Belfast Telegraph

United Ireland acceptable to Eileen Paisley - if there is freedom of religion

  • DUP gay candidate decision taken in defiance to gauge reaction
  • United Ireland wouldn't force me out
  • Free Presbyterian Church treatment hurt
  • I miss late husband more and more each day
Baroness Paisley
Baroness Paisley
Jonathan Bell

By Jonathan Bell

Baroness Eileen Paisley, wife of the late First Minister, DUP founder and firebrand preacher Ian Paisley has told Northern Ireland politicians to drop the baggage, their "petty" demands and think of the people they are continuing to fail in the ongoing absence of government.

She also said it was "abominable" MLAs continued to take their salary for not doing their job and the public should be informed of what was going on in the current talks.

In a wide-ranging interview with the BBC's Sunday Sequence, Baroness Paisley spoke of the DUP's decision to select its first openly gay candidate for the local government elections and how the matter should be put to the party for a "proper decision to be made".

She said she felt the decision was taken in "defiance" to gauge reaction.

And - referring to current DUP leader Arlene Foster's comments on leaving the country in the event of a united Ireland - Baroness Paisley said it would take an "awful lot" to move her out of her home.

She said people should be mature enough to share the island and suggested partition was the wrong thing to do almost 100 years ago.

"There are people of sense and sensibility who do not want to be fighting with their neighbours or their friends and who want to have it properly united," she said.

It is going to get worse and that leaves us open to all sorts of trouble.

Northern Ireland has been without its power-sharing institutions since January 2017. The parties are currently engaged in talks attempting to restore devolved government with civil servants responsible for running the country.

Asked about her message to the local politicians, Baroness Paisley said they needed to "lay aside their baggage and face facts".

"So many petty things, they don't see the big picture," she said.

"So many people are crying out for help and they are failing them by not taking responsibility.

"It is going to get worse and that leaves us open to all sorts of trouble."

She added: "I would say to them cut out the petty things and dwell on things that matter - think of the people.

She said she was "aggrieved" the 90 MLAs were still taking a salary and it was not fair on civil servants to be doing the job of elected representatives.

"It is abominable for people to take money for nothing," she added, "they are not doing the job they were elected to do."

Baroness Paisley also said the parties needed to be more open with the public, adding: "There is nothing in the open, what goes on is hidden."

We are all sinners no matter who we are or what we are.

She was asked about the DUP fielding its first openly gay candidate, Alison Benningtion and the subsequent resignations from the party after her successful election, including her late husband's brother in law and how some have said the late Ian Paisley would be "turning in his grave".

"We are all sinners no matter who we are or what we are.. that girl may not know Christ died for her," she said.

"I do not hate Ms Bennington, I don't know the girl. I don't hate anybody no matter who they are or what they have done against me.

"But we have to love Christ first and what He says we have to obey his word. These things are written for our benefit."

Baroness Paisley said she hoped the party was not making a move away from the ethos her husband established the party under.

"It was a decision taken at the time and I think it was taken as a defiance to see what would happen.

"And I think it should be put to the whole party and a proper decision made on what should be done."

Turning to Brexit and Arlene Foster's comments on leaving the country if a united Ireland came about, Eileen Paisley said it would take an "awful lot" for her to move saying so long as their was freedom of religion she would remain.

"I would not like a dictatorship or someone whatever their religion was to be persecuted because of that.

"It is a big question. If we go right back to the beginning, the dividing of Ireland. The people or Ireland, north, south, east and west, I think are a great people.

"No matter what part of Ireland a person is from.. they are a fellow country man or woman.

"I just wonder why it had to be divided at that time and I think that was the wrong division. It is too big an issue for me to pontificate on."

 I don't want my mind and soul to be poisoned with an unforgiving spirit.

Baroness Paisley said she missed her late husband more, and more every day and she was told many times by others across the political divide and the communities his leadership was missed.

She recalled how her husband wanted to be a farmer when he was a young boy and it was when sowing corn he heard the call from God that it was not he seed He wanted Ian to sow.

She said in his first sermon in Sixmilecross in Co Tyrone he spoke for only 10 minutes before running out of material and immediately vowed to never speak again.

"And the man that was taking him told him 'you'll speak all right,' and so his words were fulfilled," she said.

In his final years the Free Presbyterian Church ostracised its founder. Baroness Bannside said it was "very callous" but pointed to Jesus and how despite all he had done for his people, was crucified.

Baroness Bannside said she no longer worships at the Free Presbyterian Church as it would "leave her open" instead going to her granddaughter's husband's baptist church.

"I just put it away, I don't bother... I live my own live with my own family and I am content to do that," she added.

"It was difficult to forgive them but I have to get on. I have to go on, I don't want my mind and soul to be poisoned with an unforgiving spirit.

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