Party on edge as it awaits Paisley’s parting verdict

Former First Minister Ian Paisley
Former First Minister Ian Paisley

A preview screening of the film in which Ian Paisley is expected to savage the DUP leadership was last night cancelled by the BBC at the last minute.

The second part of veteran journalist Eamonn Mallie’s interviews with the DUP founder was to have been shown to reporters this morning for reporting in tomorrow’s newspapers.

However, last night the BBC issued a brief statement saying that the screening would not go ahead and that further information would be given on “if/when a preview will be made available”.

A spokesman for the BBC said that it did not comment on work in production.

Mr Mallie said that he could not discuss the situation.

It is unclear whether there has been a legal threat to the programme, though it is understood that there has been no attempt by the DUP to obtain an injunction against its broadcast.

The BBC said that Monday’s programme – which although in itself was deeply controversial at points does not contain most of the new material from the interviews – was watched by 135,000 people, 34 per cent of the audience.

The BBC said it was pleased with the viewing figures, which are provisional and do not include those who recorded the programme or who will watch it online on the BBC iPlayer.

Although Mr Mallie has been coy about what is in the film, a trailer for next Monday’s programme makes clear that the Paisleys speak out against how Lord Bannside was removed from leadership.

Asked ‘what was it all about?’, Dr Paisley says: “Getting rid of Ian Paisley.”

When then asked: In whose interests [would that have been], Dr Paisley says: “In the interests of the people who took over.”

Baroness Paisley says: “They did a dirty trick on him; dirty deeds on him and in the end he was really left with no option but to stand down.”

Then, asked how hurtful certain unspecified remarks were to him, Dr Paisley says with venom: “They were absolutely disgraceful and they were disgraceful because the man that they put in my position couldn’t keep his own seat.”

That personal attack on his successor is understood to have caused particular fury among some DUP members.

It is unclear whether church or party is referred to when Baroness Paisley says “they assassinated him by their words and by their deeds; I think they treated him shamefully”.

Dr Paisley adds: “Those people only had one thing to serve and that was their own ego.”

Few DUP MLAs are prepared to publicly comment on the film, but yesterday Gregory Campbell told BBC Radio Foyle: “Most people, particularly in the unionist community, will want to remember Dr Paisley’s contribution at the time that most of these events were recalled in the documentary – his comments and his stance at the time, as opposed to a recollection many years later.

“He was an 87-year-old man recalling events of decades ago.

“I think it would be a more accurate programme if the person conducting the interview had said ‘Well, here’s what you said at the time; this is what was said whenever this topic was live’ and then compare it with recollection.”

In a brief statement the party hailed Lord Bannside as “a colossus of unionism” but tellingly added: “Dr Paisley always taught the party not to air grievances in public. It has got to be remembered that Dr Paisley is 87 years of age and is retired.

“Clearly and inevitably there are failures of recollection and inaccuracies. However, the party will not be offering a running commentary and wishes him well in his recovery.”

It is understood that a DUP adviser who is expected to feature in the programme attended the DUP’s Assembly group meeting on Monday to preemptively stress that the allegations against him are not correct.

Another source said that there was unhappiness among many in the party, even from some of those who staunchly supported him, at what Dr Paisley was doing in speaking out.