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We wouldn't be in this mess if Foster had stood down over RHI: Baroness Paisley

by Suzanne Breen political editor

The DUP last night welcomed Baroness Paisley’s opposition to an Irish Language Act.

But the party declined to comment specifically on the criticism she made of DUP leader Arlene Foster, except to say it “noted” her remarks.

In two separate interviews with Radio Ulster yesterday, Baroness Paisley accused the DUP and Sinn Fein of a lack of political leadership and said they were jointly to blame for the current stalemate in Northern Ireland.

She also said she thought that Mrs Foster should have stood down last year over the RHI scandal. 

The situation at Stormont would not have deteriorated in such a way had her husband and the late Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness been in power, she added.

A DUP spokesman last night said: “We note the comments of Baroness Paisley. Martin McGuinness collapsed the Executive last year. Since then Sinn Fein has refused to form a new Executive until there is a stand-alone Irish Language Act.

“The DUP does not support such an Act. We also note Baroness Paisley opposes an Irish Language Act.”

The widow of former First Minister Ian Paisley gave interviews to Radio Foyle and Good Morning Ulster.

Accusing both the DUP and Sinn Fein of “a failure of leadership, proper leadership”, Baroness Paisley described the current state of play at Stormont as “a mess” which “needs to be sorted”.

She said: “When my husband and Martin McGuinness worked together — and no two men were more opposed to one another than those two were — they worked together for the good of this country and they succeeded for as long as that association was allowed to last.

“Whenever it ended, things deteriorated and have deteriorated since.”

When asked if there should be an Irish Language Act, Baroness Paisley said: “I don’t think we need a stand-alone act on any language. As far as I can see there’s no barrier to the Irish language in Northern Ireland.

“There are plenty of Irish-speaking schools and no one has ever hindered anyone speaking Irish.” 

Baroness Paisley added that money was needed for hospitals, schools and roads.

She described the current crisis at Stormont as “very sad” and “heartbreaking”. She continued: “I think the politicians need to face up to facts and confess where they’ve gone wrong.

“They need to cut out all nonsense and come back and start anew. We all need proper government this time. People do not face up to the truth. They need to be absolutely honest with one another.”

Dr Paisley’s widow said that if the DUP and Sinn Fein “had followed the example that the late Martin McGuinness and my husband set for them, this would not have happened”. She said that when politicians made mistakes, her advice was to “confess your sins and confess your mistakes because no one is perfect”.

In terms of Mrs Foster and the ‘cash for ash’ scandal, Baroness Paisley said: “If you’re the First Minister you’ve got to put things right. If you make a mistake — and nobody on this Earth has lived without making a mistake... if you’re a minister and someone in your department does wrong, the buck stops at your desk and you have got to do what is right and stand down from your position until the matter is sorted out.

“If that had been done at the beginning there would be a different situation here at the moment and we wouldn’t be in the mess we’re in.”

She added: “Whenever things go wrong you have to put them right. You have to go to the basis of where they went wrong and put that right.”

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