly after he was interned in Crumlin Road jail 2,000 of his followers gathered outside. At midnight on the instigation of certain people, two of whom were charged in due course for inciting a riot, a street battle between the R.U.C. and the crowd took place. A very severe riot ensued.Public
houses were looted, police armoured wagons were set on fire and Catholic houses in the Shankill area had petrol bombs thrown at them.After that
Cnunlin Road jail had to be continuously guarded by rows of police.
New overseas contacts
The following two years were much less adventurous. Paisley built up contacts with militant Ulster Protestant emigrants in Glasgow, Liverpool, London and Australia. This helped him very much financially.
In January 1967 Paisley called a protest march against the Romanising Bishop of Ripon. By this time the Government and the churches knew how powerful Mr. Paisley was and the visit was called off. This pattern of near confrontation continued.Ecu menical meetings at which Father Desmond Wilson was to have spoken were also called off due to Paisley's threats. In 1968 Paisley pursued a vigorous campaign for the Protestant party in the Liverpool municipal elections. He flew to Westminster Abbey to protest when Cardinal Heenan preached there. When picketing within the cloister of the Abbey he was warned by police that he would be arrested if he did not move off. Paisley crossed the road and attracted considerable publicity when an individual hit him with rotten eggs. At the end of November Paisley occupied the centre of Armagh in order to obstruct the Civil Rights march next day. This marked the bcginning of a resurgence of Paisleyism in the politics of Northern Ireland. B.B.C.'s Panorama team had their equipment wrecked and an I.T.V. cameraman was severely beaten. At the beginning of January Paisley's followers successfully harassed the Pcople's Democracy march to Derry. The previous night Paisley had held a meeting in the Derry City Hall, A threatening crowd surrounded the meeting place and Paisley and his followcrs had had to fight their way out. Paisley commentcd " I think the blaspheming, cursing, spitting Roman scum were shown up in their true light. Immediately I arrived at the demonstration this crowd of Roman Republicans from the south surrounded us. They thrcw rotten eggs and tomatoes." At the same time Paisley was sentenced to three months in jail for unlawful assembly in Armagh. Before sentence was pronounced he stormed out of court knocking down a policeman in the process and in the course of his arrest he sustained a cut in the hand. However, he was released almost immediately after his arrest under a general amnesty.
Near election victory
He immediately plunged into a vigorous election campaign against Lundy O'Neill. The result of this raised Paisley's prestigc even higher than before. He almost defeated Captain O'Neill and many believed that if the election campaign had been slightly longer he would have won.
The tragic events of Summer leave Paisley as the most respected person among a considerable section of the Protestant population. It has been a long difficult journey to political success.
Since he began to preach a mixture of political reaction and fundamentalist theology over twenty years ago he has constantly attacked liberal Unionists and churchmen whether it was popular to do so or not. Now he is reaping the fruits of all his endeavour and so is the North