Paisley's tribute to late Grand Master
Published 13/07/2007 | 07:46
What a difference a year makes. This time last year, it was harsh words from DUP leader Ian Paisley who warned it would be "over our dead bodies" that Sinn Fein would be in government.
But yesterday, he addressed the hundreds of Independent Orangemen at Ballymoney Showgrounds as First Minister.
Around 20 lodges, bands and Lambeg drumming parties were expected to take part in the annual Co Antrim demonstration. But numbers seemed to be down, with only about 15 bands turning up.
It was the first time the parade had been in the town since the Institution's centenary in 2003 and crowds lined the streets to watch the procession.
Bands from Ballymoney, Rasharkin, Portglenone and Londonderry were among those to take part.
Familiar faces from the political scene including Gregory Campbell and Ian Paisley Junior were on hand to see their party leader make his speech.
The grey skies reflected the sombre mood of the parade, the first since Imperial Grand Master George Dawson died in May.
A minute's silence was observed in his memory in the field ahead of the speeches.
In his inaugural Twelfth as First Minister, Ian Paisley made no mention of politics; instead, he stuck strictly to the religious devotional service.
There was none of the "never, never, never" rhetoric which raised cheers in Portrush last year. The only brush with controversy was a statement in which he said he wished the Pope would take a permanent holiday.
There had been fears of hecklers and jeering, particularly from disheartened members of Mr Paisley's Free Presbyterian Church, but these proved to be unfounded.
There was at least one poster in the town talking of an unholy DUP alliance and graffiti on the main road between Ballymena and Ballymoney which read " No DUP sell out", but Mr Paisley received much support.
There were rumours that some of the lodges and bandsmen would boycott the field but, again, they proved untrue and Mr Paisley was applauded on to the platform to make his speech.
He informed the Belfast Telegraph he would not be intimidated by the prospect of being heckled and said even if there were "700 of them" he would "not be chased".
He defended his decision to go into the power-sharing Executive and said the DUP were still pressing Sinn Fein over issues like the IRA Army Council.
In his speech, he led tributes to the late Mr Dawson saying he had lost " a friend" and "a great man".
Added Mr Paisley: "The Pope of Rome this very week issued a startling statement from Rome. He celebrated July 12 by unchurching every church in Christendom but his own.
"He denied every other religious denomination the right to be called a church ... the teaching of the present Pope declared this week the fact that Rome never changes and will never change. The rejection of this Popish claim must be uncompromising."
Deputy Imperial Grand Master Cyril Glass, who took over the duty of grand master until a new one is elected in January, also paid tribute to Mr Dawson.
He described the Institution's youngest and longest-serving Grand Master as " an inspiration who was always thinking ahead and planning for the future" . Some time in the future, he said, Mr Dawson may be equalled, but added that he would never be surpassed.
Mr Glass played down the role of politics within the Independent Institution saying that they were primarily a religious temperance organisation.
"Our motto is Protestantism not politics, principles not party and measures not men," he said.