Ian Paisley

From Academic Kids

See also Ian Paisley, Jr.

The Reverend Ian Richard Kyle Paisley (born April 6, 1926) is a politician and church leader in Northern Ireland.

The Rev. Ian Paisley, MP, MLALeader of the Democratic Unionist Party, Moderator of the Free Presbyterian Church of Ulster.
The Rev. Ian Paisley, MP, MLA
Leader of the Democratic Unionist Party, Moderator of the Free Presbyterian Church of Ulster.

Ian Paisley was born in what was then the town of Armagh, and brought up in the town of Ballymena, where his father was an independent Baptist pastor. After completing his education at the Model School in Ballymena, he undertook independent theological training at a Bible college in Barry, South Wales and, later, for a year, at the Reformed Presbyterian Hall in Belfast, Northern Ireland -- though he gradutated from neither.

In 1946 he was ordained, in a ceremonly at an independent church on the Ravenhill Road in Belfast, by four ministers from four different denominations, none of whom had ecclesiastical authority from their churches to ordain. A common mistake is the assumption that Ian Paisley personally led an exodus from the mainstream Presbyterian Church in Ireland (the largest Protestant denomination in Northern Ireland). In fact, Ian Paisley was never a member of that church, and was never one of its ministers.

Ian Paisley's academic history has always been something of a sore point for him. He styles himself "Dr Paisley", on the basis of the award of an honorary Doctor of Divinity degree from Bob Jones University, Greenville, South Carolina. Bob Jones, Jr., was a very close personal friend and a co-leader with Ian Paisley in the international Fundamentalist movement. At the time of the award of this degree, Bob Jones University was a segregationist private, unaccredited Christian college which banned black students from its campus. This policy was later reversed by stealth -- completed in 2000 when the college abandoned its policy banning inter-racial dating following a national debate in the US which was occasioned by George W. Bush's decision to speak from the college's pulpit during his presidential campaign. Bob Jones University remains an unaccredited college.

In the early 1950s Ian Paisley helped to establish the first Free Presbyterian Church in Northern Ireland. He then, following a vote in his own church, joined the Free Presbyterian Church and was subsequently elected its second moderator, a post he has held for several decades. He eventually set up his own newspaper, the Protestant Telegraph, a strongly anti-Catholic paper, as a mechanism for further spreading his message. He is also the founder and leader of the Democratic Unionist Party which is currently the largest unionist party, and the fourth largest party in both the United Kingdom and Ireland.


'No Surrender'

In the 1960s he campaigned against Prime Minister of Northern Ireland Terence O'Neill's rapprochement with the Republic of Ireland and his meetings with Taoiseach of the Republic, Seán Lemass. He opposed efforts by O'Neill as prime minister to deliver civil rights to the minority nationalist community in Northern Ireland, notably the abolition of gerrymandering of local electoral areas for the election of urban and county councils. In 1964 his demand that the RUC remove an Irish Tricolour from Sinn Féin's Belfast offices led to two days of rioting, after this was followed through. (The public display of the Irish flag was illegal until the mid-1980's). Paisley's hardline approach (summed up in his catchphrase "no surrender") led him in turn to attack O'Neill's successors as prime minister, Major James Chichester-Clark (later called Lord Moyola) and Brian Faulkner. In 1966 he set up the Ulster Protestant Volunteers, which commenced a bombing campaign in order to destabilise O'Neill's government. This group later amalgamated with the Ulster Volunteer Force, with whom it had an overlapping membership. In March 1969, he was jailed, along with Ronald Bunting, for organising an illegal counter-demonstration against a civil rights march in Armagh. Paisley opposed the 1972 suspension by the British government of Edward Heath of the Northern Ireland parliament and government (known collectively by the term Stormont due to the location of Parliament Buildings on the Stormont estate). He opposed the Sunningdale Agreement which sought to rework relationships between Northern Ireland, the Republic of Ireland and the United Kingdom, and which provided for a power-sharing executive (government) involving both communities in Northern Ireland, and a controversial (among unionists) all-island Council of Ireland linking Northern Ireland and the Republic on a legal but not constitutional level. Sunningdale collapsed following the Ulster Workers' Strike which cut water and electricity supplies to many homes, and the failure of the British Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, Merlyn Rees and the British Prime Minister, Harold Wilson, to defend the power-sharing executive. Supporters of Paisley played an important role in orchestrating the strike. In January 1974 he was subdued and thrown out of the Stormont assembly by members of the Royal Ulster Constabulary. In April 1977 Paisley famously declared he would retire from politics if a forthcoming United Unionist Action Council general strike was unsuccessful. The strike failed, but Paisley, to the joy of his supporters, broke his promise.

