Ian Paisley died today at a time when Unionism, the cause of his political life, faces its most recent challenge in the Scottish Referendum. For decades he was the ‘big man’ of politics in Northern Ireland who was to make a remarkable transition as a supporter of the Good Friday peace process. The perceived change clinching the Northern Ireland peace process symbolized by the handshake with a loathed adversary Martin McGuinness which was to lead to an unlikely and warm working-relationship, and friendship.
In his time, he was as divisive as Margaret Thatcher, and her equal in unshakably rigid beliefs, vehemently expressed. According to friends, the two leaders shared a softer private side, some would say a shadow-self, beneath their blustering public persona.
The mix of charm and menace used to remind me of other physically formidable charismatics such as Tiny Roland and Conrad Black.
To go more deeply
An earlier LWD post looked at the period of the transformation to elder statesman and peace broker.