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Paisley – Dublin bombing was on leaders' heads

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 Ian Paisley. Photo: PA

Ian Paisley. Photo: PA

Ian Paisley. Photo: PA

THE Rev Ian Paisley has effectively accused the Irish Government of provoking the 1974 Dublin and Monaghan bombings which killed 33 people.

He declared: "The political leaders brought it on themselves."

The Protestant Ulster Volunteer Force (UVF) set off the two car bombs at the height of a violent loyalist strike across Northern Ireland by the so-called Ulster Workers Council which ended with the collapse of the first power-sharing executive in Belfast 40 years ago.

Mr Paisley (87) and his then hard-line Democratic Unionist Party supported the stoppage which had the backing of thousands of members of the paramilitary UDA which brought the country to a virtual standstill in protest against the formation of a coalition of unionist and nationalist ministers based at Stormont.

No one has ever been charged with the atrocities, although there have been persistent accusations that rogue members of the Royal Ulster Constabulary colluded with the bombers.

In the first of a major two-part television documentary on his life, he said: "I was very much shocked that there was anyone going to be hurt in that way. But I mean, who brought that on themselves was the people that, their own political leaders, and they had endorsed in what their attitude to Northern Ireland, and at that time the attitude of the south government in Northern Ireland was ridiculous, so it was."

DENOUNCED

He told journalist Eamonn Mallie: "I not only had nothing to do with it, but I'd said I had nothing to do with it and denounced the people who had done it. What more could I do?"

The former MP for north Antrim, who quit as DUP leader in 2010, added: "I took my stand. I denounced what was wrong, but I could not say to the people, 'Just sit down and let them put a rope round your neck'."

Mr Paisley, vowed he would never share power with Sinn Fein, but who spent more than a year as Northern Ireland First Minister working with Martin McGuinness, the deputy First Minister and former IRA leader, left politics in 2008, just weeks after he resigned as Moderator of the Free Presbyterian Church which he founded.

Deputy party leader Peter Robinson took over as First Minister. In August 1975, Mr Robinson, now aged 65, led a loyalist invasion of the village of Clontibret, Co Monaghan, in protest against what he claimed were inadequate security measures along the border following Margaret Thatcher's signing of the Anglo-Irish Agreement.

Mr Paisley said the protest should not have happened and when asked if there was a feeling within his family then that Mr Robinson was making a leadership challenge – Mr Paisley was out of the country at the time – he said: "Everybody has a right to decide for themselves what their answer to that is."

THREATENED

Mr Paisley revealed how his father James's life was spared when a gang of republicans threatened to shoot him, a Baptist minister, in the 1920s. Mr Paisley was a baby at the time.

One of the gang allegedly shouted: "How dare you touch this man. His wife has just had their second child and it would be very unlucky to us if we did this." They decided to release him unharmed. Mr Paisley said: "The reason he got away was me. Because I had been born."

Mr Mallie asked him: "So you were the little miracle that arrived and saved his life?" Mr Paisley replied: "That's right, that's right. Amazing."

'Paisley: Genesis To Revelation – Face To Face With Eamonn Mallie', BBC1 Northern Ireland, Monday, 10.30pm


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