IAN PAISLEY JR. MP
CONSTITUENCY: North antrim PARTY: democratic unionist
What are your initial thoughts on the book?
I think it’s fantastic because it’s filled this particular void, especially for schoolchildren. Many of them learn that WWI was a disaster and could have ended a lot sooner were it not for bad leadership. But then you actually put yourself in the shoes of the people who were in those leadership roles, such as MPS, and you realise that they actually played a very active role. They made a commitment, gave their service and 22 of them gave their lives, along with almost 100 of their children.
That turns this notion on its head and provokes a review of the history. A historian constantly has to review the evidence and change views, and I think neil Thornton has very bravely tried to do that.
Were there any biographies that stand out in the book, and for what reason?
The story of Arthur O’neill was very poignant to me and the Sheehan family was fascinating. I loved the Irish stories because whenever you look at what happened post-war in Ireland their stories become more poignant and significant.
However, the story that touched me the most was that of Andrew Bonar law’s sons. Bonar law was trying to do his service and run the economy while at the same time losing two sons in quick succession. That story would shed a tear from a stone just knowing what he had been through.
As a Unionist MP, what were your thoughts on the Irish Unionist and Nationalist MPS who fought side by side?
The most magnificent thing regarding the bravery of the men is that they put party political differences to one side. even though they had constitutional differences they put ‘king and country’ first. There is a plaque in the House of commons to the Unionist Arthur O’neill and also to Willie redmond, who was one of the leaders of Irish nationalism at the time. I think that tells its own story that they could argue politically but could also fight and defend together.
What can the example of leadership provided by the fallen MPS of WWI teach sitting members of the Commons?
As someone who has sons myself the thing that speaks to me is that the decisions you take affects people’s lives. It can also affect your life and the life of your children so you have to make the right decision. That was the thing that struck me the most.
RIGHT: Major Willie Redmond was an Irish nationalist MP who was the brother of John Redmond, the leader of the Irish Parliamentary Party. Aged 56, Redmond became the oldest MP to be killed during the war
LEFT: Captain Arthur O’neill was the first MP to die during WWI when he was killed at Klein Zillebeke on 6 November 1914, while he was serving in the Life Guards