Belfast Telegraph

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

By Adrian Rutherford

Anger is growing within the DUP and Free Presbyterian Church as the fallout continues from Ian Paisley's explosive attack on his former colleagues.

Mr Paisley, who said he was ousted from the leadership of the party and church he helped to establish, is coming under mounting criticism from his once-loyal following.

Despite a wall of silence from the DUP hierarchy – with key figures ordered not to speak to journalists – the Belfast Telegraph has been told of the fury felt inside the party.

Political and church sources criticised Mr Paisley for continuing to use the manse of the Martyrs Memorial Church despite revealing he told family members not to set foot in the church he preached in for more than half-a-century.

They have also pointed to a £70,000 retirement bash organised by the DUP in May 2008 – a month before he stepped down as First Minister.

One source described the mood as "bitter".

It followed a strongly worded statement from senior figures within the DUP, including leader Peter Robinson, who said: "This is not the Ian Paisley we knew." The statement was released ahead of an extraordinary interview with the 87-year-old, which was finally broadcast on BBC1 NI last night.

The hour-long documentary heard:

  • Claims that Peter Robinson and Nigel Dodds had given Mr Paisley deadlines for his departure, with Mr Dodds allegedly telling him to go by the end of the week, leading Eileen Paisley to brand the North Belfast MP "a cheeky sod".
  • A series of personal jibes from Mrs Paisley at Mr Robinson, including a remark branding his family a source of "sleaze" – an apparent reference to the sex scandal which engulfed his wife Iris four years ago.
  • A comment that some will view as a dig at Mr Robinson, when Mr Paisley says he has no feelings to those who showed him the door, adding that he is happy and has a wife who still loves him.
  • Taunts from Mr Paisley at Mr Robinson losing his East Belfast seat at the 2010 General Election – a loss he brands "a terrible, terrible blow" for unionism, and an admission that their once rock-solid relationship is now beyond repair.
  • And references to "a beast" within the DUP that was prepared to go forward to the destruction of the party.

The DUP denies the Paisleys' claims, and has strongly rejected any notion that Mr Paisley was forced out.

The Paisley family is also scathing about Mr Paisley's departure as Moderator of the Free Presbyterian Church and as preacher at Martyrs Memorial.

Mr Paisley says he has not visited the church since retiring two years ago, and has told family members to stay away, claiming "they would not be happy" there.

However, sources within the church told of their anger, and questioned why Mr Paisley and his wife continued to live in Martyrs Memorial manse at Cyprus Avenue in east Belfast – despite his apparent unhappiness.

They also pointed to a church loan provided for Mr Paisley in 2006 to help fund the purchase of an apartment in Crawfordsburn, intended to be a retirement home.

Mr Paisley has repaid most of the loan, but has not budged from the manse.

Political sources, angered by Mr Paisley's remarks, contacted this newspaper to highlight the DUP's £70,000 send-off for their outgoing leader.

The party hired the entire RUAS complex at Balmoral, inviting more than 2,000 people and providing a dinner for 400 guests.

The feeling of anger from political sources was backed up by a terse party statement issued on Sunday night.

Mr Robinson, the main target of the Paisleys' barbs, claimed his predecessor had harmed his own legacy.

"As someone who faithfully served Dr Paisley for many decades I will make one final sacrifice by not responding and causing any further damage to his legacy beyond that which he has done himself," he said. "Rather than return insult for insult, let me bless him with the mercy of my silence and wish him well."

Party chairman Maurice Morrow said: "These latest utterances do not do justice to someone who was a giant in unionism in Northern Ireland."

TUV leader Jim Allister, who left the DUP over its move to share power with Sinn Fein, said the programme shattered the myth of "one big happy family" and was unedifying, adding that it damaged both the Paisleys and the Robinsons.

 

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