The Blanket

The Blanket - A Journal of Protest & Dissent

Sectarianism and the DUP


Sean Fleming • 4 May 2004

The DUP is now the largest political party in the north of Ireland. It is a party made up of many people who adhere to a particular mode of Protestantism or Protestant fundamentalism. Its leader, the Rev. Ian Paisley, perpetual moderator of the Free Presbyterian Church, is a Protestant fundamentalist preacher whose anti-Catholicism best defines this unique mode of Protestant fundamentalism that permeates all aspects of life in Northern Irish society. The Unionism of his party is inseparable also in its articulation of the sixteenth century Reformation and is totally unlike anything approaching contemporary understandings of British identity. If society here is to move forward this anti-Catholicism must be confronted because it dangerously continues to be the defining feature of the Northern Irish state and is a distortion of the genuine Reformed or Protestant tradition.

Ian Paisley’s church for example believes that the Roman Catholic Church is the ‘whore of Babylon’ or ‘mother of Harlots’ outlined in Chapters 17 and 18 of the Book of Revelation in the Bible. The Pope is believed to be the ‘anti-Christ’ mentioned in Revelation and Catholics are therefore by logical extension seen to be the followers of the anti- Christ or deceived by the ‘system of the Anti-Christ’. Ian Paisley has always believed that the Roman Catholic Church and the Vatican are involved in machinations to bring about the destruction of Protestantism. He in the past has alleged that ‘Rome’ or the Vatican was colluding with the Dublin Government to overthrow the Protestant people of Ulster. He at least on one occasion has said that the IRA was the ‘armed wing of the Roman Catholic Church in Ireland’. Essentially Ian Paisley believes that because the followers of the Catholic Church are enslaved to a false church that this can therefore only lead to malignity.

Most of the leading figures in the DUP subscribe to a similar view of Roman Catholicism. They see it as an unchristian church and believe that it is prophesised in the bible -especially in the Books of Daniel and Revelation- as a false religion and system. For example Peter and Iris Robinson of the DUP are worshippers at the Whitewell Metropolitan Tabernacle church on the Shore Road in Belfast. Pastor James Mc Connell who ministers to this congregation is equally vehement in his belief that the Roman Catholic Church is symbolically represented in the book of Revelation and that Catholics cannot be considered to be real Christians. His belief is that they should leave that church and denounce it. Gregory Campbell, Willie Mc Crea, Nigel Dodd’s and others all similarly subscribe to the view that Catholicism is incompatible with biblical Christianity. Ian Paisley and preachers like him believe that Catholicism is little more than a ‘baptised form of paganism’ or ‘idolatry’ and that Catholics worship in ‘Romanist sun temples’ or ‘Romish mass houses’. If anyone doubts this they should check out the literature and audio recordings produced by the Free Presbyterian Church or Mc Connell’s sermon: ‘The Scarlet woman and the Beast upon which it sits’ (text used in Revelation which this church believes are references to the Roman Catholic Church). Never mind that these biblical texts were written for the early Christian church, and refer to the persecution carried out against it by apostate Jerusalem and the pagan Roman Empire, these preachers transport these scriptures to the third millennium and the Catholic Church.

A good source for gaining an insight into these fundamentalist views can be found in ‘Persecuting Zeal: A Portrait of Ian Paisley’ by Denis Cooke. Cooke himself is a Protestant clergyman who exposes the hypocrisy and redundancy of Ian Paisley’s theology and politics. Anti-Catholicism in N.Ireland: The Mote and the Beam by John Brewer, a Presbyterian, is a brilliant expose of just how untenable is Paisley’s claim and others like him to be true representatives of the Protestant faith. The derogatory and demeaning way in which Catholic religious practices are described is rightly shown to be deeply unchristian.

Even those members or supporters of the DUP of a more secular orientation are not unaffected by the culture of anti-Catholicism that exists. Anti- Catholic attitudes are prevalent and deep-seated throughout society. This is reflected in the use of terms such as ‘Taigs Out,’ ‘Fenians,’ ‘Fuck the Pope,’ ‘No Popery,’ ‘Jesuitical propaganda’, which are all part of the cultural iconography of life in N.Ireland. This mode of anti-Catholicism and anti-catholic attitudes is a means by which people are kept apart. Differences are therefore not approached in a spirit of openness, respect and sensitivity for other people’s cherished beliefs. This consequently has the effect of playing into a culture and climate of fear and hate.