The largest vote of any politician in Northern Ireland

In the 1970s Paisley, sometimes known as Big Ian, Dr. No, or the Ayatollah, established the most successful and longest lasting of his political movements, the Democratic Unionist Party which replaced his Protestant Unionist Party. It soon won seats at local council, province, national and European level; Paisley was elected one of Northern Ireland's three Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) at the first elections to the Brussels and Strasbourg-based European Parliament in 1979. On his first day he attempted to interrupt the then President of the European Council Jack Lynch, but was shouted down by fellow MEPs. He easily retained his seat in every European election until he stood down in 2004, receiving the highest popular vote of any Irish or British MEP (although as Britain uses a different electoral system it is hard to compete with this total) and one of the highest anywhere in Europe. In an address by the Pope to the Parliament in 1988, Paisley accused him of being the Antichrist, interrupting his speech by shouting and holding up placards. He was, unsurprisingly, picked up and thrown out of the chamber by a group of his fellow MEPs, many of them Roman Catholics who were disgusted at his behaviour. The DUP also holds seats in the British House of Commons and has been elected to each of the Northern Ireland conventions and assemblies set up since the party's creation. It has long been the major challenger to the major unionist party, the Ulster Unionist Party (known for a time in the 1970s and 1980s as the Official Unionist Party (OUP) to distinguish it from the then multitude of other unionist parties, some set up by deposed former leaders). In February 1981 Paisley claimed the UUP were conspiring to kill him. In December of the same year the United States revoked his visa, concerned at the effects of his inflammatory speeches.

Ian Paisley says 'Ulster says no'

In the 1980s Paisley like all the major unionist leaders opposed the Anglo-Irish Agreement (1985), signed by British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher and Irish Taoiseach (prime minister) Dr. Garret FitzGerald. The AIA provided for an Irish input into the governing of Northern Ireland, through an Anglo-Irish Secretariat based at Maryfield, outside Belfast and meetings of the Anglo Irish Conference co-chaired by the Republic's Minister for Foreign Affairs and Britain's Secretary of State for Northern Ireland. Vast crowds attended mass rallies addressed by then UUP leader James Molyneaux and Paisley at which the slogan "Ulster Says No" was used to express unionist opposition by what its critics alleged was a form of joint authority over Northern Ireland. Paisley was once again ejected from the European Parliament for continually interrupting a speech by Thatcher. Masked RUC men told a television interviewer they would refuse to enforce any aspect of the Agreement. Paisley controversially set up an unofficial paramilitary unit which met secretly called the Third Force, which began to import arms from South Africa. However though violent resistance to what was claimed to be "Dublin rule" was threatened, it did not materialise from the Third Force, which was soon discredited and faded away. The current whereabouts of the arms are unknown, although it is very likely that they fell into the hands of unionist paramilitaries, such as the UVF and UDA/UFF.

