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IRA plot to murder Ian Paisley on day of bloodshed failed when he left home early, his widow Eileen reveals

By Liam Clarke

Published 15/12/2015

Baroness Paisley in the Bannside Library
Baroness Paisley in the Bannside Library
Rev Robert Bradford who was shot dead by the IRA in 1981
Rev Paisley reads the lesson at Rev Robert Bradford's funeral

Eileen Paisley has revealed that there was a plot to murder her husband on the same day as Rev Robert Bradford, the first unionist MP to be murdered in the Troubles.

Rev Bradford, then Ulster Unionist MP for South Belfast, was shot dead by a five-strong IRA squad while conducting a constituency clinic at Finaghy on November 14, 1981.

"Ian was supposed to have been shot at the same time, but he left home early that day," Baroness Paisley revealed.

Another man, Robert Campbell, was also murdered alongside Rev Bradford.

Baroness Paisley was told that the intention had been to shoot the-then DUP leader with low-velocity bullets.

She said: "[They are] the type which would not go out the other side of the car, but would bounce around until they hit something."

She added she believed her husband left home at 7am that morning, before later changing his schedule.

There have always been theories around the murder of Mr Bradford, a former member of the Vanguard movement who was regarded as a hard-liner.

An IRA statement accused him of "winding up the loyalist paramilitary machine" by strong statements against the IRA hunger strike, in which 10 prisoners died, and accusing republicans of racketeering.

His assassination was generally seen as an attempt to produce a loyalist backlash that would increase support for the IRA.

