Ian Paisley: A bitter footnote to a political career
Published 20/01/2014 | 01:30
When Ian Paisley resigned as DUP leader in 2008 there was little sign in public of rancour from the man who had founded the party. Pictures at the time showed him smiling and embracing successor Peter Robinson.
The suspicion, however, was that behind the scenes Mr Paisley's departure had not been necessarily of his own choosing.
Mr Paisley has always been a uniquely divisive figure, loved by some and hated by others. His ability to divide was equally strong within unionism as without. Now, it seems that it is equally as strong within his own party.
He was never a man likely to go quietly but his explosive claims have come six years after his resignation as leader of the DUP and the Free Presbyterian Church. Political careers often end in bitterness. Margaret Thatcher similarly railed against those who had stabbed her in the back. For many observers, however, this looks like bitterness pure and simple.
The DUP denies Paisley's version of events and has moved to counter the claims made in the interview with Eamonn Mallie which will be screened tonight. Responses have been cut in to present the alternative view. Mr Paisley's ex-adviser Timothy Johnston says the survey showing disquiet with him as party leader was ordered by Paisley himself. The party has, in general, questioned its founding father's recollection of events. Whichever version is true, this is an unseemly public spat from which no-one emerges looking good.
Similarly, the Free Presbyterian Church is not spared the wrath of the Bannsides.
The schism has been complete since his departure from the Martyrs Memorial Church, which neither he nor his family attend any more. In the end, it seems a man who had cultivated an unrivalled personal following in Northern Ireland now seems isolated.
His revelations will probably not win him any new friends but, as intended, will discomfit his successors in party and church.