Northern Ireland’s First Minister Peter Robinson has refused to enter into a war of words with former DUP leader Ian Paisley.
Robinson and fellow DUP members were accused of acting like ‘beasts’ when they ousted Paisley as DUP leader and First Minister in 2008.
Dr Paisley made the claims in a television documentary broadcast by the BBC on Monday night.
But Robinson and his party stated only that they were ‘saddened’ to see the Dr Paisley ‘harm his legacy’ in the program.
And they denied that senior party members including Robinson and Nigel Dodds forced him to step down, according to a report in the Irish Times.
A DUP spokesman told the paper, “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.
“We would also query how Dr Paisley can now say he was forced from his post when at the time in 2008 he said he was not pushed out.”
Robinson told the paper that many will believe that in agreeing to participate in the program, Dr Paisley did ‘nothing to enhance his legacy.’
The First Minister said, “This is not the Ian Paisley we knew. As someone who faithfully served Dr Paisley for many decades I will make one final sacrifice by not responding and causing any further damage to his legacy beyond that which he has done himself.
“Rather than return insult for insult, let me bless him with the mercy of my silence and wish him well.”
The BBC program contained an allegation by Dr Paisley that in February 2008 deputy leader Nigel Dodds – whom he disparagingly described as the ‘Mighty Dodds’ – demanded he resign within days.
Dodds responded, “What is being said now by Lord Bannside (Paisley) about meetings is inaccurate and stands in stark contrast to everything that he said and did at the time and, indeed, during the years since.”