Thursday 8 December 2016

John-Paul McCarthy: Paisley's twists and turns on his road to Damascus

The North's former First Minister is a very Irish figure in many ways, writes John-Paul McCarthy

Published 12/02/2012 | 05:00

WHEN I first heard that Ian Paisley had been rushed to hospital, I had a very odd instantaneous reaction. For some reason, I thought of Patrick Kavanagh's beautiful tribute poem to Jim Larkin, On the Death of Jim Larkin: an elegy written in March 1947.

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This isn't as well known as it should be, and it ends with the image of Larkin, 'the mob orator,/Whose flashing fiery sword merely was witness to/The sun rising' standing on a Dublin balcony. Wings suddenly fly over his bawling head, 'And they eat the loaf that nourishes great kings.'

I suppose I must have made a mental note years ago about how this imagery would have worked well in the Free Presbyterian Church. This rhetorical intersection between a Dublin poet and the blackguard faction of Ulster evangelicalism also makes sense at a broader level.

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