Ian Paisley, Peter Robinson and Nigel Dodds with DUP Candidates for Belfast Council Elections. 24/4/89
Ian Paisley, Peter Robinson and Nigel Dodds with DUP Candidates for Belfast Council Elections. 24/4/89
Ian Paisley and his wife Eileen on wedding their day.
Enthronement of Archbishop John Armstrong at Armagh. Ian Paisley arrested outside Cathedral for trying to break through a police cordon. Paisley, Peter Robinson and Jonhy McQuade as well as DUP supporters were arrested. They were held in custody for just one hour. Paisley etc. were there to protest at the presence of Premier Charles Haughey from the south who they claimed was willingly harbouring wanted terrorists. Pacemaker Press Intl. 7th May 1980.4/3/08 The DUP leader has announced that he will step down as First Minister and and leader of the Democratic Unionist Party in May.316/80/BW
Ian Paisley and Peter Robinson are taken away by police in Armagh after protesting a vist by Charles Haughey in 1980
REVEREND IAN PAISLEY MP.Ian Paisley confronts an RUC officer when refused access to Duke Street where the Civil Rights parade went on. 10/10/1988
Pacemaker Belfast ArchiveRev Ian Paisley preaches to the 12,000 strong congregation at the Kings Hall in Belfast on the 40th anniversary of the free Presbyterian Church.24-3-199114/11/2011 The Rev Ian Paisley has announced his retirement from preaching after 60 years. Mr Paisley who is 85 started way back in 1946
REVEREND IAN PAISLEY MP.DUP leader Reverend Ian Paisley features on a DUP campaign to 'Smash Sinn Fein and Reject Republicanism'.
The funeral of procession of former DUP leader Ian Paisley. Pic Pacemaker
PACEMAKER BELFAST. Copy pics from the book about the early years of the life of Ian Paisley. 13/8/86.1197/86/bw14/11/2011 The Rev Ian Paisley has announced his retirement from preaching after 60 years. Mr Paisley who is 85 started way back in 1946
The Reverend Ian Paisley, a militant Protestant leader, singing during a demonstration outside Canterbury Cathedral against the first Roman Catholic Mass to be held there for 400 years. (Photo by Keystone/Getty Images)
PACEMAKER PRESS INTL. BELFAST. Funeral of Kenneth Campbell who was shot dead at the Finaghy Health Centre with Robert Bradford MP. Ian Paisley is pictured crying. 17/11/81.1120/81/bw
PACEMAKER PRESS INTL. BELFAST. The early years of the life of the Rev Ian Paisley. 13/8/86.1197/86/bw
Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness signs a book of condolence at in the Great Hall at Parliament Buildings, Stormont, Belfast, in memory of former DUP leader and First Minister Rev Ian Paisley.
General view of a portrait of Rev Ian Paisley in the Great Hall at Parliament Buildings, Stormont, Belfast, in memory of former DUP leader and First Minister Rev Ian Paisley. Pic Kelvin Boyes
Gerry Adams signs a book of condolence for Ian Paisley. Pic Jonathan Porter
Deputy Speaker Mitchel McLaughlin signs a book of condolence at in the Great Hall at Parliament Buildings, Stormont, Belfast. Pic Kelvin Boyes
PACEMAKER BELFAST 15/04/98 Rev Ian Paisley pictured on his weding day to wife Eileen Date unknown
Rev Ian Paisley After Formation of Defence Corp. Paisley with copy of morning's Newsletter which announces that he had unveiled a new Defence Corp following a late night gathering of loyalists. Pacemaker Press Intl. 6th Feb. 1981.120/81/BW
PACEMAKER ARCHIVE 1978 REF 174/78Rev Ian paisley protesting in Carrick at the fact that the BBC were filming Its a Knockout on a Sunday23/4/78
PACEMAKER BELFAST. Ian Paisley and Jim Molyneaux sign away their seats in Westminster during Loyalist Rally. 23/11/85.1224/85/bw
PACEMAKER PRESS INTL. BELFAST. End of the Carson Trial Phase 11. Stormont Rally. Ian Paisley, Peter Robinson. 28/3/81.270/81/c
Pacemaker Belfast ArchiveIan Paisley in the Pacemaker Studio.June 1991514-91-BWC
Pacamaker Archive BelfastRev Ian Paisley Wedding Day28-02-1991168-91-BW
Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness signs a book of condolence at in the Great Hall at Parliament Buildings, Stormont, Belfast. Pic Kelvin Boyes
PACEMAKER BELFAST. THe third Force in Newtownards on Loyalist Day of Action. Third force men marched into Newtownards led by Ian Paisley. 23/11/81.1082/81/bw
