herald

Saturday 21 October 2017

Shed no tears for a man who spent years fuelling hatred

Ian Paisley was buried in a small graveyard in Co Down on Monday after a private service attended only by family.

It was a simple, unceremonious and dignified end to a momentous and turbulent life. Paisley was one of the most divisive, complex and iconic political figures on this island.

The tributes were fulsome this week but for many, particularly people of my generation, for years he cast a dark, sinister and ominous shadow.

Paisley railed against most supposed 'evils' he saw in the modern world - sexual permissiveness, homosexuality and the Pope.

But he reserved his most vicious and hateful tirades for Catholics in the North. Time and time again this so-called man of God used his office as a church minister to denigrate and vilify Catholics.

shameful

Who could ever forget or forgive the shameful stunt he pulled in the European Parliament when he disrupted the speech of Pope John Paul II?

For almost all of his public life, until his late conversion, his implacable and unrelenting crusade fanned the flames of hatred and bigotry against Catholics.

I have no doubt whatsoever that his inflammatory and hate-filled rants incited murderous reprisals on innocent Catholics and nationalists by Loyalist paramilitaries.

Far from being the peace maker of the DUP, a role he played in latter days, for years he attempted to destroy every initiative to bring peace.

He destroyed the attempts of Prime Minister Terrence O'Neill to forge closer relations with the Republic, he helped bring down the Sunningdale Agreement in 1974, and he accused David Trimble of treason in the latter's attempt to end The Troubles.

Then, in 2007, he performed an extraordinary volte-face and became First Minister. It was the power he had no doubt dreamed of and lusted for all his political life.

enemies

Now that he had achieved the ultimate reward, he was prepared to sit with his lifelong enemies - becoming a 'chuckle brother' to the ex-IRA commander Martin McGuinness.

It was an extraordinary odyssey for this fire and brimstone preacher. I can't help thinking that had Paisley achieved his political ambitions years earlier, many innocent lives would not have been lost.

Despite all the bouquets and accolades that have been showered on Paisley since his death, I for one will shed no tears on his passing.

May god have mercy on his soul and may he rest in peace.

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