Saturday 14 December 2019

From the Archives: A profile of Ian Paisley

First published in March 2007

You are welcome, Rev Ian Paisley and Taoiseach Bertie Ahern at the Oldbridge Estate.
You are welcome, Rev Ian Paisley and Taoiseach Bertie Ahern at the Oldbridge Estate.
All smiles: clockwise from left: Martin McGuinness, Bertie Ahern, Tony Blair, Peter Hain and Ian Paisley
CROSSED SWORDS: Bertie Ahern and Ian Paisley Snr
Bertie Ahern and Northern Ireland's First Minister Ian Paisley hold swords during the official opening of the Battle of the Boyne site in Drogheda on May 6, 2008
Bertie Ahern watches Ian Paisley deliver an address at the Boyne site yesterday, with Eileen Paisley
Taoiseach Bertie Ahern at a tree-planting ceremony at Galgorm Resort and Spa in Ballymena with Northern Ireland First Minister Ian Paisley in February

THE last three times that Ian Paisley has met with the Taoiseach, the First Minister sported the same tie. It was blue and festooned with jaunty Union Jacks.

"My granddaughter gave it to me," he explained in Dundalk. "It's a very nice tie".

Dr Paisley has always been a family man. He has five children, three daughters Sharon, Rhonda and Cherith, and twin sons, Kyle and Ian Junior. Two of his offspring, Rhonda and Ian Junior, followed him into the boiling cauldron of politics in Northern Ireland. 

In an interview in 2005, Rhonda admitted, 'It wasn't just politics at the breakfast table, it was lunch, tea, dinner. It's very difficult when your father's a public figure, because for pure devilment, you want to do the opposite." 

But it may yet turn out that the close familial ties between both Rhonda and Ian Junior to their father may have contributed towards his exit from public life. 

For both children have in recent years added to the long list of controversies generated by the Paisley paterfamilias.

Rhonda -- a chip off the old block -- proved to be an unpredictable and somewhat colourful public figure. She was a member of Belfast City Council for the DUP, and when she was named as Mayoress of the City, she used to sound a trumpet every time Sinn Fein councillors tried to speak.

She retired from the limelight to become an author and artist and TV presenter. In 2005, she was back in the headlines when she launched a sex discrimination case against the DUP after she failed to get a job as a policy officer. A year later, she won an apology from her father's party.

More recently her brother, Ian Paisley Junior MLA has out-done Rhonda when it comes to attracting unwelcome headlines, due to his talent for putting his foot in his mouth. In 2005, he came under fire for voicing objections to same-sex marriages when he declared: "I think these sorts of relationships are immoral, offensive and obnoxious".

He rekindled the furore in May of last year in an interview with 'Hot Press' magazine: "I am pretty repulsed by gay and lesbianism. I think it is wrong. I think that those people harm themselves and -- without caring about it --harm society. That doesn't mean to say that I hate them -- I mean, I hate what they do". 

Ian Junior caused more serious unease among DUP members when his lobbying on behalf of a North Antrim property dealer, Seymour Sweeney over the building of a visitors' centre on the Giant's Causeway came to light last year. However, when he was questioned on his relationship with the businessman Ian Junior responded that he merely "knew of'' Sweeney.

The was swiftly discredited when pictures of the pair together emerged, and it later transpired that Paisley Jnr had lobbied on Sweeney's behalf on a number of issues, and had also bought a holiday home from Sweeney.

The knives were out in the DUP for Big Ian's son, who was regarded as an inexperienced politician out of his depth. 

Controversies further piled up this year, when it was revealed he was also paid as a Westminster researcher for his father while drawing salaries for being an MLA and a junior minister in the Northern Ireland Executive. 

This was followed by the revelation that both Ian Senior and Junior were claiming the £62,500 annually from the public purse to rent a constituency office in Ballymena. Furthermore, it was also revealed that Rhonda was employed as the First Minister's diary secretary at his Ravenhill Road office in Belfast. 

The clamour became too loud for even the once-powerful Paisley clan to ignore, and Ian Paisley Jnr resigned as junior minister on February 18. 

Immediately, the knives were re-sharpened and turned against the weakened First Minister. 

And perhaps with his greatest supporter and right-hand man out of the picture, Big Ian decided it too was time for him to quit the stage. 

Irish Independent

Today's news headlines, directly to your inbox every morning.

Also in this section