Belfast Telegraph

Ian Paisley: Unionists were caught napping in the election

By Noel McAdam

Unionist parties were "caught napping" in the Assembly election last week, DUP MP Ian Paisley has admitted - and he said rebuilding trust with the electorate will take time.

The North Antrim MP said he knew his criticism would cut deep and argued part of the reason for the nationalist upsurge in the election was a "sickly" Martin McGuinness.

"On the face of it, yes, we got an extra 25,000 votes, very good, pat on the head," he told the New Statesman magazine.

"That tactic of attacking Sinn Fein galvanised nationalist voters - and there was already considerable sympathy for a retiring and sickly Martin McGuinness. That certainly boosted the nationalist feeling that they had to 'do this for Marty!' sort of thing. Everything came together, but I don't believe it was a perfect storm. That, in my view, would be a trivial excuse."

He said he believed his own party was not ready for a snap election, claiming Unionist parties were "caught napping" and the electorate's trust "could take years to rebuild".

Mr Paisley also ruled out a return to Stormont - but insisted the Assembly election is a vote showing that people want devolution.

The son of the former First Minister Lord Bannside also insisted Stormont should be "about management, not crisis".

There is no vacancy - for now - and he insists he has no intention of going back.

"I don't see it. I did 13 years in Stormont and I really enjoyed them," he said. "Stormont should now be about management, it should not be about crisis. We're at crisis point: would I go back at this point? No. I see my future at Westminster."

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