Thursday, 12 November 2009

The Fall of the House of Paisley - by David Gordon

David Gordon played his own part in ‘The Fall of the House of Paisley’ by providing the print media’s most comprehensive coverage of the political dynasty’s links to property magnate Seymour Sweeney, and reporting other scandals which rocked the DUP during 2007 and 2008. Indeed the journalist brought to popular attention a number of the important scoops which underpin his new book’s narrative.

It should be acknowledged, however, that a local blog, with its relative lack of resources, doggedly matched the Belfast Telegraph for detail as the extent of cronyism in the Paisleys’ North Antrim constituency became apparent.

The book’s blurb describes its contents as ‘the slow demise of a powerful political dynasty’, but the actual succession of events which precipitated the departure of Ian Paisley Junior from government, and subsequently resulted in the resignation of his father from the First Minister’s office, unfolded relatively quickly. Gordon’s book moves the story along with suitable rapidity, whilst delving into sufficient detail to satisfy political anoraks.

The title is instructive. ’The Fall’ makes little attempt to revisit territory already forensically examined by Ed Moloney in his Paisley biography, ‘From Demagogue to Democrat’. The landscape which Gordon describes is populated by disorientated DUP members, struggling to rationalise their leader’s new friendship with Martin McGuinness, disquieted by hints of greed and embarrassed by his increasing propensity for ‘senior moments’.

And always in the background, Junior, with his overweening sense of entitlement, spiv-like eye for the main chance and conspicuous absence of inherited charisma.

If his political followers found it difficult to adjust to the reality of Paisley in government, imagine the trauma experienced by religious acolytes, for whom his incendiary proclamations had not comprised rhetoric, but instead represented literal, divinely inspired truth.

‘The Fall’ adeptly charts the anguish which power sharing caused within the Free Presbyterian Church. Paisley’s resignation as moderator foreshadowed a similar process, during which he chose to jump, before he was pushed, from leadership of the DUP.

As well as describing, in detail, the sequence of events which presaged the Paisleys’ resignations, Gordon also offers a blackly cynical critique of Northern Ireland’s political institutions. A lack of accountability, a self-actuating sectarian divide and the entrenchment of an atomised political class are characteristics which he highlights and explores briefly.

At times the argument is admittedly almost impermeable in its grimness. The lack of meaningful involvement, for Northern Irish voters, in the politics of Westminster is criticised as an abdication of democratic principles, yet the Conservatives’ attempt to foster participation is also dismissed as a manipulative ruse.

I interrupted Robert Service’s biography of Trotsky in order to read ‘The Fall of the House of Paisley’. And it is, in itself, a tribute that I was prevented from returning to revolutionary Russia until I’d read the last page of Gordon’s book.

The author suggests that Paisley entered government with Sinn Féin in order to circumvent Enoch Powell’s prophecy that ‘all political careers end in failure’. Not only did the axiom ultimately reassert itself , but ‘The Fall’ helps to ensure that the denouement of the Paisley story will be remembered accurately as a tragedy, rather than a triumph.

'The Fall of the House of Paisley' by David Gordon is officially launched at Queen's bookshop today. It is available from 3000 Versts bookstore.


Timothy Belmont said...

Lord - sorry,Dr Ian - Paisley has been very quiet of late, hasn't he?

Does he still intend to stand at the General Election?


Chekov said...

Will he be tempted back by a ding dong with Allister? I don't know Tim. I'd imagine one of the Paisleys will be going for it. Allister attended the launch of the book by the way.

Anonymous said...

Well there's a shock!

Allister at the launch of David Gordon's book.

The pair of them have been feeding each other sh*t since the day Allister left the DUP.

A mutually beneficial relationship and one which belies Gordon's protestations that he is impartial.

After all, why didn't he go after Allister over his expenses when an MEP? Double-jobbing? Employing family members? Paying rent to family members? Trousering money from travel expenses? Dining allowances?

