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He’s the son of a preacher man
His father, the Rev. Ian Paisley, has been one of the dominant figures in Irish politics over the past 40 years. Now Ian Paisley Jnr is a Junior Minister in the new Northern Ireland administration. So how different is he from his father? And how does he feel about cross border co-operation, education, abortion and homosexuality?
Jason O'Toole, 11 Jun 2007
The polls show that the majority of UK citizens don’t care if Northern Ireland belongs to Britain. So what does Unionism mean to you?
Being Unionist is not about being a little Englander. I am no more English than the next guy on this island. The ‘union’ requires more than one part – it requires the Scots, the Welsh, the English and the people from Northern Ireland. I am as much British as a person living in Dover or a person living in Edinburgh. That should be recognised.
The political pundits say you are the natural successor to your father as leader of the DUP.
I know what it takes in terms of sacrifice because I have seen it first-hand. I am very pleased to be where I am today. I believe I have earned that position, but I have absolutely no ambitions to be leader of the party.
Two years ago, your sister Rhonda launched a legal action alleging gender discrimination against the DUP…
I’m a party officer, I can’t talk about it – I’m sworn to secrecy. But she was entitled to take it and that is what equality law is there for.
What’s your assessment of Tony Blair?
I believe under Blair – even though he pandered to Republicanism and he tried to use PR and spin – at the end of the day, the Union is now copper-fastened and stronger than it’s ever been. We’ve got the end of the IRA, the end of their terrorism, their arms dumped unceremoniously, the Royal Irish Regiment awarded the highest military medal by her majesty the Queen – and we’ve got a Unionist Prime Minister, Ian Paisley, who was the most hated unionist of all. I think Unionism will get stronger, given that we’re coming out of a 30-year war.
Where will Northern Ireland be in 20 years?
17 miles off the coast of Scotland! I hope it will be a very strong, thriving economy.
But what if the majority of people in the future want a united Ireland?
As a democrat, I have to say that I would have to accept what the will of the people is. I would oppose it – I would be entitled to oppose it by constitutional means and legitimate means. But I don’t believe that day is coming. In 30 years time, I believe Unionism will be in a stronger position. I also believe that Catholics are very Unionist! A lot of them have come to terms that we actually have a split community and the most harmonious way to move forward is to continue with the arrangements that there are now in place.