Belfast Telegraph

Saturday 19 April 2014

Ian Paisley still living in Free Presbyterian Church manse and £300k luxury retirement flat - despite alleged 'campaign of poison'

The Free Presbyterian Church ensured the Paisleys had a comfortable retirement in the secluded Martyrs Memorial manse in Belfast and a luxury apartment on north Down's Gold Coast

Ian Paisley may have railed against his treatment by the Free Presbyterian hierarchy and refused to set foot in Martyrs Memorial church since stepping down as preacher, but he continues to live in its manse.

No members of the Paisley family worship at Martyrs Memorial, with Mr Paisley claiming they are better staying away.

"I think they're better not going to worship there because they would not be happy, and you don't go to church to sit on nails," he said.

"You go to church to sit in a place where there is rest and peace."

Yet Mr and Mrs Paisley still live at Martyrs Memorial manse at Cyprus Avenue along with their daughter, Rhonda.

He also continues to enjoy a retirement home provided by the church.

In 2006 the church offered him accommodation which he and his wife could use for their lifetime.

They selected a luxury three-bedroom apartment in Crawfordsburn with a price tag of over £300,000.

The church loaned him as much as it could. Mr Paisley has since repaid most of the loan.

During last night's documentary Mrs Paisley alleged how a campaign of "poison" had led to her husband's resignation as moderator of the Free Presbyterian Church in 2007.

Mr Paisley had set up the Free P Church in 1951 after a split with the main Presbyterian Church, and served as moderator for most of its history.

However, growing unease at Mr Paisley's duel role as Moderator and First Minister, which saw him share power with Sinn Fein, came to a head in September 2007 at the annual general meeting of the church's presbytery at Martyrs Memorial.

For 50 years Mr Paisley's leadership had gone unchallenged, but the conflict among Free Presbyterians effectively split the church that night.

Mrs Paisley said she encouraged her husband to remain as moderator, but said "poison" had been laid.

"He was doing a good job, as he had done all his life. There was nothing to stop him continuing with that and continuing his position as First Minister," she said.

"But the poison had been laid, and spread, and that was the damage that had been done."

After a five-hour meeting involving church elders and ministers it was announced Mr Paisley would resign the following January.

Mrs Paisley said: "Our hearts were all broken for Ian. I felt that he had been deeply wounded in the house of his friends, and I just felt it was really iniquitous, and really dreadful, a hurtful, nasty, ungodly, unchristian thing to do."

By late 2011 arrangements were being made to remove Mr Paisley from the pulpit of Martyrs Memorial, where he continued to preach.

The final blow came in a letter from the Kirk Session, signed by all seven elders of Martyrs Memorial, telling Mr Paisley to go.

Just weeks after delivering his final sermon at Martyrs Memorial Mr Paisley was rushed to hospital with heart failure.

Mrs Paisley stated: "I know he was heartbroken. It was the heartbreak that made him ill, that took a toll on his health."

 

Ian Paisley's family had begun to prepare for his funeral 

Ian Paisley's explosive TV attack on former colleagues in DUP and Free Presbyterian Church leaves them seething in silence 

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