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Ian Paisley indirectly responsible for killings during Troubles, says flautist Sir James Galway

Sir James: I would like Ireland to be Ireland. People ask me 'where do you come from' and I say Ireland

By Claire Williamson

World-renowned flautist Sir James Galway has launched a remarkable broadside on the late former First Minister Ian Paisley asking if he was "indirectly responsible for killing" by planting "thoughts of violence" in people's minds during the Troubles.

Belfast-born Sir James was speaking on the BBC Stephen Nolan show on Friday morning when he was questioned about how to resolve the legacy of the Troubles in Northern Ireland.

The 75-year-old said the problems stemmed from segregated education and that there may not have been so many problems if schools in Northern Ireland had been mixed.

<<Listen to audio of the comments below >>

When asked if there would be less conflict if people were less religious - Sir James launched a broadside on former First Minister Ian Paisley who passed away at the age of 88 in September 2014.

He said: "Let's talk about Ian Paisley,  he was a religious leader how many people do you think he was responsible for killing indirectly? By planting the thoughts of violence and no surrender in the heads of people who had no more sense."

When asked if he thought Mr Paisley was responsible he said: "I'm sure he was because he wasn't exactly preaching let's all live together was he?"

When challenged with the steps Lord Bannside took at the end of his political career by sitting down with Sinn Fein's Martin McGuinness he said "maybe he didn't have a choice."

"I never admired Paisley ever, because I think he was on paper a man of God but in reality I don't think he was. I mean how could you justify setting one side against another?"

He added: "It's not for me to judge."

East Antrim DUP MP Sammy Wilson blasted the comments as "out of touch and incoherent".

He said: "During the interview with Stephen Nolan, Sir James Galway indicated that he doesn’t take much interest in politics and perhaps he should have kept it that way.  I have always admired Sir James’ work but some of his comments were offensive, inaccurate and downright disgraceful.

"Everyone is entitled to develop their unique political viewpoint but if they express that view then they should also be prepared to defend it. 

"For Sir James to express his pro-republican viewpoint, criticise Northern Ireland being part of the United Kingdom but then accept a knighthood from our Monarch is hypocritical.  It is the typical hallmark of anti-British social climber who cannot resist our British honours system. 

"If Sir James’ views are so dearly held then he should probably consider handing back the Knighthood."

"The Paisley family have requested that we do not comment on Sir James’ remarks about Dr Paisley because of pending legal action.  We respect this request however we will always defend Dr Paisley’s record as a leader of unionism."

He added: "Sir James’ interview will have discredited him with many admirers.  His incoherent claims will be viewed as the comments of someone who is out of touch with reality in Northern Ireland. I am a proud unionist. I am delighted that a growing majority of people in Northern Ireland recognise that our future is best served as part of the United Kingdom.”

Sir James also said that growing up in Northern Ireland he was "brainwashed by Presbyterians".

He said: "I would like Ireland to be Ireland. People ask me where do you come from and I say Ireland.

"And they say 'are you Irish?' And I say 'yes I'm Irish'.

"No (I don't consider myself to be Northern Irish). I am Irish.

"(The difference) is very complicated. They say, 'well how do you become a Sir?' I say, 'because I come from the British occupied part of Ireland'.

"Then when I grew up we grew up as Protestants and we were brainwashed to the Protestant ethic, and to their way of thinking. For example we knew all the sights of London, Trafalgar Square, Buckingham Palace and all that but we didn't know Stormont."

When asked by whom he was brainwashed he replied: "Well, by the Presbyterians who made the school systems separate. If they had all been together in the first place we may not have so many problems."

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