The Good Friday Agreement

Paisley's DUP was initially involved in the negotiations under former United States senator, George J. Mitchell that led to the Belfast Agreement (also known as the Good Friday Agreement on account of the day on which it was signed.) However the party withdrew in protest when Sinn Féin, a republican party with links to the Provisional Irish Republican Army, a paramilitary group that had killed over 1,800 people since 1970 but which had since gone on indefinite ceasefire, was allowed to participate after the ceasefire. Paisley and his party opposed the Agreement in the referendum that followed its signing, and which saw the Agreement approved reasonably comfortably in Northern Ireland and by over 90% of voters in the Republic of Ireland. As part of the deal, the Republic changed the wording of the controversial Articles 2 and 3 of the Constitution of Ireland, which had originally claimed its government's de jure right to govern the whole island of Ireland, including Northern Ireland. The DUP fought the resulting election to the Northern Ireland Assembly, to which Paisley was elected, while keeping his seats in the Westminster and European parliaments. The DUP took two seats in the multi-party power-sharing executive (Paisley, like the leaders of the Social Democratic and Labour Party and Sinn Féin chose not to become a minister) but while serving as ministers refused to sit in at meetings of the Executive Committee (cabinet) in protest at Sinn Féin's participation. The Executive ultimately was suspended over unionist unhappiness on the nature of Provisional IRA disarmament (The Provisional IRA and Sinn Féin justified this by drawing attention to the fact that others' parties to the deal, notably the unionists and the British Government, were slow in implementing other areas of the Agreement, such as demilitarisation and policing reform, that were of great importance to republicans). The alleged discovery of a republican spy network operating among civil servants in the seat of government and parliament, Stormont, led to the UUP's decision to suspend the institutions created under the Belfast Agreement. (Despite many arrests and the confiscation of a large amount of material by the PSNI during a widely publicised investigation, no convictions resulted.) While the Agreement has not been scrapped, its institutions remain suspended, pending a resolution of the issues of policing, demilitarisation and paramilitary disarmament and the full implementation of all the Agreement's provisions. The DUP have repeatedly pledged to destroy the Agreement.

A Complex Man

Though a religious leader, Paisley's language has been condemned by others as extreme and provocative. Though fiercely anti-Roman Catholic (as an MEP he repeatedly called Pope John Paul II the Antichrist in the parliamentary chamber when the Pontiff came to address the European Parliament), he nonetheless attracts a small number of Roman Catholic votes in his Westminster and European constituencies where he has a reputation as a hardworking MP who will help or defend anyone whatever his or her religious beliefs and his views of them. Though critical of the Republic of Ireland he has religious followers in the Republic and specifically in his capacity as a religious leader with followers in the Republic, he agreed to meet the Taoiseach, Bertie Ahern, in Government Buildings in Dublin. He reversed this stance when he met Bertie Ahern in Dublin in September 2004 in his capacity as leader of the Democratic Unionist Party. At a further meeting with Ahern, at the Irish embassy in London, when offered a meal Paisley asked for boiled eggs so he could not be drugged or poisoned (even though the Irish government does not have a reputation for this kind of activity). From the 1960s, one of his main rivals was civil rights leader and second leader of the nationalist SDLP, John Hume. Though their parties are so often at loggerheads, Hume and Paisley worked jointly on behalf of Northern Ireland in the European Parliament and on occasion work jointly in the House of Commons. Indeed the complexity of their relationship was demonstrated when it was discovered that Hume had visited Paisley's home to dine with Ian and his wife Eileen on St.Stephen's Day, (Boxing Day) one year in the 1990s. When Hume resigned the leadership of the SDLP, Paisley gave very warm praise of "John" and a very accurate estimation of how difficult the SDLP would find it to fill the void left by the departing leader. (Some suggested that the comments by Paisley were given because he thought he was just chatting to journalists and that the TV cameras weren't on. The sight of a warm, witty quiet Paisley at that moment contrasted with the usual image of the forceful, loud aggressive Paisley people were used to seeing!) In one particular irony, having spent most of his career, as he himself jokingly admitted once, saying 'No', Paisley assumed the chairmanship of the Agriculture committee of the Northern Ireland Assembly created by the Belfast Agreement, where he was praised (even by Sinn Féin members with whom he worked) as an effective, co-ordinating chairman. He had a particularly good working relationship with the Minister for Agriculture, the SDLP's Bríd Rogers. Paisley, an ardent teetotaller all his life, often asked journalists and nationalist politicians "let me smell your breath" when they asked him particularly tough questions, insinuating they had first taken on board some "Dutch courage".

