Belfast Telegraph

Free Presbyterians tried to evict Ian Paisley before he died, says widow

By Stewart Robson

The widow of former First Minister Ian Paisley has criticised members of the Free Presbyterian Church founded by her husband for trying to remove the couple from their Belfast home prior to his death.

In a scathing attack to be aired tomorrow night on UTV, Baroness Paisley, who still lives in the manse at Martyrs Memorial church on the Ravenhill Road, also says Arlene Foster's infamous "crocodiles" comments were out of order.

She tells journalist Eamonn Mallie's Face To Face programme that when Mrs Foster sparked controversy by saying that "if you feed a crocodile it will keep coming back for more", she was offended "just as a normal human being".

Mrs Foster's remark was a response to Sinn Fein demands for an Irish Language Act before returning to Stormont.

Before his death in 2014 Mr Paisley (Lord Bannside) claimed he had been forced out as moderator of the Free Presbyterian Church and had also been asked by his own congregation's elders to step down as the minister at Martyrs Memorial.

Mr Paisley formed a power-sharing Executive with Sinn Fein in 2007. But opinion in the church shifted against him as he appeared to relish being in power alongside Martin McGuinness.

The pair seemed to get along so well that they were nicknamed the "Chuckle Brothers".

"I just don't think about them (the church leadership)," 87-year-old Baroness Paisley tells Face To Face.

"They wanted us to move out of the house that we have been in since 1974 and they cannot actually do that legally because that was something that was drawn up legally."

The plush, secluded manse sits just off Cyprus Avenue, made famous by the Van Morrison song of the same name.

Baroness Paisley adds that it was within a month of her husband leaving Martyrs Memorial that church officials had sent the couple a letter asking them to move out.

On that time, she reflects: "The last time I said I didn't want to hear anything more from them."

Family is clearly still extremely important to the mother-of-five as she reveals that if any of her children or grandchildren were gay, she'd accept it.

Her husband once fought a 'Save Ulster from Sodomy' campaign against homosexuality in the 1970s.

"If that happened (someone was to come out as gay), they are still my children and I couldn't stop loving them because of what they had done," she says.

"I wouldn't stop loving them.

"People used to ask me: 'What would you do if one of your children married a Catholic?'

"I said I would still love them and I would love their partner as well.

"Life is bigger than that and love is bigger than that."

The programme airs tomorrow at 10.45pm on UTV.

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