In 1988 Rev Dr Ian Paisley heckled Pope John Paul II in the European Parliament, calling him ‘antichrist.’ Yet this same man said privately “that this [abortion] is one of the issues that crosses the divide, and he’d walk in a march with the Pope if need be”.
The DUP has always been unafraid of making bold decisions and never shied away from controversy. Unionists trusted the DUP because of this political approach. People have always felt that the DUP would be there to fight their corner when it mattered the most.
However, many unionists have been greatly dismayed as the DUP has not appeared to be fighting the corner of the most vulnerable, the unborn.
This isn’t the party that the unionist electorate knows and supports. The DUP of old would have fought to the end for the rights of the unborn and would have made the necessary compromises to ensure that their lives continued to be protected. They made compromises with Sinn Fein before and it led to unprecedented dominance in Northern Irish politics.
Perhaps the party needs to reclaim the convictions of its founder and those like him.
Ian Paisley was willing to put his opposition to the Pope to one side in order to defend something of much greater importance. Rather than viewing the Irish language act as an intolerable compromise, the DUP should follow the example of their founder; putting to one side their opposition to Sinn Fein and Irish republicanism to defend something of greater importance. There will be plenty of opportunities in the days to come to oppose Sinn Fein and Irish republicanism but this will be the only opportunity to defend the unborn.