Belfast Telegraph

Ian Paisley and Peter Robinson: A very public falling out

DUP leader sharply refutes predecessor's claims on 1986 loyalist border incursion, and joins a chorus of condemnation over UVF atrocity remarks

By Rebecca Black

DUP leader Peter Robinson has lashed out at his political mentor Ian Paisley in a bitter row over who was responsible for planning the infamous loyalist invasion of Clontibret.

There have been rumours of animosity between the two since Mr Paisley stepped down as First Minister in 2008, but this is the first time Mr Robinson has publicly criticised his old friend.

The split arose after the now Lord Bannside scorned Mr Robinson's involvement at Clontibret, commenting: "I think he thought that was going to be a tremendous uprising, but that didn't happen."

The incursion had been planned in protest at the Anglo-Irish Agreement.

Mr Paisley said in a interview with Eamonn Mallie that it should not have happened.

Mr Mallie put it to Mr Paisley that a member of his family said he had described Mr Robinson as "a silly ass" over the invasion.

"I don't think that I used that expression, but it should not have been done," he said, adding it was for others to judge if it had been an attempt by Mr Robinson to take over leadership of the DUP.

Mr Robinson challenged Mr Paisley's account as "a failure of recollection".

DUP sources told this newspaper the incident was planned in a Free Presbyterian church hall close to the border and that Mr Paisley was among the organisers.

They claimed that Mr Robinson had been asked to lead the loyalists at Clontibret after Mr Paisley was called to go to a funeral in America, adding that Mr Robinson had initially refused to do it.

Mr Robinson confirmed that Mr Paisley "was the one who had agreed to go to Clontibret".

"He had to leave to go to a funeral in the US and I stepped in as his deputy into the Clontibret arrangement," he said.

Mr Robinson briefly resigned as deputy leader of the DUP after the incident.

He also criticised Mr Paisley for comments claiming that the attitude of the Irish Government towards Northern Ireland had "brought on" the UVF bombs in Dublin and Monaghan which killed 33 people in 1974. During part one of Paisley: Genesis To Revelation – Face to Face with Eamonn Mallie, to be shown on BBC1 on Monday evening, Mr Paisley said that he was shocked by the bombings.

But he added: "Who brought that on them? Themselves, their own political leaders whom they had endorsed, in their attitude to Northern Ireland. And at that time the attitude to Northern Ireland of the southern government was ridiculous."

Mr Robinson, along with Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness and Tanaiste Eamon Gilmore, condemned the comments yesterday.

Mr Robinson said "terrorists" were solely responsible.

"We're talking about the murder of 33 innocent people and I have a settled and clear view about terrorism. The people who are responsible for terrorists' actions are terrorists," he said.

"I don't go down that road, it's a very dangerous road to go down. I believe that those who are responsible are those who put their hands to priming the bomb, placing the bomb and killing 33 innocent individuals."

Mr Robinson said it would be "sad" if the comments became the 87-year-old Paisley's legacy.

Victims' families said Mr Paisley's comments were immoral.

Margaret Urwin, co-ordinator of the Dublin and Monaghan bomb victims' group, said: "We would accept that Paisley is in a very different place to where he was 40 years ago and some of his remarks have been quite positive in relation to Bloody Sunday and also in relation to the civil rights.

"But blaming the victims of the bombings is like saying the victims of Bloody Friday brought it on themselves.

"Nobody brought it on themselves.

"It's an appalling statement."

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