Belfast Telegraph

Friday 18 April 2014

Doubts over accuracy of Ian Paisley's Tony Blair recollections

Ian Paisley and Tony Blair, pictured in 2007 on the first day of the Northern Ireland Assembly.

Fresh doubts have been raised about Ian Paisley's recollection of his final days as DUP leader following a series of apparent inaccuracies in his remarks.

Particular attention has been drawn to his memories of conversations with former Prime Minister Tony Blair, in which the pair discussed religion.

In the BBC interview, Mr Paisley claims that Mr Blair told him of his plans to convert to Catholicism following a meeting.

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

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

However, some have pointed out that Mr Blair did not become a Catholic until December 2007 – when he had stood down as prime minister and Labour party leader.

Mr Paisley also said he spent "a good deal of time" discussing religion with Mr Blair, whose maternal grandparents came from Donegal. Mr Paisley said the former prime minister told him his grandmother, Sally, was a strong Paisleyite and had told Mr Blair: "You don't do anything on Ian Paisley, because it will be very unlucky for you if you do".

But she died in 1978 – five years before Mr Blair became an MP and 19 years before he was PM.

In a statement, the DUP also said a meeting, in which Mr Paisley was given an alleged ultimatum to quit – did not take place in February as the former leader had claimed.

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