Defender or Demagogue?

His critics see his work in the European Parliament and in Stormont of late and argue that he could have been, had he so wished, one of the greatest builders of a new inclusive Northern Ireland. To his supporters, Ian Kyle Paisley is seen as a passionate and brilliant defender of the union between Northern Ireland and Great Britain. They argue that he stood up for unionists who were under attack from nationalists, from the Republic of Ireland and from British governments willing to give away "unionist rights" and ignore unionist fears to placate nationalists and the IRA. To one side, he is seen as the wrecker whose extremism almost destroyed Northern Ireland. To the other, Ian Paisley is the great defender, the protector who saved Northern Ireland from "Rome Rule" and "Dublin rule".

To his opponents however, Paisley is seen as a demagogue, a crude rabble-rouser who spent his political career saying 'no'; no to O'Neill's reform, no to contacts with the Republic, no to Sunningdale, no to the convention, no to James Prior's rolling devolution, no to the Anglo-Irish Agreement, no to the Belfast Agreement. To his opponents (including many in unionism) he is seen as a uniquely destructive influence whose extremism lost potential friends and helped alienate people outside Northern Ireland sympathetic to unionism. In the 1980's, the Ulster Unionist Party's Robert McCartney described Paisley as a fascist. Former members of loyalist terrorist groups on ceasefire because of the Good Friday Agreement verbally attacked Paisley at one press conference, saying that as impressionable teenagers they had been attracted to extreme loyalism by his violent and provocative speeches, blaming him for much of the violence that resulted. Paisley has never accepted any culpability for any violence, despite his many fiery speeches.

Nearing Retirement

Now in his late 70s, Paisley is in physically poor health, having aged noticeably, and has been gradually lowering his political profile. Instead he had been devoting much of his time to working with his church on the 'missions' in Africa, where he draws large crowds of converts. His deputy leader of the DUP, Peter Robinson has served as a Minister in the Northern Ireland Executive, where he has earned a large reputation, and is seen as a possible First Minister of Northern Ireland in the next Northern Executive. Robinson is predicted to move the DUP to a more moderate, pragmatic position within electoral unionism. Robinson may however be challenged for the leadership by Ian Paisley, junior, Paisley's son, or Nigel Dodds.

On January 19 2004 he announced he would not be standing for the European Parliament in the 2004 elections. Both loved and held in contempt, the Rev. Ian Paisley defied his critics in early 2005 by confirming he would again contest the North Antrim seat in the next British general election in 2005, which he won. He traditionally celebrates every election victory with a hymn in the count centre. Currently his party controls half of Northern Ireland's seats in the Westminster, and holds about a third of seats in the Northern Ireland Assembly and the District Councils.

Family confirms tests for unspecified illness

In July 2004 Dr. Paisley's family stated that he had been undergoing tests for an undisclosed illness. The family suggested that the release of the information was to quell widespread rumours within Northern Ireland and abroad that Dr. Paisley was suffering from a potentially terminal illness; widespread rumours in Northern Ireland suggested either cancer or heart disease. The family declined to indicate the nature of the suspected illness, citing privacy. Though the family statement was reported in general terms, the media in Northern Ireland, the United Kingdom and the Republic Ireland unusually opted not to speculate as to the nature, if any, of Dr. Paisley's illness. Political opponents, both unionist and nationalist, also declined to discuss the marked physical deterioration in Dr. Paisley's health other than to wish him a full recovery. Martin McGuinness, Sinn Fein's chief negotiator commented: "I look forward to sharing power with Ian Paisley, if he survives." By 2005 he seemed to have returned to a good state of health.


