Ian Paisley's Pope protest 'is an embarrassment'
A planned protest involving Ian Paisley against the Pope’s UK visit has been branded a “complete embarrassment to Northern Ireland”, by an SDLP MLA.
A Free Presbyterian delegation of around 60 will travel to Scotland this week to protest at the four-day trip by Pope Benedict.
The head of the Catholic Church is due to start his visit to the UK on Thursday.
Thousands of people are expected to line the routes during his trip to Edinburgh, Glasgow, London and Birmingham.
Mr Paisley, Northern Ireland’s former First Minister, will be among the protest group travelling to Scotland.
The Church has published a booklet spelling out its opposition.
East Londonderry SDLP MLA John Dallat said the protest led by the former leader of the DUP and founder of the Free Presbyterian Church is “childish”, adding that it will cause “confusion” for supporters of the peace process.
Mr Paisley, however, says the protest will be peaceful and will involve unfurling a banner and having a public meeting outside.
“What we're doing, we're making a legitimate protest about something that is entirely wrong and I am looking at myself as a person who is prepared to champion those who have been very, very badly treated by these priests of Rome.” he told the BBC.
Mr Paisley said the visit comes at a time when the Pope’s church is “very deeply divided because of the behaviour of many priests
within the church and his evident desire not to enter into this matter and deal with it”.
“I have been visited by many Roman Catholic people who are gravely pained by the actions of Rome in regard to the attacks on young children,” he added.
“Many of their children have been attacked. I think I have a right, everybody has a right, to make their presence felt on this issue.”
Mr Dallat called the protest “an embarrassment to Northern Ireland. It is ridiculous. He had convinced a very sizeable number of people including people in the nationalist community that he had changed and that he had a commitment to reconciliation and respect for diversity and difference. Clearly he hasn’t changed one bit,” he said.