Peter Robinson signs a book of condolence at in the Great Hall at Parliament Buildings, Stormont, Belfast. Pic Kelvin Boyes
PACEMAKER BELFAST. The third Force in Newtownards on Loyalist Day of Action. Third force men marched into Newtownards led by Ian Paisley. 23/11/81.1082/81/bw
PACEMAKER PRESS INTL. BELFAST. Ian Paisley and DUP sign Ulsters Declaration. 9/2/81.123/81/c
SDLP leader Alasdair McDonnell signs a book of condolence at in the Great Hall at Parliament Buildings, Stormont, Belfast. Pic Kelvin Boyes
Ian Paisley:Democratic Unionist Party (DUP), with wife Eileen.
Jim Allister signs a book of condolence at in the Great Hall at Parliament Buildings, Stormont, Belfast. Pic Kelvin Boyes
PACEMAKER BELFAST JUNE 1987 JHIAN PAISLEY CANVASSING IN BALLYMONEY FOR FORTHCOMING GENERAL ELECTION.2/3/2010 Rev Ian Paisley has today announced that he will not stand at the next generay election after 40 years as an MP. His son Ian junior is expected to fight for the seat against the TUV leader Jim Allister..
Rev Ian Paisley and his Afgan Dog Jason pictured out for a walk along Cyprus Ave. Belfast prior to the assembly elections. Pacemaker Press Intl. 19/10/821047/82/BW
IAN PAISLEY:DEMOCRAIIC UNIONIST PARTY (DUP) LEADER, WITH PARTY SENIORS, NIGEL DODDS, IRIS AND PETER ROBINSON.
Ian Paisley:Democratic Unionist Party (DUP), SPEAKS AT A PROTEST RALLY AT CARRICKFERGUS CASTLE. 10/9/1971.
MERLYN REES.Former Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, Labour MP, Baron Merlyn-Rees. Pictured with DUP leader Ian Paisley.
Ian Paisley:Democratic Unionist Party (DUP),during his victory rally through Larne. 9/7/1970
Ian Paisley:Democratic Unionist Party (DUP),with fellow DUP MP's John McQuade ans Peter Robinson, wave to the crowd at Stormont gates. 23/11/1981
Rev Ian Paisley: DUP Leader. June 1966.The Reverend Ian Paisley and his supporters, who held a protest march to the Assembly Hall, Belfast..
Rev Ian Paisley, Party Leader of the Democratic Unionist Party grabs Ulster television interviewer Ivan Little during a TV interview at the North Antrim count at Ballymoney in the Northern Ireland election, November 27 2003. The Ulster Unionist and Democratic Unionist are running neck-and-neck in a tight Northern Ireland Assembly Election contest, an Exit poll has claimed today. See PA story ULSTER Elections. PA Photo: Michael Cooper.
DUP Protesters outside Belfast City Hall on arrival of Dublin Councillors to Belfast. Ian Paisley, Peter Robinson and Rev William McCrea with supporters. Also DUP protesters try to prevent Lord Mayor John Carson reaching Central Station to meet Dubliners. Pacemaker Press Intl. 3rd March 1981193/81/BW
REVEREND IAN PAISLEY MP.Ian Paisley, out looking for votes for the European Elections, stops to look at this little Shetland Pony at the Ballyclare May Fair. 22/5/1984.
PACEMAKER PRESS INTL. BELFAST. Rev Ian Paisley announcing European Manefests at Party Headquarters. He is pictured with Peter Robinson. 23/5/79105/79/bw
Ian Pailsey aged 8
Pictured in Crossgar on 17th March 1951 at the opening of the first Free Presbyterian Church of Ulster are L to R: Jack Gibson, George Hutton, Cecil Harvey, Rev Dr Ian Paisley, William Emerson, Rev George Stears (Minister Pro tem), James Morrison, George K Gibson, William Miscampbell and Hugh James Adams.
Pacemaker Belfast ArchiveIan Paisley in the Pacemaker Studio.June 1991514-91-BWC
Ian Paisley at an Ulster Says No rally in Ballymoney 1986
CIVIL RIGHTS PROTEST: PEOPLE'S DEMOCRACY. First protest march to Belfast city centre. A crowd of students pictured at a meeting with Ian Paisley (centre) near Belfast City Hall. 9/10/1968.
DEMOCRATIC UNIONIST PARTY (DUP)/DELEGATION AFTER MEETING WITH CHIEF CONSTABLE, FROM LEFT, REV. WILLIAM McCREA, REV. IVAN FOSTER, JIM McALLISTER, REV. IAN PAISLEY AND PETER ROBINSON. 1/2/1984
Ian Paisley pictured with wife Eileen and family in 1989
Ian Paisley has died at the age of 88
Government of Northern Ireland. United Ulster Unionist Coalition. (March 1974) Ulster loyalist MPs met at Stormont to agree their policy. From left are Mr. Carson, Mr. Kilfedder, Mr. Dunlop, the Rev. Ian Paisley, Mr. west, the Rev. Robert Bradford, Mr. Craig, Mr. Ross, Mr. Molyneaux, Mr. McCusker. Capt. Orr was in London.
