There is an article in today’s ‘Belfast Newsletter’ that repeats many of the old lies and deceits against Dr Paisley and the 1966 Free Presbyterian protest against the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church in Ireland.
I have written the following letter and submitted it to the Editor for publication.
Please pray that it will be published.
Sincerely in Christ’s name,
It is quite amazing that a man, writing an article to counter what he says are falsehoods linked to the early witness of Ian Paisley, should go about employing the most blatant falsehoods himself! Mr Patrick Speight is a former BBC Radio presenter so perhaps we ought not to be surprised at such a tactic.
I was part of that Free Presbyterian protest procession in June 1966 he fulminates against, so I know first hand what took place.
Patrick Speight was a ‘cub’ of some 12 years of age at the time, so he is relying on hearsay, news reports and ecumenical propaganda for his information!
I will highlight some of his deceits regarding the parade which Mr Speight is keen to blacken. I will let whoever will answer his challenging of other elements of the BBC documentary he is so offended by.
I must say that it is always amusing to witness the ‘kettle calling the pot black’!
I will deal with some early quotations in the article, “TV Review: Far from being too hard on Ian Paisley, BBC documentary was too gentle on the former DUP leader”.
The rest of what he wrote may be judged by the lack of veracity in the portions I examine.
- “On Monday 6 June 1966, the first day of the Presbyterian Church’s annual General Assembly, Rev Ian Paisley decided to protest against what he falsely claimed was the ‘Romanising tendency’ of the Presbyterian Church in Ireland.”
It was the Presbytery of Ulster of the Free Presbyterian Church which made the decision to protest. The Presbyterian Church in Ireland was a founder member of the World Council of Churches, the objective of which was the ‘reversal of the Reformation’.
Now that was a ‘Romanising tendency’ if ever there was one and no falsehood to claim it as such!
- “He marched from his church on the Ravenhill Road through the Markets area of Belfast, a predominantly Catholic neighbourhood, en route to Howard Street.”
Mr Speight fails to mention that is the ONLY route from the lower Ravenhill Road to the PCI General Assembly building and that Dr Paisley had been granted police permission for the procession.
- “His march, or procession, as Paisley described it at the time, did antagonise the Catholics and it was showered with bricks, bottles and iron bolts.”
That is a lie since the riot in Cromac Square was already underway BEFORE the marchers ever left Ravenhill Free Presbyterian Church or the rioters had any opportunity to be ‘antagonised’ by the placards carried.
Indeed, the few examples that Speight quotes of what the placards said should have made Roman Catholics glad since they highlighted the inroads of their religion amongst Irish Presbyterian clerics! It can hardly ‘antagonise’ Roman Catholics to be told that the tactics of their pope and his clerics are working!
- “The film segues to old black and white archive of Paisley blaming the Roman Catholic Church and the Catholics of Cromac Square for the riots that his march provoked.”
Speight blithely repeats the lie that the Roman Catholic rioters were provoked into rioting by the Free Presbyterian march. The riot was planned long before the parade took place. Missiles used in the riot had to have been gathered hours, if not days, before the parade took place. The railway bolts thrown were not lying around but had to be brought to Cromac Square well in advance of the riot and that in itself belies the notion of a riot sparked by a Free Presbyterian march. It had been planned well in advance of even the placards being written!
What is never reported is the fact that it was the police who brought about an assembly of protesters outside the General Assembly building. The protest route submitted by the FPC was via May Street, Wellington Place, round the City Hall and back up May Street. That would take quite a little time to walk since the ranks of the protesters had within them elderly folk. For some reason, when the protest march had completed that circuit at least twice and approached the General Assembly building the police threw a rope across May Street close to the side entrance/exit to the General Assembly from which the ‘dignitaries’ would leave and cross May Street to a gathering in a building opposite for a meal.
The police action thus forced a gathering close to the place where the clerics etc would cross the road. They then had the temerity to charge some with an unlawful assembly and have us brought to court and found guilty, after it was they who brought that assembly about. Had they not acted so, the parade would have passed by and sufficient time would have elapsed before it finished its circuit for the General Assembly procession to have taken place without the presence of any Free Presbyterian protesters.
Mr Patrick Speight very obviously has not lost any of the biased skills he displayed while serving the BBC as a presenter.
Rev Ivan Foster (Rtd)
28th April, 2023