Political snowballs

Politics in the north of Ireland are a tricky thing. For generations words, weapons, petrol bombs and more have been tossed from one side of the divide (and the border) to the other in an ongoing struggle for power. On this day in 1967 a different sort of projectile was thrown into the mix (ahem) when Rev. Ian Paisley launched snowballs at Jack Lynch, the Taoiseach of Ireland.

Ian Paisley Sr. was the head of the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) at the time of his frozen fluff attack. He was also a master when it came to riling up his base and taking advantage of the constant press in the region. He was staunchly anti-Irish and rabidly anti-Catholic. He was not pleased that Terence O’Neill, the Prime Minister of the North was meeting with the Irish leader and he went to Stormont to express his displeasure. He threw snowballs at the Taoiseach’s car as it entered the grounds while shouting his go-to slogans like “No Pope here” and “No Surrender.” The media ate it up, as he was hoping they would. It was a relatively harmless attack but it disrupted the meeting between the two leaders and showed Paisley’s base that he would not back any compromise or cooperation between the two governments.

In hindsight the attack was rather silly, compared to many others in the region. The conflict known as the Troubles was just beginning and Paisley was one of its most uncompromising leaders until the people demanded a change. Decades after this snowball stunt Paisley was forced to share power with his polar opposite, Martin McGuinness, as part of the Good Friday Agreement. Eventually this led to an unlikely friendship and wary cooperation between the two men and the two parties they represented, despite their opposing goals. It’s a shame that it took him a generation to realize that the “opposing team” were still people, but once he was forced to accept that, the government worked (relatively speaking) with these two men at the helm. However, the fragile compromises came to an end and the power-sharing government collapsed after they were gone. The leaders of the DUP immediately regressed back to their “no surrender” roots and the entire power-sharing government collapsed. The political structure in the region remains non-functional to this day.

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