James Galway attack on Ian Paisley sinks Freedom of Belfast plan
Plans to award Sir James Galway the Freedom of his native Belfast have been blown out of the water following his angry outburst against former First Minister Ian Paisley.
We can reveal that a number of unionist councillors recently discussed granting the city council’s highest honour to the world-renowned flautist.
But after his comments last week on the Nolan Show - asking if the former DUP leader was indirectly ‘responsible’ for murders during the Troubles— and his outspoken support for a united Ireland, the idea was quickly dropped.
One of the councillors involved told us yesterday: “When the freedom of the city is discussed you would normally find it is ultimately a unanimous council decision.
“That was the case in honouring previous recent recipients like Michael Longley, Van Morrison and Dame Mary Peters.
“All have brought great honour and distinction to Belfast, as has Sir James.
“A number of us privately discussed putting his name forward but following his comments and his assertion that he comes from a British-occupied part of Ireland, that would now be difficult.
“It’s a pity because he has made a major contribution to his profession and continues to do so.”
DUP councillor Brian Kingston said he was unaware of plans to honour Sir James, adding: “I was disappointed by his comments.
“When people are famous for a talent they have to be careful when they make unbalanced political comments.”
Sir James, 75, and nicknamed ‘the man with the golden flute’, was knighted by the Queen at Buckingham Palace in 2001 for his services to music.
Later on Friday, Sir James, who took part in Friday night’s BBC Music Day Event at Crumlin Road Gaol in Belfast, issued a statement saying it was never his intention to cause offence.
He said : “Music is my life and love. We all have our views on life. I am here today to celebrate music.
“I love Northern Ireland and it is never my intent to cause offence.”
But Ian Paisley’s widow Eileen is incensed at the remarks, saying: “I just despise and treat his comments with contempt.”
Sir James lives in Switzerland with his third wife, Lady Jeanne Galway. The couple often tour together playing duets.