Donald Trump and Ian Paisley: Irish voters know where a bigoted demagogue leads a nation.

He disparages people for their ethnicity and their religious faith.

He throws red meat to the rabble, making incendiary speeches that explicitly threaten violence, then he stands back to let the most fanatical take over.

He opposes equality for anyone other than himself and his own supporters. He intimidates both his opponents and his inner circle alike.

He believes in the erecting of borders and barricades.

He believes some people are more equal than others. He said of Irish Catholics, "They breed like rabbits and multiply like vermin."

Who is he? He’s the late Ian Paisley, former First Minister of Northern Ireland and the man who made it his life’s work to foster sectarianism and division in his own country.

DUP leader Ian Paisley.

DUP leader Ian Paisley.

But you could just as easily have answered Donald Trump, the latest thundering bigot to step onto the world’s stage.

Why haven’t more Irish writers made this obvious Trump-Paisley comparison? It begs to be made. It all but insists you make it.

Read more: Irish President Michael D Higgins slams Donald Trump for inciting racism

In Ireland we have seen exactly this kind of divisive demagogue before, and we know exactly how much damage he can do to a civil society and where he will lead us all.

Men like Ian Paisley made political compromise impossible by calling it “sell out.” For most of his life he made politics impossible in Northern Ireland by turning it into a religious test.

Paisley, like Trump, thrived by creating a climate of crude hysteria everywhere he went. “We lose all the time, we never win,” thunders Trump, lying through his teeth. “China is laughing at us. ISIS is laughing at us. Europe is laughing at us.”

Trump, like Paisley, never grasps that they are actually laughing at him.

Republican candidate Donald Trump.

Republican candidate Donald Trump.

In Ireland, because we have seen the lamentable career of Ian Paisley, we have had a four decade long sneak preview of where Donald Trump would lead the United States - if people here are actually dumb enough to elect him. In a word, it’s into disaster.

Trump, like Paisley, takes legitimate political issues and then he twists them to his own ends. He wants to resolve the pain of the working class here by giving rich people tax cuts. He plays bait and switch with people’s futures exactly like Paisley did.

Since Trump can’t rise beyond the level of success that his business and celebrity have granted him, he has finally entered politics to win over the crowds. It’s as cynical a move as it is effective.

And like Paisley, to get to the top he has lifted the rock off America’s ugly, squirming underbelly, letting lose bigoted forces that we have never seen in American political life before and encouraging their rise.

The Irish know how long it took to contain Paisley and the damage he wrought. Let’s pray the Irish will warn the voters here before it’s too late.