Party figures contacted over fallout from ferocious television interviews

DUP's Christopher Stalford
DUP's Christopher Stalford

A self-described “Paisleyite” has appeared to distance himself from his previously-expressed allegiance to Ian Paisley.

Christopher Stalford, the DUP deputy Lord Mayor of Belfast, had posted on the internet on December 30 that he wished the former first minister well, adding: “Some people used the term Paisleyite as a term of abuse. I always wore it as a badge of pride.”

Following the documentary, in which Dr Paisley savaged the present DUP leadership, councillor Stalford was asked if he still stood by that description of himself.

He said: “The party has issued a statement and, had I been issuing a statement, my words would have been the same as that which has been issued by the party.”

Pressed whether he would still call himself “Paisleyite”, he repeated that he stood by the stance of the party.

One truly veteran DUP figure contacted in the wake of the broadcast said he was unruffled by Ian Paisley’s fiery interviews.

Alderman Sam Hanna, a long-time Free Presbyterian and DUP Ballymena councillor, declared the furore was “only a drop in the ocean” that “will blow by”, adding: “I won’t get too perturbed about it.”

Peter Robinson had said the former First Minister, as he appeared in the documentary, was “not the Ian Paisley we knew”. Asked if it was the Ian Paisley he himself remembers, Alderman Hanna said: “Oh aye ... Never changes.”

Alderman Hanna, who chairs the Bannside DUP branch, said that the show would not hurt North Antrim MP Ian Paisley Jnr.

“There’s far bigger storms than that down through the years,” he said.

John Finlay, a DUP councillor in Ballymoney, was also contacted.

He had recently posted on Facebook that he had left the Free Presbyterian Church due to Paisley’s treatment, and had “no regrets” about having done so.

He told the News Letter that he had left years ago, at the time Dr Paisley left as moderator – but beyond that he refused to discuss the matter.