There are very few truly jaw dropping moments in politics. One of those happened on the 26th March 2007 which was the date the Paisley led a DUP delegation to meet with Sinn Féin and agreed to enter into government together as the two largest parties. It came months after the St Andrews Agreement which had agreed to new elections and a new executive but still the agreement that Paisley would serve as First Minister with Sinn Féin's Martin McGuinness as Deputy First Minister was truly jaw dropping.
But when Dr Paisley came to my grandmother's house he found a deeply religious woman who was prepared to speak her mind. She had been widowed since 1957 and raised two children who went on to University and teaching on her own from when they were 14 and 9. So when he asked her could the DUP candidate rely on her for a vote she said that no the divisiveness that his party and their policies were espousing where not things that she could agree with. She was after all born in Donegal in a very mixed small town dominated by the Catholic Church, Church of Ireland and Presbyterian Churches along the main street.
A similar event to the above happening in 1986 on a Wednesday during my mock O'levels. Paisley and Jim Kilfedder were out and about in Bangor market as was I before heading in for an afternoon exam. When he asked me if Mr Kilfedder could rely on my vote I said "If I was old enough, I'm sorry but I would not vote for you, because I believe we need to start to work with the rest of Ireland to secure a peace that has not existed here in my lifetime." I'm glad that eventually Mr Paisley did agree with me but that it took him 21 years longer to realise it than that 16 year old he met that day.
Of course another reason I never agreed with Mr Paisley came from my sexuality. At the time I was starting to realise that I found other boys more attractive than girls he was on his soap box telling all who could hear (and those megaphones can be heard all down Royal Avenue from his position in front of Belfast City Hall) that he was on a mission to save Ulster from Sodomy. That was something I don't think he ever truly changed his tune on, though there was mellowing of his language on the issue in recent years. If like his change of heart with Sinn Féin made steps to right that wrong as well we may well have unionism in Northern Ireland more able to accept equal marriage here today. Now without the figurehead that formed the DUP we are left with the disciples who seem unable to shift. His intransigence kept Northern Ireland 15 years behind England and Wales from decriminalising homosexuality and the legacy of still trailing must still in part lie at the feet of Paisley and his campaigning in the 80s and preaching from the pulpit to the same tune.
At one point his full title was Rev. Dr. Ian Kyle Paisley MP MEP MLA. He had also been a Councillor, was after he stepped down as MEP appointed to the Privy Council, and upon his retirement from the House of Commons in 2010 was elevated to the House of Lords as Lord Bannside alongside his wife Eileen who four years earlier had become Baroness Paisley of St. Georges in the County of Antrim.
He shall however, as a result of a marriage in the family, remain on my family tree. Our politics may be diversely opposed but there are less than six degrees of familial separation between us.
The Rev. and Rt. Hon. Baron Bannside, Ian Richard Kyle Paisley 6 April 1926 - 12 September 2014