08 June 2023

Kiss star Gene Simmons calls for return of NI government

08 June 2023

Kiss star Gene Simmons has called for the return of the Stormont government, and spoken of his desire to meet the Taoiseach.

The singer and bassist, who is in the UK for the band’s End Of The Road tour, visited the House of Commons on Wednesday as a guest of DUP MP Ian Paisley (North Antrim).

The rock star received a private tour before making his first trip into the Commons chamber.

Mr Simmons said he did not know MP Ian Paisley Junior prior to his visit but had heard of his father, the Reverend Ian Paisley Senior, a former DUP leader and first minister of Northern Ireland.

“I did not (know Ian Paisley) one of our crew happened I guess to know him or they discussed something and I guess he was a big fan or something and I had known about his father of course, legendary Ian Senior, with what he did for Ireland,” he told the BBC.

“Anyway he invited me to come and visit him at the House of Commons and what happened was that all the airports in England closed down because Mr Zelensky, the head of Ukraine, was coming to England and for political reasons they closed down all airports, no commercial airports.

“We have a private jet and the MP called and asked for a favour and all of a sudden our private jet was the only one that was allowed to land near London.

“And so it was, we landed, I was grateful of course. Early morning, today went down to the House of Commons, met Ian, met everyone. It was actually quite an amazing day, the history and the hallowed halls of democracy, it’s very inspiring.”

Mr Simmons said that devolved government in Northern Ireland needs to return and he “hopes everything gets back in order”.

The Stormont government has not been operational for more than a year due to the DUP’s ongoing boycott in protest against post-Brexit trading arrangements.

“It’s important for that to happen (Stormont to return) because the people’s business needs to get done. Northern Ireland is just as important as any country on the face of the planet and you can’t have people pointing fingers,” he said.

He added: “People have their lives to lead and it’s the government’s job to take care of people’s needs.

“So I hope everything gets back in order in Northern Ireland and the people’s business should be done by their elected officials.”

Mr Simmons described MPs as a “peculiar bunch”, but said his experience in the House of Commons was “a lesson in civility that doesn’t really exist in America”.

“I was a sixth grade teacher in the New York public school system actually before the band and I used to teach some of this stuff, you know, Guy Fawkes day and the attempt at blowing up Parliament. Tried to explain to them what a cockney was and the sound of the Bow Bells so I’m fascinated by all of it,” he said.

On previous travels with Kiss, Mr Simmons has had the opportunity to tour the Irish parliament, but added that he has not yet got the opportunity to meet the Irish premier.

He said: “I’ve been to the Irish parliament as well, I wanted to meet Taoiseach, we didn’t quite get there but we did tour the facility a few years back.”

Mr Simmons stated his belief in the importance of people being able to see the work their politicians are doing.

“I think it’s really important for people to actually see where the people’s business is being done, so while we’re walking up and down the streets of the countries we inhabit it’s important to understand that elected officials that we elect are actually busy doing your work,” he said.

“Some of it is done well, like anything. You get a plumber, sometimes they fix your stuff and sometimes they make it worse.

“It’s important for people to understand the body politic, how it works, who’s doing your bidding, politicians work for you, you pay their salaries.”

As a member of a band that has been together for 50 years, selling more than 75 million records worldwide, Mr Simmons said he found fans were “sometimes leaders of countries, yes it’s bizarre but yes”.

“I was fortunate enough to meet his holiness the Dalai Lama, we were both speaking at an event and we exchanged ideas and sometimes the person you least expect is actually the coolest and the Dalai Lama was,” he said.

“I’ve met my share of world leaders, Mr Trump and Mr Clinton and Mr Bush, on and on, but at the end of the day some of the most interesting people and some of the people I’ve taken to much more are regular people right off the streets, you know where people live and work because at the end of the day elected officials are just people.

“We all eat meals, we all poop, we all sleep, we all do the same things. People are just people.”

At a press conference in Belfast on Thursday, DUP leader Sir Jeffrey Donaldson was asked was he a fan of Kiss.

“I’m afraid that rock music doesn’t feature greatly these days,” he replied.

“In my life, if you took me back to the 1980s I might be a bit more knowledgeable on these things having been a great fan of The Jam and other groups in my time, but I’m afraid I’m the last person to ask about rock music these days, I tend to look for something a little more gentle.”

Asked by a reporter if that was a sign of division between himself and Ian Paisley Jnr, Sir Jeffrey joked: “Not at all. It’s a sign of diversity, which is the lifeblood of any political movement.”

Kiss’ current tour, the End Of The Road, will finish on December 2 at Madison Square Garden in New York.

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