Stirling's 'dilemma' for Council and Nicholl's response

COUNCILLOR Robin Stirling's motion presented to Ballymena Borough Council at their annual meeting read thus:

Councillor Robin Stirling:

Tonight I will present council with a dilemma. You will be given the opportunity to decide who is the genuine Dr Ian Paisley.

Is it the Paisley who for decades thundered against the Whore of Babylon, the Mother of Harlots, the treachery of the Ulster Unionists, the cowardly Alliance Party and the apostasy of the Presbyterian Church, the Methodist Church and the Church of Ireland?

Is it the paisley who declared: No compromise with Sinn Fein/IRA, for over his dead body would such a compromise take place; never, never, would he countenance any coalitition with Republicans. And as for Martin McGuinness, Adams and Kelly, Paisley's execreations of horror and contempt would have shamed John Knox in full-flight.

Thus the present dilemma for the New Age DUP within this council. How do you equate the present Paisley with the firebrand of an entire lifetime? That, New Age DUP, is your problem. Over decades, Paisley has denounced the teachings of the Roman Catholic Church as unscriptural.

He has pronounced from political platforms and from Free Presbyterian pulpits the words of the Westminster Confession of Faith with relish: "There is no other head of the Church but the Lord Jesus Christ; nor can the Pope of Rome in any sense be head thereof but is the Anti-Christ, that man of sin and son of perdition, that exalted himself, in the Church against christ all that is called God."

Driven by his literal acceptance of the confession of Faith Paisley indicted the Protestant clerics of breaking their oath, of disgracing themselves spiritually and politically - to Dr Paisley the political and spiritual were indivisable. Let us consider and comment upon a sermon delivered by Dr Paisley in the Martyr's Memorial.

In selecting this service for comment, I had an embarrassment of riches. I had to choose from an innumerable medley of similar sermons. In the relevant sermon Paisley spoke as follows: "Today there is a siren cry from the ecumenists in the pulpits of this land. They are crying for political leaders to sit down with those who have been responsible for some of the vilest and most bloody deeds in all the history of this unhappy island.

Anyone who has any morality knows that this is wrong." But the best is yet to come. He assures his congregation there can be no reconciliation with Sinn Fein. And he explains why. The Bible told him it was wrong; his own conscience told him it was wrong; to embrace Republicans would be in defiance of God's law; he would not trust liars and murderers and compromise with terrorists would be a betrayal of his constituents.

Now if we accept the sincerity of the Paisley of the past, as illustrated by this resume of his sermon, we have a problem. In terms of his own religious convictions he has behaved immorally; he has defied God; he has violated his own conscience, he has endorsed terrorist activity and, in essence, he has now accepted that the ecumenical clergy were correct after all.

The seminal question and the resolution of our dilemma, and that of many Free Presbyterians, depends upon our explanation of Paisley's change. Was it a conversion of a political nature, perhaps with a spiritual element - a Damascus road experience? Or, as many of the New Age DUP would suggest, in apology, that Dr Paisley had no alternative - that the British government would impose a mysterious Plan B to green Ulster, prior to trundling us into a United Ireland.

Now succumbing to blackmail at the hands of the British government does not fit well with a leader who apes Sir Edward Carson, who donned the Red Beret and had his followers waving gun licences on the Antrim Hills. What was the purpose of these histrionics, now a gross embarrassment to his supporters?

To recapitulate, then, in pursuing our dilemma we must decide if Paisley has really changed, the Damascus Road experience or did he engage in political expediency - stating, abjectly, that there was no alternative. In the latter context we may recall that when David Trimble spoke of 'No Alternative' he was greeted by howls of derision and cries of Lundy! Lundy! Lundy! But who is the Lundy now?

This evening, Mayor, Aldermen and Councillors, I shall present you with a resolution of the dilemma. I shall present you with the truth. Dr Paisley has suffered his lifetime from a virulent poison, the toxin of unadulterated, naked ambition. He had set his mind many years ago upon achieving his conception of wordly greatness. In striving for this he discarded the ideals of the Free Presbyterian Church by denying the scriptural messages he had preached for years.

