In the name of religion, Ian Paisley adds to the disquiet and confusion in Northern Ireland.

The farther away one is, the easier it is to explain the complexities of Northern Ireland. Said one Belfast citizen: “Anyone who isn’t confused here doesn’t really understand what is going on.” One gets thrown by finding humor amid devastation: beneath the standard slogan NO POPE HERE, someone has added LUCKY OLD POPE. You marvel at the resilience of ordinary decent folk caught up in a web spun yesterday and the day before. A sense of history can be a drawback where hard facts are no match for tradition.

In handling this subject, evangelical writers are in a dilemma, for the province’s best-known Protestant politician believes in the inerrancy of Scripture—and this can be a subtle invitation to blind-eye-turning to more questionable activities. Earlier this year, the Reverend Ian Paisley paraded in rural Antrim a 500-strong body of supporters who waved firearm certificates instead of guns before a few carefully selected journalists. The intention of the demonstration, which took army and police by surprise, was a warning against the setting up of an all-Ireland republic. Paisley insists that he acted within the law, and adds that the next development would “produce something more substantial.” Some dismissed the parade as a gimmick not unrelated to the upcoming local elections in May.

Ian Richard Kyle Paisley was born in 1926, and studied at South Wales Bible College and the Reformed Presbyterian College in Belfast. He was ordained at 20 by his Baptist pastor father, and subsequently ministered to a group that had broken from the Presbyterian church in Ireland. There emerged in 1951 a body known as the Free Presbyterian Church of Ulster, ...

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