Sunday 25 February 2018

Paisley fury at Robinson erupts into the open

Paisley’s triple demotion in government, party and church hit him hard.
Paisley’s triple demotion in government, party and church hit him hard.
The DUP’s Ian Paisley and Peter Robinson during an election campaign in the 1970s.
Paisley and Sinn Fein deputy leader Martin McGuinness became know as the ‘Chuckle Brothers’ while in office.
Journalist Eamonn Mallie with Ian and Eileen Paisley during filming of the documentary.

David McKittrick

THE Reverend Ian Paisley has launched a scathing and unprecedented attack on Peter Robinson, his successor as the North's First Minister, accusing him of plotting to dislodge him from his post.

Mr Paisley's wife Eileen went even further, saying of senior Democratic Unionist Party figures: "I think they assassinated him by their words and by their deeds -- they treated him shamefully."

The latest instalment in a documentary chronicling the controversial career of the former DUP leader also outlines how Mr Paisley told Tony Blair he was "a fool" when he said he was converting to Catholicism.

The comments are due to be broadcast tonight in a BBC programme in which Mr Paisley is interviewed by veteran journalist Eamonn Mallie.

The caustic comments regarding the DUP are already causing shock, since they expose huge differences within a party which has always carefully avoided washing dirty linen in public.

But the long-smouldering enmity between the Paisley and Robinson families has erupted into the open after years of baleful silence, at a stroke demolishing the image of the Democratic Unionists as a carefully disciplined party.

The DUP has not responded in detail to the allegations, party sources saying its current leaders have yet to hear the accusations, but suggesting Mr Paisley's memory may be at fault.

Mr Paisley said Mr Robinson and three other party figures insisted at a meeting in 2008 that he should step down as party leader and First Minister. This was a year after he had entered a power-sharing government headed by himself and Sinn Fein's Martin McGuinness.

The four DUP members named in the programme all said no such meeting took place as described. Party aide Timothy Johnston was said to have produced a document in which senior members were critical of both Mr Paisley and his son Ian, now a Westminster MP. Referring to the criticisms and to Peter Robinson, who later lost his Westminster seat, Mr Paisley told the documentary: "They were disgraceful, absolutely disgraceful, because the man that they put in my position couldn't keep his own seat.

"And for once we are seeing the true nature of the beast -- that there was a beast here who was prepared to go forward to the destruction of the party, because losing seats in Northern Ireland is very serious."

SLEAZE

His wife Eileen Paisley was even more forthright, saying that when she saw the document: "I was furious to put it mildly, and I felt like taking it and ramming it down Timothy Johnston's throat."

And while Mr Paisley was always said to have a good working relationship with Britain's Tony Blair, he relates telling the then prime minister: "You're a fool."

He said this was his reaction which Mr Blair confided he was about to convert to Catholicism.

The founder of the Free Presbyterian Church and long-time critic of the papacy in Rome said Mr Blair revealed his decision to him as they left a private meeting together in 2007.

"As we were walking down the stairs he stopped, looked back at me and said 'Ian there is something I need to tell you'," Mr Paisley said.

"'When the hands of that clock', and he pointed to a big clock that was on the wall, 'When the hands of that clock come to eight o'clock I will be a Roman Catholic'.

He said 'I didn't want you to leave without telling you, I'd rather tell you myself'. "I said 'You are a fool."

'Paisley: Genesis to Revelation' is aired on BBC1 tonight at 10.35pm.

Irish Independent

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