Belfast Telegraph

Wednesday 23 July 2014

Ian Paisley's remarkable career to be revealed in new television series

Ex-DUP leader Ian Paisley
Ex-DUP leader Ian Paisley

This Is My Life — the story of the Reverend Ian Paisley’s remarkable career will be revealed in a major new TV series.

The controversial ‘Big Man’ of Northern Ireland politics for five decades wants to put the record straight in Paisley: Genesis to

Revelation.

Fellow County Armagh man — award winning broadcaster and journalist Eamonn Mallie — persuaded the 87-year-old former Northern Ireland First Minister and ex-DUP leader to reflect upon his life in a new two-part series for BBC Northern Ireland which opens on January 13.

Eamonn Mallie told Sunday Life that he was “not at liberty to talk” about the project until next week.

DRAMATIC

However a BBC Northern Ireland spokesperson said that the two-part series would see Mallie challenging “Paisley on his role in Northern Ireland’s troubled past”.

BBC NI added that the programmes would also reveal “the dramatic circumstances of his departure from politics and public life” in 2008.

The former firebrand preacher turned political peacemaker — back in the news last week after Sunday Life revealed he was in hospital for tests — has been the subject of numerous biographies including acclaimed books by journalists Ed Moloney and Andy Pollak.

In November 2011 it was reported that Reverend Paisley was working on his autobiography.

And Ballymena born acting superstar Liam Neeson wants to play the preacher man politician in a movie of his life.

In 1998 English writer and TV documentary maker Jon Ronson produced the controversial Dr Paisley: I Presume — about the former head of the Free Presbyterian Church’s visit to Africa.

But the man who stopped saying ‘never’ to help secure a potentially happy ever after

future for Northern Ireland in 2006 has never agreed to a full scale filmed documentary series about his life and times — before now.

TOWERING

Both revered and reviled, the man who retired as both Northern Ireland First Minister and leader of the Free Presbyterian Church in 2008, certainly has a lot to talk about.

At six feet five inches tall, the Armagh born Ballymena raised man has been a towering but sometimes divisive influence within Northern Ireland society. In the past, the man of the cloth had to deny accusations that he sailed perilously close to paramilitarism from the Sixties, through to the Eighties.

It was Ian Paisley who told an estimated 100,00 to 200,000 strong crowd at Belfast City Hall in late 1985 that unionists would “never never never never” allow Irish involvement in Northern Ireland affairs.

Yet, it was then the same man who made a hitherto unthinkable political leap in 2006 by committing the DUP to entering into government with Sinn Fein and in 2007 became First Minister, with former IRA man Martin McGuinness as his deputy.

Rev Paisley — ennobled as Lord Bannside in 2010 — suffered heart failure in February 2012 — just days after attending a ceremony to mark his retirement from ministry in the Free Presbyterian Church.

REMARKABLE

But he made a remarkable recovery and was discharged from hospital within weeks.

Sunday Life revealed last week that Rev Paisley had been admitted to the Ulster Hospital Dundonald over the Christmas holiday period. His family said he had gone into hospital for “necessary tests”.

In a statement, his wife, Baroness Paisley, said her husband was “in good spirits”.

“The family are grateful for those who have expressed concern and ask that his privacy be respected,” she added.

n The first part of Paisley: Genesis to Revelation — Face to Face with Eamonn Mallie will be shown on BBC One NI on Monday January 13 at 10.35pm, with the final part to be screened on January 20.

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