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Ian Paisley's toxic mix of religion and politics failed

I first heard Ian Paisley at the Ulster Hall in 1964. Edward Carson's son was the main speaker, but as he could barely string a couple of sentences together, Paisley soon brushed him aside and took over in his usual barnstorming fashion. I remember thinking: "This must have been what it felt like at a Nuremberg rally addressed by Adolf Hitler."

Big Ian was like a bigoted hangover from the 17th century, with his mob oratory. Certainly, his ranting that Catholics were vermin and bred like rabbits would today be considered a hate crime.

At that time there was a strong liberal element among the Protestant people who were open to political change, but Ian destroyed that progress of people from different backgrounds working together. Every unionist leader from O'Neill to Trimble was a traitor and a Lundy.

I am, of course, delighted he had a deathbed conversion, turned turtle, and joined the human race, but if you are asking me to forget all that went before, I find that difficult because that is saying he was the solution to the problem he himself created.

We now have the St Andrews Agreement. Unfortunately, unlike Sinn Fein, Ian Paisley did not prepare his flock for this immense turnaround and we are left with a large section of DUP voters that cannot abide power-sharing with republicans, simply because big Ian told them for decades it would never happen.

History tells us religion and politics are a toxic mix, Ian Paisley was a personification of this.

Andy Barr

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