Dr Ian Paisley 1926-2014


Dr Ian Paisley 1926-2014

Some people seem to be born with superhuman powers, and I would say that Ian Paisley was one of them. Such people have massive amounts of energy, focus and determination. They often become leaders of men, inspiring great loyalty from their followers. They can persuade, encourage and inspire.

With his passing, we are seeing an interesting view of Ian Paisley, one that would not have been seen had he died anytime before the early 2000s. Before this time he was still very much Ulster’s ‘Dr No’ – a man determined to oppose any sign of compromise towards what he regarded as a dangerous enemy: Irish Republicanism.

Ian Paisley was a minister of religion and a politician, and was undoubtedly a figurehead for Northern Ireland, despite his controversial image. He was elected to the European Parliament several times in a row, a feat that would have been unlikely without the broad support of both communities in the province and the quirks of the PR system of voting.

Often outrageously controversial, he was a force of nature and something of an enigma. Many who spent time with him would speak of his personal warmth and charm. However, put him in front of a loyal crowd and the media spotlight, and he appeared to change into a monster, determined to smash his opponents. Indeed, this was the Ian Paisley of my youth, televised across the 1980s and denounced – in my household at least – as a ‘nutter’! To many in England, the conflict in Northern Ireland was a throwback to another era, and the province itself was a backwater, barely related to the rest of the UK and bringing nothing good: just bombs and mayhem to the mainland. While we disliked the IRA intensely (because a lot of people were dying at their hands) we were also at a loss to explain the passions that drove the loyal Orangemen.

I am not here to defend everything Ian Paisley did in the political arena. I don’t know all that went on, but I think I’ve heard the worst of it. You might have heard more than me, I don’t know. Either way, it is a shame that this Protestant clergyman – an evangelical no less – should have been associated with a lot of powerful rhetoric which (it is claimed by his detractors) led some people to violent acts or attitudes towards Catholics/Nationalists. The Bible is clear about ‘letting our gentleness be evident to all’ and ‘avoiding the appearance of evil’. Clearly, Ian Paisley crossed the line sometimes.

In fact, it must be said, I cannot defend all he did in the Christian sphere either. Through his Free Presbyterian denomination, Ian Paisley distanced himself from many churches that would have agreed with him on the essential foundations of the Gospel, and much more besides. Those most in the firing line were those who embarked upon ecumenical ventures (especially with the Roman Catholic Church), although Christians who drank alcohol, danced or who wore certain clothing could be under close srutiny, and criticism, also.

And yet…and yet…there was more to him than this. I met Ian Paisley once or twice, and even received a brief email from him. I was struck by his personal warmth and charm, as many others have been – and not just his fans. Even critical accounts of his life (e.g. Ed Moloney’s 1986 biography ‘Paisley’) cannot portray a monster on every page. In fact Moloney paints a fascinating picture of Paisley, the politician-pastor, equipped only with a Bible and his trademark overcoat, striding around the staunchly Catholic Rathlin Island on the North Antrim coast. There he went, meeting his constituents – mostly fishermen – and listening to their woes, never taking paper notes, only mental ones, and taking their concerns back to Westminster.

I’ve never forgotten this image. It is inspiring. This is spirituality, Christian duty and political nous at its very best. It is unpretentious and sincere. Those political duties would have been more than enough to keep us busy, but Paisley also pastored a church, delivered sermons and had a full diary of speaking engagements too. Energy like that is God-given, but do we, as modern Christians, ever ask for the power to be able to serve God so mightily?

Whatever men say (and Ian Paisley, for all his faults, knew that he was never going to be loved by all for his uncompromising stance) there was something he was consistently right about: the only opinion that matters is that of Jesus Christ. What do we make of Him? Do we love Him? Do we love others enough to preach Christ to them?  Has He forgiven our sins and given us eternal life?

On these Christian essentials Ian Paisley never wavered. I will always care a lot more about my public image than Ian Paisley did about his, but nonetheless, there is something inspiring about Christians who speak up for Jesus, irrespective of the cost and their repuation.

How should today’s Christians regard Ian Paisley’s legacy? We should not to dismiss him as an embarrassing dinosaur, nor emulate everything he did (and he admitted to many past faults as he grew older), but to be a single-minded lover of Christ who will not buckle under the pressure to deny him or compromise His standards.