Allister was guilty of every single one of those charges and David Gordon never pursued him. That says it all.

David Gordon said...

Not that I would want to interrupt the bizarre fantasies of Anonymous, but also at the launch were MLAs John Dallat, Daithi McKay, Dawn Purvis and Basil McCrea, as well some lefties, environmental activists, annd thirsty hacks.

Anonymous said...

David Gordon

Nice to see you've been scouring the blogs looking for good things being said about you.

Turning to your comments.

That would be:

1. No denial of the closeness to Allister

2. No denial of the charge that Allister was given a freer run by you than other politicians, despite the fact that he was transparently guilty of the same charges that you sought to crucify others over.


3. Use of the fact that a bunch of anti-DUP politicians were at your book launch as proof of the fact that you are an impartial journalist? Daithi McKay and Basil McCrea - sure they have no axe to grind!

Stick to the muck-racking David, linguistic spohistry is clear not your gig!

David Gordon said...

Anonymous - you're good. Maybe one day you might even grow a pair and use your name. Three final points from me and I will be finished:
1) Why don't you read my book, and then come back and tell us all exactly where it backs the TUV platform?
2)What "closeness"? Jim Allister made one telling contribution to the media coverage preceding the fall of the Paisleys - the FOI disclosure on the St Andrews lobbying by Jnr. He issued that through a general afternoon press release, meaning we print reporters had last crack at it. Some closeness.
3) Re expenses etc. How many cases do you know where politicians have been described in an official report as claiming rental expenses significantly above market rate to fund a new property asset for their party? I know of just one. In this case, we're still waiting for an explanation as to why taxpayers should pay well above the going rate. Throwing mud and making unspecified claims against others is not an explanation.

Anonymous said...

David Gordon

Abusive when questioned? Tut tut! Imagine what your paper would do to some awful politician who behaved like that.

Good at firing out questions but not at answering them without recourse to abuse? What a shame.

In response to your points:

1. I have no desire to purchase your book: you get quite enough taxpayers money through all those government advertising contracts that keep the Belfast Telegraph afloat.

2. Your closeness to Allister is evidenced in the fact that you never pursued him over (A) the fact that he was employing family members (B) the fact that his wife owned his office facilities (C) the fact that he was in a position to pocket a significant proportion of his travel allowance without receipts (D) the fact that he was able to trouser a significant proportion of his Daily Living Allowance without receipts and (E) the fact that he engaged in double jobbing that was actually more profitable to him than any political double-jobbing that any other elected representative in Northern Ireland engaged in.

Legal Aid work, which is TAXPAYER funded totally in excess of £180,000 over 2 years.

You were never too shy about running to Allister for quotes about Ian Paisley Junior, but strangely slow in pursuing him.

Furthermore, the fact that he was at the launch of your book speaks volumes: if you had consistently pursued him over his behaviour do you think he'd be at the launch of your book? This is a man who is a serial collector of grievances - had you ever crossed him you would be persona non grata, yet there he was hob-nobbing at your book launch.

3. Nobody was throwing mud at Allister - Stephen Nolan made him admit all of the above when he got him on his programme. Strangely the Nolan Show stuff never got prominent coverage in the BT. Why would that be?

You are perfectly entitled to pursue Ian Paisley Junior, but please spare us the pretence that you are some sort of impartial seeker after truth.

David Gordon said...