And, as a matter of expediency, to prevent schism, the Free Presbyterian Church has now discarded him. His path to earthly glory was pursued, of course, at the expense of the Ulster Unionists. He presented a bogus resistance to the Belfast Agreement and then stole it by an act of consummate treachery.

There is a well-known aphorism which states that behind every successful man is a virtuous, industrious and supportive wife. That may be so - there can be no doubt that a wife, a lover, a partner to be politically correct, wields influence. But that influence may be for good or it may be for evil.

Those who know there history will appreciate that wife Josephine tried to curtail Napoleon Bonaparte's inordinate ambition. But he ignored his wife's entreaties and finished his days on St Helena wondering where it all went wrong.

DUP councillor Tommy Nicholl spoke at length against Cllr Stirling's motion. The full text of his response was as follows:

Mr Mayor I want to look at the Biblical elements and the condemnation that this notice of motion directs against Dr Paisley and hence against the party he leads.

It is asserted in this motion that the Biblical evidence is such and that Dr Paisley has so violated it as to be worthy of having that alleged failure exposed and debated publicly.

If we are to do proper service to this motion before us then we must examine the Biblical evidence to see what it tells us whether or not it is as clear cut as Cllr Stirling would have us believe.

This makes sense Mr Mayor, because one can hardly take a stand on Biblical interpretation and not expect that to be scrutinised. Let me take just a few examples:

Let me begin with Joseph in the book of Genesis. Joseph was elevated to the rank of being second only to Pharoah in Egypt. We might liken him to the Pharoah's Prime Minister or Chancellor. Whatever the corresponding office in today's world, the fact is that it was a high political office, in which Joseph was under Pharoah.

Who were the Pharaohs? What did they believe? What did they believe about themselves? The Pharaohs believe that they were the same substance as the creator - not human - but divine.

There was no such thing as a Royal blood line - only direct descent from the Sun-God. One religious composition said of the Pharaohs that: 'Ra has placed the king on the earth for the living for ever and eternity... to offer divine offerings to the gods and voice offerings to the blessed dead.'

Pharaoh made sacrifices for the living and the dead and led the people in worshipping many gods. This was the kind of environment in which Joseph assumed high political office. It was a grossly sinful, immoral and idolatorous sstem.

Yet Joseph served and did so with no hint of any displeasure from God. Of course Mr Mayor I could go on and speak of others such as Mordecai in the book of Esther. I will turn instead though tothe New Testament and speak of a Christian called Sergius Paulus who is mentioned in Acts 13:7. He was the Proconsul of Cyprus during the reign of Emperor Claudius. History shows that Claudius was a deeply immoral man who was responsible for the murder of many of his subjects.

Regardless of all of this, Sergius Paulus served as Proconsul of Cyprus.

Mr Mayor I could of course keep going and refer to other examples in the New testament but I think I have covered this part of the motion sufficiently.

If Cllr Stirling and his colleagues truly believe the wording of their own motion then they must conclude that each of these people violated bibilical principles in entering into and remaining in their positions. Of course they have made no such conclusion and instead reserve their fire exclusively for Dr Paisley and the DUP.

Their Biblical interpretation is seen at best to be incomplete and questionable and at worst utterly false.

Mr Mayor for months Cllr Stirling and his colleagues sought to tell the country that assuredly the DUP had signed up to an Irish Language Act. The Minister for Culture, Arts and Leisure proved just how false that claim was.

They sought to tell the country that the DUP had aligned itself with homosexuality via funding for the annual gay Pride parade.

Once again the Minister for Culture, Arts and Leisure, in his announcement about community funding, proved just who false that claim was.

Now once again we have witnessed a further entirely false assertion from the same source. I am sure that many people will recognise the pattern that is beginning to emerge.

No-one on these benches and no-one in the DUP has ever said or thought that the current system and structures are an end of things or that they represent a final destination for the province.

There are things that remain to be addressed - like moving to a more normal system of government and away from all party coalition, like the removal of IRA structures, like a resolution to parading disputes and son on.

While Cllr Stirling and his colleagues continue to invent newer and ever more ludicrious false allegations we shall set about the real work of finalising those things.