Ian Paisley:Democratic Unionist Party (DUP),ENJOYS A JOKE WITH MAJOR RONALD BUNTING DURING A PRESS CONFERENCE AT ELECTION HEADQUARTERS IN BELFAST. ON THE LEFT IS COUNCILLOR WILLIAM SPENCE. 27/2/1969
Rev Ian Paisley ... family holds vigil for ailing patriarch
Former First Minister Mr Paisley continues to be treated in intensive care for suspected heart failure
27/1/12 PACEMAKER BELFAST. The Rev. Ian Paisley waves to the almost three thousand strong congregation at the Special Farewell Service in his honour after 65 years of Ministry at the Martyrs Memorial Church, on the Ravenhill Road, Belfast. Picture CHARLES MCQUILLAN/PACEMAKER
27/1/12 PACEMAKER BELFAST. The Rev. Ian Paisley poses with his wife Baroness Paisley and their children and grandchildren before the Special Farewell Service in his honour after 65 years of Ministry at the Martyrs Memorial Church, on the Ravenhill Road, Belfast. Picture CHARLES MCQUILLAN/PACEMAKER
27/1/12 PACEMAKER BELFAST. The Rev. Ian Paisley has his waistcoat buttoned up by his wife Baroness Paisley before the Special Farewell Service in his honour after 65 years of Ministry at the Martyrs Memorial Church, on the Ravenhill Road, Belfast. Picture CHARLES MCQUILLAN/PACEMAKER
27/1/12 PACEMAKER BELFAST. The Rev. Ian Paisley hangs up his hat and coat as he arrives for the Special Farewell Service in his honour after 65 years of Ministry at the Martyrs Memorial Church, on the Ravenhill Road, Belfast. Picture CHARLES MCQUILLAN/PACEMAKER
PACEMAKER BELFAST Ian Paisley, David Trimble at the bottom of the Garvaghy road after the 1995 parade was allowed to pass down the road.4/3/08 The DUP leader has announced that he will step down as First Minister and and leader of the Democratic Unionist Party in May.
PACEMAKER, BELFAST, 10/12/2004: A delighted Reverend Ian Paisley during the ceremony where he was created a Freeman of the Borough of Ballymena in the town tonight.PICTURE BY STEPHEN DAVISON
Ian Paisley takes his seat in the House of Lords...Ian Paisley, the former Northern Ireland first minister, took his seat in the House of Lords today as Lord Bannside. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Monday July 05, 2010. Lord Bannside was one of 56 new peers announced on one day by Downing Street and today he was introduced to the upper chamber along with two Labour peers, Jeannie Drake and Maeve Sherlock. See PA story LORDS Paisley. Photo credit should read: PA Wire...A
First Minister Dr Ian Paisley and deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness after they rang the opening bell ay Nasdaq,Times Square ,New York
PACEMAKER BELFAST 4/5/2007Rev Ian Paisley pictured at his Home in East Belfast.
PACEMAKER BELFAST JUNE 1987 JHIAN PAISLEY CANVASSING IN BALLYMONEY FOR FORTHCOMING GENERAL ELECTION.604/87/BW/C
Ian Paisley chats to his congregation after delivering his final sermon yesterday from the pulpit of Martyrsí Memorial on the Ravenhill Road for the last time
PAISLEY GREAT GRANDFATHERDr Ian Paisley MP Former Northern Ireland First Minister pictured with his first Great Grandchild Caleb Cassells (3 months). Caleb is the son of Ian Paisley's first Grandchild Lydia who is married to Stephen Cassells. He and his wife Baroness Paisley have 5 children and 10 Grandchildren.Photo John Harrison
STANDALONEHandout photo of First Minister for Northern Ireland Ian Paisley with his daughter Rhonda at the opening of her new art exhibition at the Emer Gallery, Antrim Road, Belfast.: Sunday May 4 2008.
DUP leader Ian Paisley pictured with his wife Eileen on his return from a short stay in hospital. He is now enjoying his summer break before returning to Political work in the Autumn.
20/5/2011 Pacemaker Belfast. Former First Minister Ian Paisley salutes members of the Royal Irish Rangers this evening as they were welcomed home by thousands in Ballymena town centre after their tour of Afghanistan. Picture Charles McQuillan/Pacemaker.
©Press Eye Ltd Northern Ireland - 7th February 2012 Mandatory Credit - Photo-Jonathan Porter/Presseye. Former First Minister of Northern Ireland and leader of the DUP Ian Paisley is admitted to hospital. 85-year-old Lord Bannside was admitted to the Ulster Hospital in Dundonald after taking ill on Sunday. Ian Paisley Jnr pictured leaving the Ulster Hospital in east Belfast.
