Belfast Telegraph

Angry Ian Paisley wants answers over tapping of father's phone by British spooks

By Claire O'Boyle

Ian Paisley will seek full disclosure in Parliament about shock claims that his father's phone was tapped while he was an MP.

The North Antrim politician was speaking after allegations by former Deputy Prime Minister Lord Prescott that the security services tapped the late DUP leader's calls, breaking a long-standing convention that MPs should not have communications intercepted.

"I'm shocked by this, and I'm not," admitted Mr Paisley.

"We knew there was a strong possibility tapping went on, and like everyone my father was cautious on his phone for that reason. But if it did happen, it's a very serious breach of convention and I want to know exactly what happened, when, and under whose watch."

Lord Prescott claimed that in 2005 then-Prime Minister Tony Blair revealed a serving MP's phone had been tapped. When pressed, Mr Blair admitted the MP in question was DUP firebrand Ian Paisley.

Lord Prescott, writing in his Sunday Mirror column, said the Interception of Communications Commissioner passed the information to Downing Street and wanted to name Mr Paisley - but Parliament was not told.

He said: "Tony asked me to discuss the Wilson Doctrine (the convention that restricts the police and intelligence services from tapping MPs' telephones) with the Speaker of the House of Commons.

"I never told him that an MP had been tapped or that it was Paisley. Parliament was not informed and Paisley went on to become First Minister of Northern Ireland.

"I can only think that as the peace process was still a concern, mentioning the fact a leading loyalist politician had been tapped by Britain's security services in the past would not have helped."

Last night Mr Paisley blasted Mr Blair for his handling of the affair - and said Lord Prescott's decision to release the information without prior warning was "discourteous".

"It is not clear to me whether these tapped conversations were historic, or happened under the government of Tony Blair," said Mr Paisley.

"But regardless of whether it happened under his watch or not, I am still very critical of his handling of the situation. If he knew in 2005 that this convention had been breached, why didn't he reveal it? Why has it taken John Prescott until now to reveal it?"

Mr Paisley plans to get to the bottom of the scandal later this month.

"When Parliament is back in place later in April, I will be seeking, through a point of order, full and total disclosure on this issue," he said.

Lord Prescott told the Belfast Telegraph he was unsure of the precise details of the phone tapping, doesn't know when it happened or whether it was carried out by MI5, MI6, the police or the Army. He is also unsure if former First Minister Mr Paisley knew the details before his death in 2014.

In another dramatic revelation, Lord Prescott said that after the Omagh bomb in 1998 he was asked to sign warrants giving permission to tap suspects' phones. He agreed, but later discovered spies had already been doing it without even telling police.

He decided to break his silence over fears that electronic snooping to catch terrorists will lead to an attack on privacy.

Belfast Telegraph


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