Belfast Telegraph

Claims Ian Paisley funded loyalist bomb are all filthy lies, fumes widow

By David Young

The widow of former First Minister and DUP leader Rev Ian Paisley has branded claims made about her late husband in a BBC Northern Ireland Spotlight documentary as "filthy lies".

Baroness Eileen Paisley reacted angrily to allegations from a former senior Army officer that Mr Paisley helped fund a loyalist terror campaign in the 1960s.

Among the alleged targets were the Silent Valley reservoir near Kilkeel and the Annalong viaduct.

The allegations that Mr Paisley, who died in 2014, funded a UVF bombing wave sparked fierce criticism from members of the Paisley family, as well as from former First Minister Peter Robinson.

Mr Robinson branded it "fake news".

And Mr Paisley's son, North Antrim MP Ian Paisley, said the claims were completely untrue.

Writing in today's Belfast Telegraph, he also describes the hurt they caused to his elderly mother.

"My mum has described it as 'filthy lies'. She is best placed to know the character of my dad and all his actions," he says.

"Probably one of the most respected people in Northern Ireland today, her condemnation of the programme will be enough for any right thinking person."

Mr Paisley also hits out at the timing of the broadcast.

"The BBC NI decision to broadcast the programme in the week of the five-year anniversary of my dad's death is designed to cause maximum hurt to my mum and family," he added.

"At no point did the BBC contact mum or me or the family to ask for counter evidence or even put this to us, but instead deliberately bounced the story on us."

Another of Mr Paisley's sons, Kyle, who is a clergyman in England, tweeted: "A slanderous allegation does not suddenly become a truth because it is repeated by a man of rank or a public figure held in esteem.

"To credit the repetition of an unfounded allegation as though there was some merit in it is a sell out of self-respect."

Mr Robinson, a long-time political colleague of Mr Paisley and who succeeded him as First Minister and DUP leader, said the claims were "fake news".

"Nobody who was close to Ian will place an ounce of credibility on the ridiculous claim that he funded a UVF bombing," he wrote online.

"His opposition to terrorism was not posturing, it was real and engrained.

"This is typical of the headline-grabbing, cheap, unsubstantiated journalism that picks on someone who can no longer answer for himself.

"Those who remember the events of that period would know with what enthusiasm the authorities would have prosecuted him as he politically challenged the status quo of the day. Fake news."

The BBC defended its decision to broadcast the Spotlight allegation without contacting members of the Paisley family, saying the corporation had 'complete confidence' in the programme.

A BBC NI spokesperson said: "The BBC has complete confidence in the editorial integrity of the programme.

"As no allegations were made against the wider Paisley family it was not necessary to offer them a right to reply.

"The series leads our autumn programming and was scheduled to follow on from BBC Northern Ireland's portfolio of news-related content recognising the 50th Anniversary of troops entering Northern Ireland in 1969."

The allegations will be aired next week in the first episode of an eight-part series on the Troubles made by BBC NI's Spotlight team.

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