Ian Paisley and his wife Eileen have three children who have followed their father into politics or religion; Kyle, into the church, their son Ian (a DUP assemblyman) and daughter Rhonda (a graduate of Bob Jones University), who served as a member of Belfast City Council but has since left politics. (She once presented a TV chat show on the Republic's Radio Telifís Éireann, Saturday Live where one of her guests was her father Ian, who charmed some viewers with his personality and good humour, in contrast to the normal 'Ian Paisley' seen on news bulletins. Another guest on that show was Irish comedian Brendan Grace. In the summer of 1991, she described UDA bombings in the Republic as "understandable".)

In 1981, he appeared on a hillside at dead of night with 500 men brandishing firearms licenses and later had a brief alliance with Ulster Resistance, which (like the UDA at the time) was not an illegal organisation, but was ostensibly set up to defend unionists near the border that they believed the British Government was ignoring. The DUP now plays down this association.

In 1985 he and the rest of the unionist MPs resigned from Parliament at Westminster in protest at the Anglo-Irish Agreement and were returned in the resulting by-elections.

Famous Quotes

  • "I will kill all who get in my way", after a loyalist rally in 1968. He shouted this out at some reporters
  • When Terence O'Neill held a meeting with Sean Lemass, Paisley shouted "No mass! No Lemass!"
  • After a Loyalist rally in 1968, Ian Paisely justified outrages by claiming: "Catholic homes caught fire because they were loaded with petrol bombs; Catholic churches were attacked and burned because they were arsenals and priests handed out sub-machine guns to parishioners"; he also said the massive discrimination in employment and allocation of public housing for Catholics existed because "they breed like rabbits and multiply like vermin".
  • In reference to the Unionist party's Jewish candidate, Harold Smith, he said, "The Unionist party are boasting he [Harold Smith] is a Jew. As a Jew, he rejects our Lord Jesus Christ, the New Testament, Protestant principles, the Glorious Reformation and the sanctity of the Lord's day. The Protestant throne and the Protestant constitution are nothing to him."
  • In 1968, in a heated debate with the fierce Republican Bernadette Devlin, he responded to her accusations of his unfair assumptions by saying he, "would rather be British than be fair."
  • During a visit from the Pope, Ian Paisley yelled "I denounce you. Anti-Christ" several times at the European Parliament. The whole affair can be heard on sermonaudio.com (http://www.sermonaudio.com/sermoninfo.asp?currSection=&sermonID=6842)
  • "We are not prepared to stand idly by and be murdered in our beds."
  • "Save Ulster from sodomy!" - Paisley's slogan in a 1970s and 80s campaign against legalising homosexuality.
  • Addressing a crowd at Loughgall; "I am anti-Roman Catholic, but God being my judge, I love the poor dupes who are ground down under that system."
  • "The Provisional IRA is the military wing of the Roman Catholic Church.
  • Describing the then head of the Catholic Church in Ireland, Tomás Ó Fiach; "The IRA's bishop from Crossmaglen."

External links


  • Steve Bruce, God save Ulster! The religion and politics of Paisleyism. Oxford: Clarendon Press. 1986.
  • Dennis Cooke, Persecuting Zeal: a portrait of Ian Paisley, Brandon Books, 1996.
  • Martha Abele Mac Iver, "Ian Paisley and the Reformed Tradition", Political Studies, September 1987.
  • Ed Moloney & Andy Pollak, Paisley, Poolbeg Press, 1986.
  • Clifford Smyth, Ian Paisley: Voice of Protestant Ulster. Edinburgh: Scottish Academic, 1987.de:Ian Paisley

fr:Ian Paisley nl:Ian Paisley sv:Ian Paisley


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