God is not only Protestant, he is an Ulsterman and a member of the Orange Order
Ian Paisley dominated hardline unionism and his dual role as political and religious leader provided a controversial combination of anti-nationalism and anti-Catholicism
As we wait for the BBC interview with Mr Paisley next week, let’s run our own special highlights of his life and career
Ian Kyle Paisley, born on April 6, 1926 in the town of Ballymena, was reared in the tradition of evangelical Protestantism. His father, Rev. J. Kyle Paisley a Baptist minister, ordained him in 1946 when he was 20 years old. He is not an orthodox Presbyterian minister, though he holds an honorary degree of Doctor of Divinity from
the Bob Jones University, a theological college in the Bible Belt of South Carolina, USA which is associated with anti-Catholic and racist teachings and practices. BJU banned all black students until 1971 and maintained a policy banning inter-racial dating until 2000.
Paisley used religious and political intransigence as a means to further his own career. He is one of the most vicious anti-Catholic hate mongers and is implicated by the actions of his own followers in conspiring to deprive Catholics of their lives, rights and property
1951: Ian Paisley founded his own church, the Free Presbyterian Church of Ulster, with himself as moderator.
It is believed that he started his pastoral career in a disused army hut
somewhere about Belfast’s dockland
Highlights of his life and career
1) 1956:The Maura Lyons Abduction
15-year-old Maura Lyons, a Belfast working-class girl, was the eldest of a family of five from the Catholic Falls Road. She was a stitcher for the Star Clothing Company where visiting gospellers caused her to doubt her Catholicism.
She contacted a minister of the Free Presbyterian Church who introduced her to Ian Paisley.Maura joined his church and told her parents. Her father, a shipyard worker, and her mother were horrified; so was the parish priest. There were family conferences, prayers and tears. Her father beat her and called in three Roman Catholic priests who ‘seemed determined to force me into convent life‘, she said later. She escaped by jumping from a bedroom window.Then she disappeared
“Abduction!” cried her family and their Catholic friends, and they accused the Rev. David Leathern, who had converted Maura, of spiriting her away. Free Presbyterian Leathern denied any knowledge of the girl’s whereabouts, and so did Ian Paisley, moderator of the church
Free Presbyterians smuggled her into Scotland – a criminal offence.
Irish newspapers, north and south, went wild. The Royal Ulster Constabulary searched for the girl, and found a wall of silence.
Two months later, Paisley publicly played a tape-recording of Maura Lyons describing her conversion. He was laconic with the truth: “the tape”, he said, “had been found among milk bottles on his doorstep“.
Paisley played it to an audience consisting of all of Belfast’s 1,000 Free Presbyterians, Maura’s family and the police.
“My Roman Catholic religion had been fear and dread,” said the voice. “The new religion to which I was introduced was simple and free from fear.”
He also showed his talent for playing the beleaguered hero. ‘If I knew where the girl was I would not take her to the police,‘ he said. ‘Very well, I am committing an offence. I will do time for it. I would be proud to do time for Protestant liberty.’
Reporter Norman Lucas of London’s News Chronicle (circ. 1,252,778) wrote a story of a “secret rendezvous” he had had with Maura in northwest England,
“to which I had been driven in a closed car—blindfolded for the last 20 minutes . . .”
She had been flown to England and smuggled in and out of about 25 houses in 18 weeks, wrote Reporter Lucas, constantly changing her hair style and clothes.
Maura told him that she would stay in “this Protestant underground” until May, when she would become 16 and in British law no longer a minor.
“There is an underground method of dealing with this girl which rivals those operating in occupied countries during the war,” said Republican Labor M.P. Harry Diamond, a Catholic, in Northern Ireland’s House of Commons.
“There have been evasion, lies, attempted blackmail and an obvious conspiracy.”
While UK police searched for her, a Protestant leader said: “There is no official underground to hide girls like her, but because so many people believe in freedom of worship there are many families who would be willing to to hide her.”
Eighteen months later, the Belfast High Court noted that ‘Mr Paisley was in touch with the girl when prima facie she was abducted‘. He had attempted to use her as an anti-Catholic propaganda stunt and would not inform police where she was. On the order of the court,
Maura Lyons was returned to her parents. Paisley was ordered never to go near the girl or her family again
2) Paisley and Catholicism
April, 1958, in his magazine, Revivalist Ian Paisley responded Fr. Murphy of Ballymurphy,
“‘Priest Murphy, speak for your own bloodthirsty, persecuting, intolerant, blaspheming, politic-religious papacy, but do not dare to pretend to be the spokesman of free Ulster men . . . Go back to your priestly intolerance, back to your blasphemous Masses, back to your beads, holy water, holy smoke and stinks and remember . . we know your church to be the mother of harlots and the abominations of the Earth.’
1959: The Presbyterian Moderator of Ireland was on tour of churches and visited a Catholic priest, the Rev. J. Wilson,
whom he had befriended. Rev. Paisley described this act of human friendship as an act of “blasphemy”.
1962:Paisley protested in Rome against the Second Vatican Council,
1963: he opposed the lowering of the Belfast City Hall flag in respect at the death of Pope John XXIII.
“This Romish man of sin is now in Hell!” he said on the death of Pope John XXIII.
1988: Ian Paisley heckles Pope John Paul II at the European parliament
and justifies his behaviour
2010: Paisley led protests against Pope Benedict’s visit to Britain
by accusing him of promising Catholics salvation in return for £25. In the first official visit by a Pope in British history
he said the Queen should not have met the Pontiff
(to be continued)
Contesting Ulster,John D. Brewer,In Ron Robin and Bo Strath (eds) Homelands: Poetic Power and the Politics of Space, Pp. 283-304. Brussels: Peter Lang. 2003.