Ian Paisley and his wife Baroness Eileen Paisley chatting to Pat Kenny on the Late Late Show.KOBPIX NO FEE
Handout photo of Senator Hilary Clinton with First Minister Northern Ireland Ian Paisley and Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness at the Willard Hotel ,Washington DC. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Friday December 7, 2007. Photo credit should read: John Harrison/PA Wire
Pacemaker Press Belfast 07-02-2012: Ian Paisley Jr pictured leaving Dundonald hospital.The former first minister and DUP leader Ian Paisley has spent the night at his hospital bedside.Lord Bannside, who is 85, was taken ill on Sunday. He is being treated in the intensive care unit of the Ulster Hospital in Dundonald.Picture By: Pacemaker.
eader of the DUP , Rev Dr Ian Paisley as he goes on the campaign trail through the streets of Belfast City. Picture Mark Pearce/Pacemaker 2/3/2010
Lord and Lady Paisley celebrate at their east Belfast home
27/1/12 PACEMAKER BELFAST. The Rev. Ian Paisley poses with his wife Baroness Paisley and their children and grandchildren before the Special Farewell Service in his honour after 65 years of Ministry at the Martyrs Memorial Church, on the Ravenhill Road, Belfast. Picture CHARLES MCQUILLAN/PACEMAKER
27/1/12 PACEMAKER BELFAST. A reserved seat indeed for the Rev. Ian Paisley among the almost three thousand strong congregation at the Special Farewell Service in his honour after 65 years of Ministry at the Martyrs Memorial Church, on the Ravenhill Road, Belfast. Picture CHARLES MCQUILLAN/PACEMAKER
27/1/12 PACEMAKER BELFAST. The Rev. Ian Paisley waves to the almost three thousand strong congregation at the Special Farewell Service in his honour after 65 years of Ministry at the Martyrs Memorial Church, on the Ravenhill Road, Belfast. Picture CHARLES MCQUILLAN/PACEMAKER
Ian Paisley D1.jpg
PACEMAKER BELFAST 15/04/98 IAN PAISLEY AS A 12 YEAR OLD BOY
A young Ian Paisley aged just eight years old.
Outgoing Free Presbyterian Moderator Rev Ian Paisley and the Rev Ron Johnston incoming Moderator.
Ian Paisley (right), the former Northern Ireland first minister, with his son Ian Paisley Jnr (left) after his father took his seat in the House of Lords today as Lord Bannside. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Monday July 05, 2010. Lord Bannside was one of 56 new peers announced on one day by Downing Street and today he was introduced to the upper chamber along with two Labour peers, Jeannie Drake and Maeve Sherlock. See PA story LORDS Paisley. Photo credit should read: Stefan Rousseau/PA Wire
(from video) of UUP leader David Trimble and DUP leader Ian Paisley walk hand in hand in the centre of Portadown celebrating the fact that Orangemen were allowed to walk the Nationalist Garvaghy Road.
PACEMAKER BELFAST. Ulsters Day of action-Belfast City Hall. Huge Crowds took the advide of Ian Paisley and other Unionists to take the afternoon off work and show their feelings to the Government that they were against any Dublin relationships developing, fearing that any concessions would only lead to a United Ireland. 23/11/81.4/3/08 The DUP leader has announced that he will step down as First Minister and and leader of the Democratic Unionist Party in May.
Democratic Unionist Party leader The Reverend Ian Paisley (left) and Sinn Fein President Gerry Adams speak to the media during a press conference at the Stormont Assembly building in Belfast. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Monday March 26, 2007. Rev Paisley and Mr Adams are to hold their first-ever face-to-face talks in a last-ditch bid to rescue devolution in Northern Ireland.
THIS could be the biggest political development of 2004 as Gerry Adams, complete with pint of Guinness, comes face-to-face with Ian Paisley. Or could it be a new united unionist front with Dr Paisley finally making peace with David Trimble in a show of solidarity that also includes Bob McCartney, Peter Robinson and David Ervine? Not in the real world of course - but definitely inside the head of impressionist Sean Crummy who is set to bring his hilarious Folks on the Hill radio show to television.
Belfast Telegraph. Page One. Final 2/3/2010Ian Paisley