Even more important, as the rain-soaked Paisley trooping around Rathlin island demonstrated, showing a real care and concern for your fellow man (even your ‘enemies’) leaves a real impression of Christ on them. It is said many of them voted for him, in spite of the criticism it would have engendered in the community, if discovered. Words AND deeds.

Certainly, Ian Paisley had the words (and not always the kindest ones) but he had the deeds as well.

Learn from Ian Paisley; don’t emulate his mistakes, but emulate his sheer hard work for the Gospel, and his unwavering love for Christ. He was not ashamed of Jesus.






Who Killed Jill Dando?


Background: As baffling today as it was then

During some down-time this summer I revisited a topic that I have read about with great interest from time to time: the murder of Jill Dando. It is one of the enduring mysteries of modern times.

Whilst not quite in the JFK or 9/11 league for “Where were you when it happened?”, I do remember the day of her murder well. It was Monday 26th April 1999, and the news of what was initially thought to be a stabbing was raised as a particularly poor taste joke by a work colleague.

Upon checking online, or getting home to the news (I don’t remember which) the grim rumour was a reality; Jill Dando had been shot in the head on her doorstep.

I have been trying to think of an equivalent situation today, but it is a struggle. It is a bit like someone saying that Carol Kirkwood, the weather presenter, had been assasinated (God forbid).

In both cases, the people involved are famous female UK TV personalities, both with very cheerful styles and apparently sunny outlooks on life. They deliver harmless, feel-good TV and bring a lot of happiness to many. Why on earth would they suffer a very public, very violent death? What could possibly be the motive?

Even now, Jill Dando’s murder is as baffling as it is shocking, and a terrible example of just how awful violence against women by men is. Why should an unarmed, innocent lady be brutally attacked in a place where she should have felt very safe?

Now, the analogy above is somewhat imperfect. With the greatest of respect to Ms Kirkwood, Jill Dando had journalistic experience and had been a news presenter, delivering the serious issues of early nineties current affairs. More importantly, she co-presented Crimewatch, a proper ‘gritty’ TV show, with Nick Ross. So, although a very happy and cheery presenter, Jill Dando was not immune to more serious broadcasting and mild controversy in her public profile.

Background Information

I will not attempt to go into all the details of what happened on that day, or the subsequent investigations. Although this murder happened near the beginning of the ‘web’ age, there is still a fair amount of good information out there online (although I would avoid paedophile conspiracy theory sites, of which there are many).

The case still makes headlines today and even a cursory Google will reveal articles in the national newspapers about the latest theories (which, ironically, tend to be very old ideas re-heated).

One ebook I found particularly useful was by Mike Bourke, Barry’s uncle, and it is available on Kindle.

‘The Battle to Clear Barry George of TV star Jill Dando’s Murder’

The link is below and you can read my review of the book there also.


Another item worth considering is the May 1999 episode of Crimewatch, which was the first broadcast following her murder. This is a helpful way of getting back to a lot of original witness material. There is no hindsight here, just raw uninterpreted facts, and it is a refreshing way to look at the case.

Possible Theories

  1. The Serbs did it because NATO bombed the TV centre in  Belgrade and Jill fronted an appeal for refugees in the Balkans, which many said was biased against the Serbs; Motive = revenge and warning to the West/NATO
  2. Career criminals did it because of Crimewatch; motive = don’t investigate organised crime
  3. Barry George did it; lone, obsessive nut theory; motive=jealousy, fame or unknown motive
  4. Someone like Barry George did it; lone, obsessive nut theory II (same motives)
  5. Someone very close to Jill did it, or gave orders for the murder; motive= her forthcoming marriage or a past greviance
  6. Another professional assasin did it; motive = unknown

Having given you something to think about, I will add another section to this article at a later date.


Scotland Decides

I can hold back no longer….

I predict a ‘No’ vote of anything up to 5%.

I am not sure that this will actually put away the demands for independence for ‘a generation’ as the Yes campaign seem more concerned with matters of the heart over those of the head, and that’s a tricky thing to placate. I don’t think the Yes campaign will be at all content to settle down quietly.

I don’t understand the point of an independent Scotland. It doesn’t strike me as particularly independent with a proposed currency union, the Queen, the EU and probably Eastenders also. (Although the Monarchy will surely be jettisoned when the older voters die off?)

The ‘No’ campaign has been absolutely useless, and New Labour and David Cameron should be absolutely ashamed that they ever let this particular cat out of the bag. They have potentially split the UK forever.