Belfast Telegraph

Wednesday 16 April 2014

Peter Robinson: I gave Ian Paisley Jnr fatherly advice over TV storm

First Minister Peter Robinson and Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness at a youth unemployment event at the Waterfront Hall on Thursday
First Minister Peter Robinson and Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness at a youth unemployment event at the Waterfront Hall on Thursday

DUP leader Peter Robinson has insisted that Ian Paisley Jnr's place in the party is secure despite the personal criticism of himself by both Lord and Lady Bannside.

He said he is looking forward, not back, in the aftermath of the attacks on him and his family from Ian Paisley.

Mr Robinson made his comments as he appeared with Martin McGuinness at a 'united youth' event as part of a plan to tackle sectarianism and youth unemployment.

Despite the theme, they managed to publicly differ over the way forward on the Haass blueprint on flags, parades and dealing with the legacy of the Troubles.

The DUP leader also appealed to the media not to increase the pressure on Ian Jnr following his father's trenchant criticism of Mr Robinson, his family and deputy leader Nigel Dodds.

Facing the media for the first time since the broadcast of Eamonn Mallie's explosive two-part interview, the DUP leader stressed he would not be "sidetracked" by the programme.

But he acknowledged that Ian Jnr is "in a difficult position" following the documentary in which Lord Bannside revealed he was forced out of the party in 2008.

Ian Paisley Jnr pictured at the Adelaide Motorcycle Awards in Belfast
Ian Paisley Jnr pictured at the Adelaide Motorcycle Awards in Belfast

Mr Robinson, however, said he did not intend to make the situation more difficult for the North Antrim MP, and appealed to the media to do the same.

"I give him advice as a father rather than as a party leader or as First Minister, and I don't think he should say or do anything that makes his relationship with his family more difficult," he said.

"That's a particularly important element for him to keep, particularly at this stage of his parents' lives."

The documentary would not affect Mr Paisley Jnr's standing in the party "nor will it affect any relationship he has with me," Mr Robinson stressed. Then he added: "And I hope he clearly gets that message."

Ian Paisley Jnr has so far not commented publicly on the documentary and its impact on him.

At their first joint appearance in public for several weeks, the First Minister and Deputy First Minister arrived separately.

Mr McGuinness said the next three weeks would prove crucial for the inter-party talks on the final Haass document – and refused to withdraw his claim that in Belfast the Orange Order, UVF and Progressive Unionist Party are "one and the same".

Mr Robinson knocked aside the idea of any deadline for the on-going talks, rejected Sinn Fein insistence there could be no further negotiations and rejected Mr McGuinness' attack.

BACKGROUND

Mr Robinson and Mr McGuinness appeared together at a youth unemployment event in Belfast, despite their differences over the Haass talks. The First Minister said he thought it was a good thing, and a sign of a strengthening society, if he and Mr McGuinness could show that despite differences between them, they can still work together. "I think that is a good message to give to young people," he added.

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