The House of Paisley

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Biography Documentary hosted by Joanne Crawford, published by BBC in 2023 - English narration

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Preacher, populist, politician - the electrifying rise of the Reverend Ian Paisley.

[edit] Chapter 1: From Pulpit to Politics

Explores the charismatic appeal of Ian Paisley, described by men and women who followed every turn of his often controversial career. The founder of his own church, Paisley gathered converts who viewed him as a prophet, preaching against the temptations of alcohol, gambling and the Catholic church.

By the late 1960s, Northern Ireland was riven by sectarian violence. In response, the Stormont government tried to address the inequality between Catholic and Protestant citizens. For Ian Paisley, these were concessions he thought could lead ultimately to his greatest fear - a united Ireland. He held an uncompromising stance of 'no surrender' to political change, a populist message which struck a chord with loyalists, the Protestant working class.

As the conflict deepened, Paisley built a mandate combining his religious fanbase with the support of many loyalists. He drew huge crowds onto the streets to protest, which led to the toppling of the prime minister of Northern Ireland from power. Paisley himself was elected to parliament and created his own political party, the Democratic Unionist Party. He had become a powerful force in church and politics which could not be ignored. With the Troubles raging, the UK and Irish governments were keen to find a solution. The Sunningdale Agreement was their bid for peace, a sharing of power between unionists and nationalists for the first time in the history of the island. For Paisley, it was a step too far. At the helm of a powerful coalition of unionist politicians, paramilitaries and civilian workers, he was able to bring the country to a dramatic standstill, forcing the Agreement to collapse. It was to be a significant victory for him and it would be decades before power sharing would be repeated.

[edit] Chapter 2: For God and Ulster

Ian Paisley was renowned for denouncing anything he believed inconsistent with God's plan. In the late 70s, the gay rights movement felt Paisley's wrath during their fight to decriminalise consensual gay sex in Northern Ireland. His protest to 'Save Ulster from Sodomy' failed, but it grounded his position as the representative of so-called traditional values.

The DUP, Paisley's political party, espoused these same values, combined with a hardline unionist stance. This attracted new young talent, the most ambitious being young estate agent Peter Robinson. Robinson's election in 1979 was vindication for Paisley: he was no longer a one-man band, but the leader of a movement.

Amidst the bloodiest years of the Troubles, Paisley became a Unionist figurehead, attracting the largest crowds Northern Ireland had ever seen for his impassioned 'Never, Never, Never' speech. Emboldened, he provided political cover to a new paramilitary-styled group, Ulster Resistance. Ian Paisley's hope was that some of his five children would play a part in his dynasty. Daughter Rhonda was involved in the church and was an elected councillor, while twin sons, Kyle and Ian Jr, showed promise in the worlds of preaching and politics. With wife Eileen as his constant guide, the future was looking bright for the House of Paisley.

But the 90s witnessed a shift in the political landscape, heralded by both the IRA and Loyalist paramilitary ceasefires. Paisley loudly denounced the 1998 peace talks but found himself out of step with a NI majority, who seemed weary of violence. Ian Paisley and the DUP were struggling for significance in the world of more progressive politics. The man who had moved from the outside to the forefront of Unionism found himself cut adrift.

[edit] Chapter 3: Across the Rubicon

The final episode begins with Dr Paisley on the political fringes. The Good Friday Agreement was celebrated as a new dawn, with power sharing agreed in Northern Ireland. But Paisley and his party, the DUP, were vocally opposed to it.

Needing a huge comeback to be considered a credible force in politics once again, the DUP devised a strategy to attack their political competitors. The watershed moment finally came in 2003, when the DUP became the largest party in Stormont. But to make it into government, the famously uncompromising Ian Paisley was asked to share power with Sinn Fein, once the political wing of the IRA.

After years of negotiation and failed attempts, a deal was finally struck. Ian Paisley was celebrated by many; the man who came in from the extremes agreed to share power with his bitterest enemies and became first minister in Stormont. It was a monumental moment for his family, the DUP and the people of Northern Ireland.

But Dr Paisley had spent a lifetime teaching his followers not to trust those who dealt with Republicans. Fractures were developing within the Free Presbyterian Church he had founded. For some of them, Paisley's compromise was unforgivable. Rebels soon moved against Paisley, forcing him to cede control of the church.

Ian Paisley was in his 80s, and questions were being asked of his capability as first minister. Hindered by controversies affecting his son, Ian Paisley Jr, longstanding senior party members moved in to limit the damage, giving Ian Paisley Sr no option but to resign as leader of his party and step down as first minister of Northern Ireland.

Ian Paisley, or 'Dr No', had dominated oppositional politics in Northern Ireland for 50 years, but when he finally said yes, he lost both the church and party he had founded.

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[edit] Technical Specs

  • Video Codec: x265 CABAC Main@L4
  • Video Bitrate: CRF 23 (~1470Kbps)
  • Video Resolution: 1920x1080
  • Video Aspect Ratio: 16:9
  • Frame Rate: 25 FPS
  • Audio Codec: AAC-LC
  • Audio Bitrate: q91 VBR 48KHz (125/232Kbps avg/peak)
  • Audio Channels: 2
  • Run-Time: 3 x 58 mins
  • Number Of Parts: 1 (3 chapters)
  • Part Size: 1.96 GB
  • Source: HDTV (1080i/h264 4330Kbps VBR 6.17GB)
  • Encoded by: JungleBoy

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