Paisleys’ allegations are met with silence

Ian Paisley has his waistcoat buttoned up by his wife Baroness Paisley before the Special Farewell Service at the Martyrs Memorial Church in 2012.
Ian Paisley has his waistcoat buttoned up by his wife Baroness Paisley before the Special Farewell Service at the Martyrs Memorial Church in 2012.

Ian Paisley and his wife Eileen yesterday endured a day where not one of their DUP or Free Presbyterian friends publicly endorsed what they said in last night’s dramatic BBC interview.

Despite details of the programme having been covered extensively by every daily newspaper and broadcaster yesterday ahead of the film’s broadcast last night, there was silence from individuals in both party and church.

On Sunday – ahead of the contents of last night’s film being revealed – Dr Paisley’s long-standing friend, the Rev David McIlveen, spoke up in support of his mentor.

But yesterday there was silence from 20 fellow Free Presbyterian ministers contacted by the News Letter, some of whom said they had been asked not to speak to the media.

As the day wore on, Lord Bannside and Baroness Paisley cut increasingly isolated figures, as no one from the DUP came forward to defend their caustic comments about the former First Minister’s removal from office.

It spoke volumes that it was Lord Empey who spoke most warmly of Dr Paisley.

The former Ulster Unionist leader said that although he fiercely disagreed with Lord Bannside’s politics over many decades, he had found him to be a fair and inclusive First Minister when chairing Executive meetings.

In a swipe at Peter Robinson and Martin McGuinness, Lord Empey said that after Dr Paisley’s departure as First Minister the Executive had been run by the two big parties which dominate its makeup.

The DUP has dismissed Dr Paisley’s comments, which it claims are damaging to his legacy, and have questioned the octogenarian’s ability to recall events from several years ago.

In the 12,000-strong church, one source told the News Letter that in coming days the Free Presbyterian Church’s ruling presbytery was likely to release a statement about Dr Paisley’s broadside.

There was no response when the News Letter yesterday telephoned South Antrim MP William McCrea, a veteran DUP man and minister of Magherafelt Free Presbyterian Church.

Although the phone was answered, there was no voice on the other end. A second attempt saw the line cut off.

There was scant reference to Dr Paisley’s political bombshell in Stormont, either, yesterday.

The SDLP’s John Dallat was one of the few who appeared to refer to the controversy.

Speaking as Martin McGuinness took questions on a meeting of the North-South Ministerial Council, Mr Dallat spoke of “the trials and tribulations that have since emerged”.

But while the DUP was publicly silent yesterday, other unionist MLAs were not so reticent about commenting.

Former DUP MEP Jim Allister said that the programme blew apart Peter Robinson’s claim that the DUP was “a family”.

The TUV leader and North Antrim MLA said: “For a party that always went out of its way to try and foster this myth of one big happy family, I think that myth has been exploded spectacularly and there has to be collateral damage from that.”

UKIP MLA David McNarry, a veteran of unionist politics, said: “There’s blood been spilt; recriminations are rampant.

“Parties and personalities don’t really recover from that sort of thing.

“This seems very, very serious and seems sad in many respects as well.”