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Ian Paisley praises pro-life Catholics with values 'identical' to his own

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Ian Paisley

Ian Paisley

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Pro-life campaigners on the streets of Belfast have the backing of Ian Paisley

Pro-life campaigners on the streets of Belfast have the backing of Ian Paisley

Ian Paisley

Ian Paisley has revealed that his admires the fact that pro-life Catholics are not "embarrassed" to stand up for their views on the controversial issue.

The DUP MP for North Antrim made the statement in a platform piece for the Catholic Herald publication praising those who practice the faith and share values "identical to my own beliefs".

Mr Paisley explains that his admiration of Catholics stems from the fact they are "unashamed" about the fact the Christian denomination "promotes devotion and values family, children and life" - admitting his comments may raise eyebrows coming from the son of the late Ian Paisley senior.

However, despite public perceptions of his father, Mr Paisley says that his upbringing as the son of a pastor meant that "people of all backgrounds, all faiths and none" were welcomed into the family home.

"Very often, it was a Roman Catholic visitor who wanted a prayer said for them and their situation," he continues.

"As a public representative since 1996 and in Westminster for the past 10 years, I've never got away from the belief that my role is not unlike that of a pastor. Trying to give comfort and help to folk in trouble. And again, it's people from all backgrounds and faiths who come to me. "Everybody's problems are different but their needs for comfort, help, discernment and guidance are all equal."

The MP adds that he has been given a "practical day-to-day" insight into the faith by his Catholic constituents.

Whilst my faith may not require me to light a candle for a bereaved loved one or friend, I wouldn't dismiss lightly that kind of public display or token of concern and thought Ian Paisley

"What strikes me most is that they are unashamed and are never embarrassed about having a faith that promotes devotion and values family, children and life," he insists.

"These values are identical to my own beliefs. Whilst my faith may not require me to light a candle for a bereaved loved one or friend, I wouldn't dismiss lightly that kind of public display or token of concern and thought. Even Christians can sometimes be too stiff-upper-lipped to express emotion."

Describing himself as a "long-time campaigner for the protection of the rights of the unborn", Mr Paisley said it was "without doubt" the strongest support he has received - both publicly and privately - has been from his Catholic constituents.

"They are quite happy to tell me that they disagree with many aspects of my politics," he admits.

"But they say that's easily put aside when they know I'm fighting faithfully on this matter. To hear them say this - either privately in whispers or more publicly - brings a wave of real encouragement and a sense that I am doing the right thing.

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Pro-life campaigners on the streets of Belfast have the backing of Ian Paisley

Pro-life campaigners on the streets of Belfast have the backing of Ian Paisley

Pro-life campaigners on the streets of Belfast have the backing of Ian Paisley

"Just in the last six months, I've received over 800 letters and emails from constituents who are Roman Catholic offering support on this one issue. That cannot be overvalued."

He goes on to say that this is in sharp contrast to those who take the same stance in his own faith.

"As an evangelical Protestant I get tired by the embarrassment some of my faith have in declaring pro-life views," explains Mr Paisley,

"They say to me: 'Yes, Ian, you might think that but you can no longer say it', or 'I agree with you, but we've just got to leave it with the Lord and realise we can't do anything about it'.

"Frankly, that lack of faith appals me. Maybe it's because I was brought up by a man of action that I just won't let go. But I think it's also the fact that my Roman Catholic constituents want a champion, even when the odds are stacked so decisively against us all on this issue."

Stressing that he admires that "loyalty" and "determined spirit", he also singles out anti-abortion campaigner, Bernie Smyth, who heads up Precious Life.

"She very happily signed my Westminster nomination on the basis of my pro-life credentials. I was moved by the fact that she was publicly happy to nail her colours to the mast," said the MP.

"Northern Ireland is a small place. That sort of public declaration doesn't go unnoticed. The local parish priest also wrote to me before the last election.

"He told me he was openly urging anyone who would listen to him to support me because of these credentials. Then, in a practical way, the community put their money where their mouth is, sending me members to join my campaign team to put literature through doors and talk to constituents about the matter.

"That reminded me of why I admire my Roman Catholic friends. I am so grateful to them for sharing the same values about the right to life for the most vulnerable."

The platform piece can be read online at www.catholicherald.co.uk

Belfast Telegraph