Ian Paisley has labeled those who installed Peter Robinson as his successor as Northern Ireland’s First Minister as "beasts" and slammed Tony Blair’s decision to convert to Catholicism in a startling new documentary for the BBC.
The 87-year-old has hit back at those who ended his political career in an amazing interview with the veteran Northern Ireland political journalist Eamonn Mallie.
The former Democratic Unionist Party leader and his wife speak of their disillusionment with the party Paisley founded six years after he was ousted by the DUP as party leader and First Minister in 2008.
The program outlines details of an internal DUP questionnaire, effectively a charge sheet, issued in 2008 which questioned his handling of the peace process and his relationship with then Irish Prime Minister Bertie Ahern.
Dr. Paisley tells the BBC, “If they wanted to put me on trial, why did they not put me on trial? Why did they not bring charges?
“You’d think if it was so bad, if these people were so worried, they would have taken the opportunity to get a meeting together and that would have had the power to say to me: 'Get out or stay in.' Of course, that never was done.”
Asked what the survey was all about, Dr. Paisley said, “Getting rid of Ian Paisley. In the interests of the people who took over.”
Mallie then asked the former DUP leader if the North’s current First Minister Peter Robinson was among those who wanted him out.
Dr. Paisley said, “Oh yes, he would have been. Politics is politics.
“You have to face up to the fact that there are a lot of people in politics for their own ends. All I can say is that they seem to have wanted to keep very quiet about it.”
He also quoted scripture saying, “People, so-called friends, are probably secret enemies. Anything that was done in getting me out was done behind backs.”
He added, “I didn’t walk about as if I was condemned and ready for the rope. I was in charge of the party as long as I wanted to be in charge of the party.
“It’s just strange to regard that nobody came forward and said: 'We’re going to pull Ian Paisley out.' Anything they did in getting me out was done behind backs.”
The Newsletter reports that in the program Dr. Paisley is visibly angry when reminded of what colleagues had written about his son, Ian Paisley Jnr, who was described in the survey as being the subject of ‘damaging stories in the press’ and of causing ‘massive sleaze and scandal’ yet being “above discipline in the party.”
Asked how hurtful those remarks were, Dr. Paisley said: “They were disgraceful. They were absolutely disgraceful and they were disgraceful because the man (Peter Robinson) that they put in my position couldn’t keep his own seat in Westminster.
“And my son who followed me had a marvellous victory. For once, we’re seeing the true nature of the beast; that there was a beast here that was prepared to go forward with the destruction of the party because losing seats in Northern Ireland is a very serious thing and for East Belfast not to be a unionist seat in the House of Commons is a terrible blow.”
In a strongly worded response First Minister Peter Robinson and DUP senior colleagues said, “Lord Bannside (Paisley’s current title) is entitled to his own opinions – however, he is not entitled to his own facts.
“The party deeply appreciates the contribution Lord Bannside made to Northern Ireland and to the growth of the DUP...We are saddened to see Lord Bannside harm his own legacy. In his later years as party leader, many colleagues shielded his frailty from public view, to avoid embarrassment and protect his legacy. Those people are hurt by untrue and bitter comments contained in the documentary.”
“Worse, he now seeks to place the responsibility for his decision on those who protected him most when, at 82 years of age, his ability to perform his duties was seriously diminished and causing widespread concern.”
An accompanying statement from deputy leader Nigel Dodds said, “I am personally very saddened to learn of the tone and contents of the latest program on Lord Bannside.
“All of us who worked hard for him and with him for many years wished only the best for him and for our country.”
In the documentary, Dr. Paisley has also recalled how he told former British Prime Minister Tony Blair he was a "fool" when he was about to convert to Catholicism in 2007.
Dr. Paisley recalls a meeting in Mr Blair’s private room and how, as they were leaving together, the prime minister said, “‘Ian, there is something I need to tell you. When the hands of that clock come to 8 o’clock, I will be a Roman Catholic.’
“He said, ‘I did not want you to leave without telling you, I’d rather tell you myself.’ And I said, ‘You are a fool’ and I walked on."
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