Ian Paisley, for all his faults, has always commanded media interest. He used to be quite witty and had a gift for a pithy turn of phrase.
Writing about him today and mentioning Charles Haughey, I recalled one of his better jokes. (Like many preachers, most of his ‘jokes’ were pretty lame.) Didn’t he once say that here in the North the donkeys said, “Hee haw, hee haw,” whereas in the South they said, “Haw hee, haw hee”?
When the English man, Sir Arthur Young came here to oversee changes in the police, Paisley or his newspaper, ‘The Protestant Telegraph’ quickly daubed the new Chief Constable, “Sir Artful Tongue”. That was quite a clever line.
Often enough, he was ‘entertaining’ in an unintentional, cringe-inducing sort of a way. He was always so out-of-touch with the world.
There was his demand to smell the breath of RTE reporter Kevin O’Kelly at the election count in February 1969. That was at Paisley’s first election when he surprisingly came within 1,414 votes of Prime Minister Terence O’Neill. When the reporter asked a question not entirely to his liking, Paisley alleged he had been on, “The Devil’s Buttermilk”.
Then there was his condemnation of line dancing as “sinful”. “The church regards the country and western style of dance as, as sinful as any other type of dancing with its sexual gestures and touching,” he wrote in a statement to be read to his congregations.
How out of line and out of touch was that with the popular craze? Dancing “clearly caters to the lust of the flesh,” he said.
We can assume then that he doesn’t approve of good girl gone bad, Miley Cyrus, and her twerking.
And, he’ll not like popular TV programmes ‘Strictly Come Dancing’ and ‘Dancing on Ice’.
It echoes back to those stories we’ve all heard of priests supervising dances in rural Ireland, checking partners weren’t getting too close.
It must be depressing to think that some people, somewhere, might actually be enjoying themselves.