Belfast Telegraph. Page One. 30/11/1968. "8,000 Marchers halted near Paisley crowd"
Pacemaker Belfast. 12/7/08. The Rev Ian Paisley with the white horse of 'King Billy' in the field at the independents Orange parade in Portglenone this afternoon. Picture Charles McQuillan/Pacemaker
Ian Paisley leader of the Democratic Unionist Party,with wife Eileen, relaxes at home with a cup of tea, after his anti agreement party, out polled ,David Trimbles Ulster Unionist Party,Friday 28th November 2003,in the Nortern Ireland Assembley electionsl.PA:Paul Faith
27/1/12 PACEMAKER BELFAST. The Rev. Ian Paisley poses with fellow clergy before the Special Farewell Service in his honour after 65 years of Ministry at the Martyrs Memorial Church, on the Ravenhill Road, Belfast. Picture CHARLES MCQUILLAN/PACEMAKER
PACEMAKER PRESS INTL. BELFAST. End of the Carson Trial Phase 11. Ian Paisley at Stormont Rally. 283/81.270/81/c
PACEMAKER BELFAST ARCHIVE 9124 MARCH 1991REV IAN PAISLEY PREACHING TO 12000 STRONG CONGREGATION ON 40TH ANNIVERSARY OF FREE PRESBYTERIAN CHURCH14/11/2011 The Rev Ian Paisley has announced his retirement from preaching after 60 years. Mr Paisley who is 85 started way back in 1946
Ian Paisley:DUP Leader. Wearing that beret.
30/4/2010. PACEMAKER BELFAST. WHILST THE ELECTION RACE RAGES ON THE FORMER MP AND FIRST MINISTER IAN PAISLEY STOOD AT CITY HALL BELFAST THIS AFTERNOON IN, A FAMILIAR SPOT WHERE HE HAS STOOD MANY TIMES BEFORE WITH A BIBLE IN HIS HAND AS HE PREACHED AND SANG WITH HIS GOSPEL GROUP. PICTURE CHARLES MCQUILLAN/PACEMAKER.
30/4/2010. PACEMAKER BELFAST. WHILST THE ELECTION RACE RAGES ON THE FORMER MP AND FIRST MINISTER IAN PAISLEY STOOD AT CITY HALL BELFAST THIS AFTERNOON IN, A FAMILIAR SPOT WHERE HE HAS STOOD MANY TIMES BEFORE BUT TODAY WITH A BIBLE IN HIS HAND AS HE PREACHED AND SANG WITH HIS GOSPEL GROUP. PICTURE CHARLES MCQUILLAN/PACEMAKER.14/11/2011 The Rev Ian Paisley has announced his retirement from preaching after 60 years. Mr Paisley who is 85 started way back in 1946
PACEMAKER BELFAST November 1985Ian Paisley and Jim Molyneaux address the 250,000 crowd at the Anti Anglo Irish rally in Belfast in 1985 where he made in infamous Never Never Never speach...
Old school pics -Ian Paisley
Ian Paisley bowed out of Stormont with a rousing speech
Former DUP leader Ian Paisley
Lord Bannside: Ian Paisley
Ian Paisley pictured on his weding day to wife Eileen
Former Northern Ireland First Minister Ian Paisley holding his first great grandchild Caleb Cassells
Ian Paisley DUP electioneering for Europe in Portadown. 11/6/84
Ian Paisley and Martin McGuinness were branded the 'chuckle brothers'
15/08/1971 of The Reverend Ian Paisley during a press conference in Stormont, Northern Ireland.
November 1985 - Ian Paisley and Jim Molyneaux address the 250,000 crowd at the Anti Anglo Irish rally in Belfast
The Reverend Ian Paisley speaking at a ceremony held at Stormont to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the death of Edward Carson. October 1985
A crowd of students pictured at a meeting with Ian Paisley (centre) near Belfast City Hall. 9/10/1968.
Ian Paisley addresses a 12,000 strong crowd at the 40th anniversary of the Free Presbyterian church in the Kings Hall. 1999
Ian Paisley and Martin McGuinness after being sworn in as ministers of the Northern Ireland Assembley, Stormont. May 8, 2007.
Ian Paisley and Peter Robinson being arrested in Armagh.1980
95. Newly appointed First Minister Dr Ian Paisley, left, presents a 300 year-old musket to Irish Prime Minister Bertie Ahern at the Battle of the Boyne site, Drogheda, Ireland, Friday, May, 11, 2007. The pair visited the site of the famous Battle of the Boyne 1690 between the Protestant King William of Orange and the Catholic King James's army.
Ian Paisley
The Queen greeted by First Minister Ian Paisley in east Belfast
First protest march to Belfast city centre. A crowd of students pictured at a meeting with Ian Paisley near Belfast City Hall. Pictured is Ciaran McKeown(with beard). 9/10/1968.
First protest march to Belfast city centre. A crowd pictured at a meeting with Ian Paisley at Shaftesbury Square, Belfast. 9/10/1968.
Ian Paisley confronts an RUC officer when refused access to Duke Street where the Civil Rights parade went on. 10/10/1988

