Paisley took credit due to others for peace, claims David Ervine’s family
Late first minister ‘an old man who did a lot of damage’, says relative of late PUP leader
Linda Ervine: Ian Paisley was “turned upon” by his own people, “but for the wrong reasons”. Photograph: Charles McQuillan/Pacemaker.
Ms Ervine, a sister-in-law of the late Progressive Unionist Party leader David Ervine, was responding to questions about the significance of Dr Paisley in the North’s affairs at the 26th Desmond Greaves Annual School at the Pádraig Pearse Centre in Dublin.
Ms Ervine said her earliest memories were of her father, a committed communist and egalitarian, railing against the television as Dr Paisley protested against civil rights marchers. Later, with her family living in “the last Protestant house” on Beechfield Street, Dr Paisley led a rally outside the house that incited local rioting. After Dr Paisley had gone home to his “safe house”, Ms Ervine said her family were left to face the consequences and their windows were smashed.
She said Dr Paisley had claimed the credit due to her brother-in-law, whom she said had put his neck on the line in the peace process. Eventually, she said, Dr Paisley was “turned upon” by his own people, “but for the wrong reasons”.
Ms Ervine said Dr Paisley “was an old man who did a lot of damage, and an old man who realised that”. She said, however, she appreciated he had a family who should be shown respect at this time.
Another speaker at the summer school session, titled Unionism and the Way Forward, was the writer and commentator Owen Bennett, who said Dr Paisley was “probably a more charming individual than Peter Robinson”.
Mr Bennett, who said he was a Protestant as well as a former member of Sinn Féin, and who claimed the IRA campaign was nonsectarian, said that if Dr Paisley “had remained at the helm there might have been more progress”.
The third speaker at the session, Prof Peter Shirlow, said his politics and those of Dr Paisley were a long way apart.
“Part of his politics frames mine. I wish it could be the other way around but it wasn’t,” said Prof Shirlow, deputy director of the Institute for the Study of Conflict Transformation and Social Justice at Queens University Belfast.
Irish widely spoken
Ms Ervine earlier told the seminar that the 1911 census revealed that the ability to speak Irish was widespread in the unionist community. Together with Scots Gaelic and Ulster Scots, Irish transcended the religious divide.
As an Irish-language development officer for east Belfast, Ms Irvine said there was often difficulty in getting individual members of her own church and community to appreciate that fact. “Some people are unwilling or unable to accept the truth,” she said.
The annual Desmond Greaves Summer School is named in memory of the labour historian who championed a campaign for civil rights as an antidote to unionist domination in Northern Ireland.