As the wife of a hater, bigot, and fringe politician, Eileen Paisley is bringing to America the message that her husband, Ian Paisley, can't. The State Department, reversing an earlier decision, denied a visa to Northern Ireland's infamous demagogic reverend.
But now, in mimicry of Paisley's divisive politics but not his boorish manner, Eileen Paisley has turned up for a national tour.
Although she lacks the honorary degree that Bob Jones University, the reactionary Protestant school in South Carolina, gave her husband, Eileen Paisley is faithful to the failed politics of her spouse.
Nothing in her speech, given to a low turnout at the National Press Club, suggested that she has come to the United States on behalf of reconciliation. No one working for peace in Northern Ireland is likely to thank her for delivering the Paisleyite message to America. Even a laundered message.
She didn't mention the latest Paisley scheme to inflame hatred in Northern Ireland--his crusade to build "The Third Force." This paramilitary hit squad is designed to counter IRA terrorism with loyalist terrorism. The Third Force that Paisley sees himself bellowing into action is put forth as a way of killing the killers.
This evokes cheers from the fanatics who heed Paisley, but for everyone else it means that anarchy based on fear has a promising future in Northern Ireland. Of late, Paisley has become irrationally suspicious of the talks between Dublin and London, as if Ulster is about to be suddenly forced to reunite with the Republic of Ireland. The creation of the Third Force reveals the deep derangement of the Paisley position: he and his faction want to remain loyal to Great Britain, but since Great Britain refuses to be loyal to them--by not annihilating the IRA and by talking to Dublin--Paisley will increase his militancy by taking his armed men to the streets.
This paranoia directed at the Thatcher government was displayed by one of those in the Paisley delegation at the Press Club, Peter Robinson. The recent talks between the prime ministers of Great Britain and Ireland, he said, were "aimed to negate the democratic right of the Northern Ireland people to have their own future determined by themselves. . . . The British government, behind the backs of the Northern Ireland people, is attempting to have a deal with the Republic of Ireland whereby this position (democratic rule) is negated."
No one of balanced mind believes that the new communication between the Thatcher and FitzGerald governments in any way approaches a "deal" to sell out majority rights in Northern Ireland. Nothing sinister is going on. It is a belated and still wan movement to end the economic and sectarian discrimination that the minority Catholics have long suffered under the rule of majority Protestants. The dogged Paisley doesn't yet understand that too many of those outside Northern Ireland see through the let-the-majority- rule argument. The two-thirds majority naturally opposes a unified Ireland: that would end the discriminatory abuses that give it the upper hand in getting better jobs, housing and education.
In reading her husband's speech at the Press Club, Eileen Paisley had none of the stridency that has made Ian Paisley one of the West's most fractious diehards. She was a model of calmness. She branded the IRA a band of "cold-blooded terrorists." That will get no argument in America. She called on Americans not to give money to the IRA, a message that the Irish Embassy in Washington, to its credit, has been sounding for years.
But beneath these appeals, she ignored the reality of her homeland: an impoverished people trapped by a collapsing economy. The ridding of this pestilence is where a bonding of interest must be developed. If it isn't, no reasonable hope exists that the violence will end or the fanatics be ignored.
The economic poverty of Northern Ireland wasn't on Eileen Paisley's mind. She was busy illustrating what Americans already know: the poverty of her husband's thinking.