In the event, there was no descent into chaos, though there was tension and several murders in the weeks after it. The simultaneous assassination of Ian Paisley would have considerably increased the chances of uncontrollable violence.

There have been theories that Rev Bradford was set up by the RUC's Special Branch, or at least that they had prior intelligence and did not intervene for fear of compromising their sources.

Baroness Paisley said she knew nothing of this. "There was always something funny about it, but I have seen no evidence he was set up," she told this paper, adding: "We never had any problems with the police".

The year after the killing, she and Nora Bradford, the MP's widow, visited the US when Ian Paisley was banned from entering the country at the behest of Senator Edward Kennedy. Dr Paisley had alleged a "conspiracy between the Thatcher Government and the US Government to sell out Ulster".

However, he was able to get around the ban. "Ian was able to broadcast from Toronto and they asked me to attend the New York Press Club to read out a message from him," Baroness Paisley said.

Despite the security pressure from republicans throughout their life, Ms Paisley told how she now gets on with them and keeps in touch with Martin McGuinness.

"I might feel differently if I had a husband or a brother or a child killed," she conceded, adding that she backed the power-sharing agreement at Stormont.

Seated in the beautiful Bannside Library she and her family created in her husband's memory, she wanted to talk mainly about him rather than the present day DUP. She had been critical of how her husband's departure as DUP leader in May 2010 was handled, suggesting he had been pushed by colleagues before his work was finished.

He was 84 at the time, and when it was put to her that most people had already retired by then, she said: "He was in his 80s all right, but his mind was sharp right up to the day before he died."

She added: "He and Martin McGuinness were friends. I never expected it to happen, but they worked well together. People made fun of them for being the 'Chuckle Brothers', but many people found it reassuring that they were doing their best together."

Her devotion to her husband's memory is obvious. She has decorated the library with memorabilia. He brought brass animals home with him when he was away, and there they are amongst the walls of books - a tiger, a dragon, a greyhound and an elephant. He used to like piles of books on his desk - a pine table now in the library - and to plough through them in the evenings.

"Do you know he could ring me from England or anywhere and say, 'Eileen, there is a book on the fifth shelf, it is about three books in or whatever', and he would tell me the chapter and get me to read out the section he wanted" she said.

While she feels he could have carried on, she has no objection to a woman leading the DUP, and she remembers her husband's old opponent Margaret Thatcher as a strong leader.

Baroness Paisley remembers Lord Bannside's youth and the tales of it. She said that once, when he was in Sunday school or scripture class and they were teaching about the last judgment, "Ian jumped up and said 'I don't want to be a lost sheep. I want to be one who is found'". Now she gets chocolate sheep made up at a local shop, and hands them out to children who visit, telling them the story and giving them a card.

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