When I was much younger and more of a punk kid, I always said I’d dance a jig on the day that Ian Paisley passed away. I even had a red dress. Now that I am older, less reactionary and more educated, when I heard that he had died this morning I sprang out of bed, got a cup of coffee and started looking for the news. I may have skipped just a little to get the coffee but there was no real jig. In my opinion, Ian Paisley was a bigot, one of the leading voices of Sectarianism and a figurehead of those who would preach hate and call it faith. There are way too many people in the world like him. The most diplomatic thing I can say about him is that he was divisive and powerful…but he was also a human being with a family and no one should ever cheer or crow about another person’s death.
His pulpits were often protected by masked men with clubs or worse. His fiery language was cruel and divisive throughout the Troubles. Moderate Protestants have gone on record saying that Paisley was likely responsible for more IRA volunteers than any other person – and many agree. The byproducts of his hate were an international sympathy toward the Catholics, high recruitment in the IRA and other paramilitary groups, and support for the civil rights movement. It was quite the opposite reaction from what he was hoping for but he continued his sectarian sermons nonetheless.
That said, without him the Peace Accord and Good Friday agreement may not have come to pass. “Dr. NO” as he was called, said yes – far later than he should have – but he finally did. Watching him stand next to Gerry Adams and Martin McGuinness was a surreal and bizarre milestone, but it was one that was necessary to calm the strife in the North. I’m not sure there’s a tale of redemption in my heart for the man – but without him, things could have been much worse for much longer.
Ian Paisley passed away this morning in Belfast at age 88. Many are mourning his death, including Martin McGuinness who says they had a mutually respectful friendship even though at Paisley’s insistence, they never shook hands. In life Ian Paisley was a man who reveled in leading angry mobs, guiding immense crowds, and hogging media attention but before he died he requested a private funeral, attended only by close family. His family intends to honor that request, but has also spoken of a public memorial in the future.