Anonymous - you are clearly a very angry sort. Maybe you should calm down a bit.
You are exhibiting that destructive DUP-style obsession with Jim Allister that has worked so well for the party to date. Good luck with that.
You are happy to attack my book without reading a page of it. Way to go. I'll let you into a secret -its analysis is light years from TUV thinking on power-sharing, education, the economy etc.
You might want to ask yourself why DUP attempts to make a big issue of Allister's expenses did not fly in the Euro election campaign. If there was a conspiracy, then an array of media organisations must have been in on it.
Maybe Allister also partly took the sting out of it, by pointing out that the DUP were happy enough with his expenses claims before he quit the party.
It's worth noting that MEP expenses have not been as high-profile generally in the UK. That's partly because MEPs are not as high-profile, and are not governing us, and partly because they are not covered by FOI. Let's hope that changes.
I have covered expenses of politicians from aross the spectrum, including a number of the Allister details you list.
When it comes to office rental details, nothing to my mind has topped the case where taxpayers are paying significantly above market rate to fund a £500,000 property asset purchase for a party. If you have a case for the defence, I'd love to hear it. But maybe you're too busy celebrating the success of the Executive.
Politicians from different parties attended my launch, primarily because they were sources for the book. I did not invite my DUP sources for the obvious reason that they do not want to be identified.
Now, go and google "anger management classes near Stormont".

Anonymous said...

So first it was mud-throwing to challenge Allister, then he took the sting out of it by pointing up the DUP were happy with it when he was their MEP?

Surely corruption is corruption and a venerable seeker after the truth like yourself wouldn't care about what any party or individual thought about it?

I wasn't aware that you book detailed an economic vision of our province. Certainly I wouldn't have been made aware by the title or any of the media interviews you have been doing to push sales. It all seems to be focused on your vendetta against an octogenarian towards the end of his political career.

The only person in need of anger management here is yourself David. You react to questioning with abusive language and then try personalised attack as a mode of defence - Jim Allister wearing off on you perhaps? After all, if you lie down with dogs......

Your response to gentle questioning provides a useful insight into your approach.

I ask you why you didn't pursue Allister about his misdeeds and what do you do? Rant about Paisley and the performance of the Northern Ireland Executive.

That is telling.

Your "Investigations Correspondent" role (if only the police could fire of FoI requests to investigate crimes, eh?) seems to be slowly morphing in to a damned-if-you-do-damned-if-you-don't critic of the Northern Ireland Executive/pursuer of a personal blood feud with the Paisley family.

Any way, it's been fun to see how you respond to any criticism or questioning. Now take a deep breath, pour yourself a large Scotch and calm yourself.

Chekov said...

There's a smoking keyboard over at Dundela Avenue I suspect.

Carson's Cat said...

Its been a frankly amusing exchange here to see you attempt to answer questions.... something journalists don't often do and perhaps this demonstrates why.

My my though for the "investigations correspondant" of a newspaper to admit that the only way its likely he'll ever investigate an MEP, or by implication anything going on within Europe is if proceedings there are opened up to FoI investigation.

Well I suppose a confession of FoI churnalism is better than nothing. I'm sure there's plenty of old hacks spinning in their grave who actually went out and found stories - who didn't follow the formula of copying and pasting an FoI request and adding to it with a statement from a political rival.

Says something about the state of journalism in Northern Ireland that material like that is actually considered something special. Frankly I couldn't care less whether you're on a vendetta against Paisley or not - it was either some vendetta or just cynical opportunism - whichever you choose really.

I'm sure you've got plenty to do though - lots of stories to CHURN out. Bound to be a fresh pile of FoIs, sorry "leads" that you have to chase up.

Chekov said...

Just a word of caution, perhaps commenters would like to challenge the CONTENT of David's journalism and analysis, rather than his methods? Otherwise the discussion can take place elsewhere.

Jack McKeee said...

Boo Hoo, poor ole DUPers don't like it up 'em. Paisleyites continue to prove that they can give it out, but they can't take it.

There is absolutely no defence against the Ballymena Office shenanigans, and the story ain't going to go away, nor should it.

As for the allegation that DG is anti DUP and has a vendetta against the Paisleys...

Well there is a certain multi jobbing DUP MP (formerly very intimate with the House of Paisley)who should be very thankful for Gordon's obsessive style of journalism for getting him where is is today.

BTW I hear the book is very hard to get at the moment.