I wept over IRA death, says Paisley associate

Rev Ivan Foster

Rev Ivan Foster

A former DUP firebrand Assemblyman and Free Presbyterian minister has told how he wept when he heard that an IRA man had been shot dead by a paratrooper.

Writing in today’s News Letter, the Rev Ivan Foster recounts how when he was jailed with Ian Paisley half a century ago he struck up an unlikely relationship with Official IRA man Joe McCann.

The Rev Foster – who was seen as one of the most uncompromising DUP members and who at one point in the 1980s was the Fermanagh commander of the quasi-military Third Force – said that he had explained his faith to the young IRA man and that they had discussed their religious views while working in the Crumlin Road Jail.

The Rev Foster, who represented the area in Stormont during the 1980s, said that the Falls Road-born paramilitary had been a “dedicated IRA man”.

Recalling the moment when he heard of the 24-year-old’s death, the Rev Foster said: “I freely admit my heart was filled with grief and I shed tears over the sad fate of that young man.”

The Rev Foster – who in 2007 used his pulpit to denounce Dr Paisley’s moves towards power-sharing with Sinn Fein – also said that the period around their jailing had been pivotal to the growth of the Free Presbyterian Church.

• The full story is in our Saturday print edition and will be published online much later in the day at this link here