Jake O'Kane: Be ye suspicious of politicians using biblical quotes – especially Ian Paisley jnr
Ian Paisley jnr's faux religiosity combined with a quivering lip, all the while fighting back tears, was the classic reaction of a spoilt brat discovered with his hand in the cookie jar
MY FELLOW panellist on The Blame Game, Neil Delamere, noticed I was quoted in The Irish Times last week, joking that such an event heralded the coming apocalypse. I replied that I found it touching his wife read to him every morning – yes, we abuse each other even when we’re not on the telly.
He was talking about a comment I made about Ian Paisley quoting from the Bible during his humiliating apology to Parliament after being discovered to have failed to declare holidays to Sri Lanka paid for by the government of that country. In an attempt to reach out to his core constituency, known for good reason as the ‘Bible Belt’, he quoted Isaiah; "You were angry with me, that anger has turned away, you comfort me." Like many others, I found this nauseatingly convenient.
I immediately tweeted an alternative quote from the good book, also from Isaiah 47:3 which says: "Your nakedness will be uncovered and your shame will be exposed."
Paisley’s faux religiosity combined with a quivering lip, all the while fighting back tears, was the classic reaction of a spoilt brat discovered with his hand in the cookie jar. For the contrition to be genuine, surely it should have included reparation? His Parliamentary histrionics would have carried more gravitas if, along with the emotion, he’d added his intention to pay for the holidays gifted by the Sri Lankan government.
If Paisley wanted an example of how to behave, he needed only to look back at the case of then rising SDLP star Conal McDevitt, who failed to register £6k in earnings in 2013. McDevitt didn’t mawkishly seek sympathy nor attempt to shift blame; instead, he immediately took responsibility for his mistake and resigned. When announcing his resignation, McDevitt – unlike Paisley – recognised a higher imperative than self-interest, namely ensuring public confidence in elected representatives, and judging himself to have fallen below that expectation, fell upon his sword.
Compare that with Paisley. Guilty of not registering £100k in holidays from the Sri Lankan government, he now arrogantly declares he won’t "go quietly into the dark". The tears have been quickly swapped for swagger and he seems intent on fighting any by-election for a seat bequeathed to him, and which he has besmirched with his crass greed. Not only did he take undeclared gifts from a foreign government, he compounded this by canvassing the British prime minister on behalf of that foreign power.
Of course, we all realise none of this matters. If Paisley is further humiliated into another election, he will win. A one-legged dog with rabies would win North Antrim, so long as it was called Paisley. Ian has been riding on the coattails of his late father since boyhood and instead of growing into his own man, he continues to trade on the family name.
Back to my initial point – my quick offering of an alternative quote from the book of Isaiah to the one given by Paisley. Some have congratulated me on my knowledge of the Bible, but I cannot lie – I cheated, or at least availed of modern technology in the form of an online search. I will say the first quote from Isaiah that the internet threw up was the one I used, so maybe there was some divine intervention after all. What I’ll lay money on is Paisley probably found his quote in exactly the same way.
I’ve always been suspicious of those using biblical quotes, unless they’re an ordained minister of some Christian church – and even then I’m dubious. But when it’s a politician who reverts to the Bible, most often it’s a precursor to some attempt to mitigate bad behaviour.
And before some idiot accuses me of blasphemy, I believe when the intention is righteous, the Bible has been the source of some of the most glorious political speeches ever made. Take two of the greatest orators in history – Abraham Lincoln and Martin Luther King both extensively used the Bible as source material.
Using a quote from Mark 3:25, Lincoln famously said: "A house divided against itself, cannot stand." Still relevant for us living in Northern Ireland today.
Poignantly, a century later, Martin Luther King stood on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial in Washington and gave his, ‘I have a dream’ speech. In it are numerous direct quotes from the Bible, one also from Isaiah 40:4-5: ‘"Every valley shall be exalted, and every mountain and hill shall be made low: and the crooked shall be made straight."
Many of our politicians could take note.