For instance, and these examples are covered in the above mentioned books,Ian Paisley and others within his party have never been able to explain over the years how comments referring to Catholics as ‘pope heads’ and ‘papists’ or ‘incubators for the Church of Rome’ were compatible with biblical Christianity and the fundamental biblical commandant to ‘love thy neighbour’ and ‘ love thy enemies’. Biblical Christianity teaches that everyone is made in the image of God. However, during the visit of Charlie Haughey to Belfast at the time of the Anglo-Irish agreement, Paisley speaking about Gerry Adams said ‘we know Gerry Adams for the scum that he is’. Perhaps I’m missing something but I would like to know how Ian Paisley believes this to be in line with bible- believing Christianity.

There is also the issue of Ulster Resistance, a supposedly ‘defensive’ organisation founded by Ian Paisley and Peter Robinson among others to resist ‘by force if necessary a British sell-out of N.Ireland’. The DUP say that it severed its links with Ulster Resistance before it became known that some of its members were involved in importing a huge arsenal of illegal weapons into the north. These weapons were subsequently divided among Ulster Resistance, the UDA and the UVF. However much Ian Paisley and others may claim to be opposed to such actions the results of the formation of such an organisation in a deeply divided society were inevitable. Dangerous and threatening language referring to ‘force’ and the paramilitary paraphernalia that accompanied the formation of Ulster Resistance in the Ulster Hall with Paisley himself centre stage had the effect of leading certain members of that organisation to become involved in the procurement of weapons for the use of force. Over two hundred sectarian killings by loyalists were carried out in the aftermath of that importation of loyalist weapons in the mid-eighties. Yet the emphasis on decommissioning hardly ever focuses on loyalist weaponry and the culpability of Paisley and others in contributing to the very culture which causes loyalist violence.

There are very strong grounds for believing that the DUP are at present trying to trick others into believing that they are sincere about sharing power with those who draw their support from within the Catholic community. But the suspicion is that once they have their hands on the levers of power they will re-assert the agenda of Unionist domination. It is hard to see how a party traditionally used to seeing Catholics as the enemy and as a threat to their Protestantism and way of life- Rome being relentless in its aim to crush Protestantism- can realistically be expected to be embrace power sharing and equality with the Catholic community.

The pervasive fear and hostility that they have spread within their community about Catholics and the Catholic Church may even prove to be irreparable. They must therefore renounce their sectarian and bigoted poison. Unless this happens then all the signs are that a large section of that community will remain deeply entrenched in its anti-Catholic outlook. Politics and religion are seamlessly intertwined for the DUP and especially its leadership. They have never been able to truly accept the concept of Catholics as equals. Their dark and aggressive theological/political thinking does not seek to reach out to their Catholic neighbours or be reconciled to them. It is a reflection of a society that cannot come to terms with Catholics as being entitled to the same rights. In Paisley’s view opposition to Catholicism must continue and the Reformation is therefore still ongoing for him and those who share his worldview. If there is to be a genuine peaceful future the DUP will have to break with the way it has demonised the Catholic Church and Catholic people.

Theological and political differences with Catholics will have to be approached in the future in a new spirit of respect and tolerance. The battle lines drawn at he time of the Reformation have disappeared in other societies. We need to move on. Revelation Chapters 17 and 18 remains a marker of the Ulster Protestant fundamentalist identity, a hangover from the Reformation, and some of the cherished myths of Ulster Protestant fundamentalism will have be recognised for what they are – outlandish myths that have been used to serve the purpose of keeping people apart and in opposition to each other. Unfortunately, all the signs are that it is not going to go away.







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The Blanket - A Journal of Protest & Dissent



All censorships exist to prevent any one from challenging current conceptions and existing institutions. All progress is initiated by challenging current conceptions, and executed by supplanting existing institutions. Consequently the first condition of progress is the removal of censorships.
- George Bernard Shaw

Index: Current Articles

7 May 2004


Other Articles From This Issue:


Sectarianism and the DUP
Sean Fleming


It's A Dirty Job
Brian Mór


Let Them Eat Fake
Anthony McIntyre


The 10 Year Merry-go-round
Michéal O'Donnaigh


Needle in a Haystack
Will Hardiker


3 May 2004


A South American Verdict
Anthony McIntyre


A New Year for the Oldest Colony of the UK
Brian Mór


Politics in Command
Liam O Ruairc


Report Discredits U.S. Institute of Peace
Distorts truth and offends Irish-Americans

Sean Mc Manus, INC


Forensic Evidence 'Interfered with' in Case of Tyrone Men
J Sean Burns, IRPWA


Easter Commemoration Speech on behalf of the Republican Socialist Movement, Milltown Cemetery Belfast



The Legacy of Bobby Sands
Charles J. Murnick




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