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Ian Paisley widow Eileen's anger at James Galway's claims that Troubles murders were his fault

By Adrian Rutherford and Liam Clarke

Published 06/06/2015

Sir James Galway at the BBC Music Day Event
Sir James Galway at the BBC Music Day Event
Eileen Paisley

The wife of the late Ian Paisley has described as despicable accusations that he was indirectly "responsible" for murders.

Eileen Paisley said she viewed the remarks from Sir James Galway "with contempt".

The renowned classical flautist said he "never admired" Dr Paisley, claiming the former First Minister and DUP leader was not a man of God.

In an astonishing outburst, he also talked about Northern Ireland as the "British-occupied part of Ireland" and said the region was in danger of being run by thugs, comparing it to rule in Nazi Germany.

Speaking to the Belfast Telegraph, Baroness Paisley hit back at the remarks. "I just despise and treat his comments with contempt," she said.

Asked if she would be willing to meet with Sir James over his comments, she added: "No, I am not discussing anything with him."

The Paisley family has sought legal advice on the matter.

The remarks were made during an interview on the BBC's Nolan Show yesterday.

Referring to Dr Paisley, who passed away last year, Sir James said: "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?

"I'm sure he was (responsible), because he wasn't exactly preaching 'let's all live together', was he?

"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?"

Sir James, who was knighted by the Queen in 2001, also objected to the British Empire's historic rule over Ireland.

"Wouldn't you say it is immoral for one country to take over another country just because the other country is not so well armed?" he asked. "Wouldn't you think that was immoral?"

"Well, let me put this to you - would you not think that 800 years ago what the British did was immoral and is still immoral?"

Sir James said he considered himself Irish rather than Northern Irish and added he "would like Ireland to be Ireland".

He also claimed he considered himself to come from "the British-occupied part of Ireland".

Last night he issued a statement that stopped short of an apology. It read: "Music is my life and love. We all have our views on life. I am here today to celebrate music. I love Northern Ireland and it is never my intent to cause offence."

But DUP MP Sammy Wilson said the musician's comments were both out of touch and incoherent.

"I have always admired Sir James's work, but some of his comments were offensive, inaccurate and downright disgraceful," he added.

"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, to criticise Northern Ireland being part of the United Kingdom but then to accept a knighthood from our monarch, is hypocritical. It is the typical hallmark of an anti-British social climber who cannot resist our British honours system.

"If Sir James's views are so dearly held, he should probably consider handing back the knighthood."

The DUP said that the Paisley family had requested that it does not comment on Sir James's remarks about Dr Paisley because of pending legal action.

It is understood that this relates to the BBC broadcast of the interview.

A source said: "If you can't broadcast an interview when someone is alive because of the threat of libel, their guidelines say you can't broadcast it when that person has died."

The BBC added: "The programme adhered to our usual editorial guidelines. We will, of course, consider any complaint we receive."

Edited extracts from Galway’s revealing interview

On Northern Ireland

When you look at all this whole stuff, whoever wins the day, if it happens to be a bunch of thugs, do you want to really live in a society that they rule? In Germany, you would not like to be ruled by Nazis, and we might have been, had it not been for Winston Churchill sticking to his guns.

Wouldn't you say that it is immoral for one country to take over another country just because the other country is not so well armed. Wouldn't you think that was immoral?

Well, let me put this to you. Would you not think that 800 years ago what the British did was immoral, and they kept doing it and it's still immoral?

On Ireland

I would like Ireland to be Ireland, and when people ask me 'where do you come from', I say Ireland. They say, 'oh you're Irish' and I say 'yes I'm Irish'.

It's very complicated. They say 'well how do you become a sir?' And I say because I come from the British-occupied part of Ireland. 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 in London - Trafalgar Square, Buckingham Palace and all that, but we didn't know Stormont.

Resolving the past

The education system has to stop and it has to be Catholics, Protestants, Presbyterians, everybody together. All under the same roof.

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?

I'm sure he was [responsible for some] because he wasn't exactly preaching 'let's all live together', was he?

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?

On faith

You don't get a gift like mine for nothing... I would feel embarrassed in front of God to think that I'd played bad just because I didn't practise. I would be embarrassed.

Now you wouldn't want to be embarrassed in front of God, would you? If you believe in Christ and in the Reincarnation, then you know it exists.

On money

I'm not rich, I can tell you that. You get ripped off on the way.

It is irritating that along the way certain things like banks - you invest your fortune and they call you up and say 'We've had a dip in the thing and now instead of having £10m you've only got £7m, and that keeps going till it gets to 'I'm going to buy a shoebox and stick it all under the bed'.

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