As Ian Paisley conducts his ‘victory lap’ I have begun to read Ed Moloney’s biography ‘From Demagogue to Democrat’. The book will require its own review, but for the time being I will say that refreshing the memory as to the very real damage which the man inflicted on this country is timely, given the plaudits he is receiving from all quarters. Rather than the sense of gratitude and relief which seems to characterise attitudes to the ‘new Paisley’ from those who abhorred the old, there should instead be anger at the utter bare-faced audacity and blatant hypocrisy of the man. We should be no more grateful to Paisley for his pragmatic decision to suspend his incitements to violence and hatred and to refrain from wrecking power-sharing initiatives, than we should be to McGuinness / Adams et al for deigning not to shoot people or blow them up.
Thus I read with incredulity the revelation in last week’s Belfast Telegraph MORI poll, that Catholic respondents gave Paisley an approval rating of 37%, the second highest behind Martin McGuinness. This is a man who has spent most of his career in the public eye heaping the vilest abuse on Catholicism and its adherents. He once commented of Catholics that ‘they breed like rabbits and multiply like vermin’. It is hard to conceive of a remark more hate-filled and dehumanising.
Meanwhile the BBC’s Politics Show for Northern Ireland has chosen him as ‘Politician of the Year’ and George Mitchell has been praising his contribution to peace. Have we forgotten already what a despicable man Paisley actually is?