Many ‘keeping their own counsel’ in Paisley heartland

Rev Ian Paisley's Rally in Ballymena.
Rev Ian Paisley's Rally in Ballymena.

A sense that ‘Paisley should have left things unsaid’ and that he had ‘damaged his legacy’ was apparent yesterday in Lord Bannside’s hometown – from those who said they watched BBC’s Genesis to Revelation documentary.

But more than two dozen others walking through the north Antrim town, asked for comment by the News Letter, either said they “had not watched the programme” or “did not want to comment publicly”.

Summing up grassroots reaction, Ballymena Times Editor Dessie Blackadder said: “I can tell you from point-blank experience here that we have received no waves of emails about the event, nor have we received a single phone call.

“People who watched it last night are probably keeping their own counsel. The level of interest on the street is not a huge issue. However, the real opinion is being set on social media and Twitter. People are tweeting away happily.”

Mr Blackadder added that he believed the documentary was “very much a voyeuristic thing where people were watching and sometimes squirming with embarrassment for all sides in it”.

“It didn’t look particularly good for anybody.”

Ballymena pensioner Robert Bones, 67, said after watching the documentary he feels “it definitely damaged Paisley’s legacy”.

“In my opinion, it damaged him as a politician and as a minister,” he said. “I voted for Paisley all the days of my life, but I turned against him when he went into government with Sinn Fein.

“But at the end of the day I think he had no other choice, and he was pushed in by Robinson and those other boys. They got him to do the dirty work.”

Mr Bones said he believes “the DUP now have a lot of questions to answer”.

“If they were going to put him out they should have called a meeting rather than trying to push him out the back door,” he said.

“I think it was planned all along.”

Edward Montgomery from Rathkenny, a few miles outside Ballymena, said for him the most poignant message from the documentary was “when you retire, just retire”.

The 67-year-old added: “He has retired and I think he should have let things be. That programme did not do any good to him.

“The things that were said were not nice – they would have been better not being said. If you have nothing nice to say, say nothing.”

Mr Montgomery added there is a time for everyone “to move on and let the younger people take over”.

“The time to go is when you are at the top and not to carry on and on,” he said.

“It can be blown out of proportion too. He had lived his life and he did good things, but when you retire, just retire. Let someone else take over because you have done your job.”

Another Ballymena man, who did not wish to be named, said: “What we all watched last night will split the vote for the DUP.

“You could not have those allegations thrown about without a comeback. The pro-Paisley camp will defect to another unionist party. But it won’t threaten the seat of Ian Jnr here in Ballymena. He is safe.”

Another unnamed Ballymena pensioner said “I never heard Eileen Paisley talk before and I was amazed she called someone ‘a cheeky sod’ and amazed at him saying someone else was ‘a beast’.”