15 September 2014
Remembering Ian Paisley
This week Northern Ireland and the rest of the world remember Ian Paisley, who died on Friday.
He was a husband, father, The Lord Bannside, politician and Church Minister. He founded and led both the Democratic Unionist Party and the Free Presbyterian Church for over 40 years together. Paisley was a gifted preacher and politician - though he often had difficulty combining the two.
He was known around the world for his religious and political opposition to Irish Republicanism, forever bellowing the words 'No' and 'Never!' He matched these firebrand words with actions, calling for protests that ground Northern Ireland to a halt. He even threw snowballs at the car of the Irish Prime Minister. However it was the radical grace of the gospel he preached for over 60 years that seemed to shape him more profoundly in his last years.
In 2007 he shocked supporters and opponents by entering into power with Sinn Fein's Martin McGuinness. This act was simultaneously regarded as his greatest redemption or his greatest betrayal. He developed a close friendship with the former IRA leader and the pair became known as the 'chuckle brothers'.
Although speculation continues as to whether this change of heart was driven by ego, legacy, politics or theology, Paisley made clear in his final interviews that it was time to make peace: "Everybody'll not be pleased, but it'll be peace and it'll be prosperity for us."
Peter Lynas, director of the Alliance in Northern Ireland, recalls: "We met with Martin McGuinness a few weeks ago about reconciliation, and he was remembering fondly his relationship with Ian Paisley." Martin McGuinness said he had lost a friend when the news of his death broke.
We'll end by giving the last words to the Big Man himself: "If you hear in the press that Ian Paisley is dead, don't believe a word of it. I'll be more alive than ever... I'll be singing as I never sang before."