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The Throwback

Following our brief hiatus, we return to normal service by marking the death of the late Lord Bannside, better known as the Reverend Dr Ian Paisley, whom history seems determined to remember as a half-crazed and dangerous reactionary from the seventeenth century, a throwback to the radical Protestantism of Cromwell’s time who, mellowing a little in his old age, came to see the light, or at least a glimmer thereof, and finally agreed to the sort of compromise which would naturally appeal to the squishy Anglican sensibilities of the smug and unremarkable English people for whom compromise is not merely a means but an end in itself.

Leaving aside the interesting question of whether many Ulstermen, be they Catholic or Protestant, were successfully brought to believe that being governed by a coalition of Martin McGuinness and Ian Paisley constituted progress in the conventional sense of the word, we think it at least worth considering the contribution which fundamentalist Protestants – for all their intolerance and inflexibility, the two attitudes most guaranteed to make you a pariah in the twenty-first century – have made over the centuries to the development of the free political institutions, commercial progress, and scientific innovations which constitute modernity, as well as to the meteoric rise of the English-speaking peoples from the seventeenth century onwards, which made what we think of as modernity possible. Read more