Paisley 'going down dangerous road'
Published 10/01/2014 | 00:07
First Minister Peter Robinson has accused his predecessor the Rev Ian Paisley of going down a "dangerous road" with his claims that the Irish Government provoked one of the worst atrocities of the Troubles.
Mr Paisley suggested the Republic administration had a part to play in the 1974 Dublin and Monaghan bombings, declaring: "The political leaders brought it on themselves."
Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) leader Mr Robinson insisted no one was to blame but those who set off the two car bombs, which claimed the lives of 33 people.
"The people who are responsible for terrorist actions are terrorists," Mr Robinson said.
"And of course there are things going on at a Government level, there always will be. And of course unionists will have had a very different opinion about the position of the Irish Government than they themselves would have had.
"But that doesn't make it responsible for it, no more than the British authorities are responsible for the acts of the IRA.
"So I don't go down that road. It's a very dangerous road to go down."
Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness pointed out that Mr Paisley is retired and "very elderly".
"The responsibility for the bombs that took place in both Monaghan and Dublin resides with those people who were directly responsible for them," he said.
The Protestant Ulster Volunteer Force (UVF) set off the two car bombs in the Republic at the height of a violent loyalist strike across Northern Ireland by the so-called Ulster Workers Council which ended with the collapse of the first power sharing executive in Belfast 40 years ago.
Mr Paisley and his then hard-line Democratic Unionist Party supported the stoppage which had the backing of thousands of members of the paramilitary Ulster Defence Association (UDA) which brought the country to a virtual standstill in protest against the formation of a coalition of Unionist and Nationalist ministers based at Parliament Buildings, Stormont.
No one has ever been charged with the atrocities, although there have been persistent accusations that rogue members of the Royal Ulster Constabulary colluded with the bombers.
Mr Paisley, 87, said he was shocked.
In the first of a major two part television documentary on his life he said: "I was very much shocked that there was anyone going to be hurt in that way. But I mean, who brought that on themselves was the people that, their own political leaders, and they had endorsed in what their attitude to Northern Ireland, and at that time the attitude of the south government in Northern Ireland was ridiculous, so it was."
He insisted the killings were not justified. He never believed in killing. He told journalist Eamonn Mallie: "I not only had nothing to do with it, but I'd said I had nothing to do with it and denounced the people who had done it....What more could I do?"
The former MP for north Antrim, who quit as DUP leader in 2010, added: "I took my stand. I denounced what was wrong, but I could not say to the people: 'Just sit down and let them put a rope round your neck.'"
Mr Robinson paid tribute to the "enormous" role his predecessor played in Northern Irish politics.
He said it would be sad to have as his legacy disputes with the Church and the party.
"I hope that's not the way he is going to be remembered," Mr Robinson said.
Tanaiste Eamon Gilmore said he was eager to watch the interview with Mr Paisley, describing it as "of very significant historic interest".
He echoed the First Minister and Deputy First Minister in insisting the Dublin and Monaghan bombings were an act of terrorism and the responsibility of terrorists.
"The people who were on Talbot Street and Parnell Street on that day did not bring it on themselves," Mr Gilmore said.
"They were innocent victims of a horrific act of terrorism, and the responsibility for that act rests squarely on those who planted those bombs."