FORMER First Minister Ian Paisley has said that he now tries to keep out of day-to-day politics because some would “resent” his involvement and that he now has “no power”.
The founder of the DUP and the Free Presbyterian Church said that he “gets on well” with MLAs from across the political spectrum, and also spoke warmly of several southern politicians.
In an interview with the News Letter, the first part of which was published in yesterday’s paper, Dr Paisley also spoke out strongly against Government proposals to introduce gay marriage.
In yesterday’s News Letter, Dr Paisley spoke for the first time about the illness which brought him close to death.
He said that there are eight days of his life which are “missing” to him and of which he recalls nothing while he lay in intensive care.
Sitting in his home in east Belfast, Lord Bannside speaks warmly of several southern politicians, naming Taoiseach Enda Kenny (“a right fella”), Irish President Michael D Higgins (“you can say what you want with him”) and “strange to relate, de Valera’s grandson (Eamon O Cuiv) – he’s a very friendly man to me”.
The man who in 1965 threw snowballs at the then Taoiseach Sean Lemass said that he doesn’t compromise with politicians from the Republic but that he believes “it is a good thing to be able to meet them face to face and let them know exactly what the position is and they have certainly shown a lot of decency”.
He says that he was “sort of sad about the other man”, referring to former Taoiseach Bertie Ahern, with whom he famously struck up a warm relationship, saying that he had “come to a bad end”, but added: “I think there’s probably more decency in the party that’s now in power [Fine Gael].”
The former MP, MEP and MLA says that he still keeps in touch with some MLAs but “I haven’t the same contact with them now because I believe that, in my situation, I’m better staying away from all that.
“People would resent it and if you did something that you had great convictions on you’ve really no power. I’ve no power here.”
However, he says that he receives “bags of letters” requesting his assistance, most of which he manages to “put off graciously”.
“I don’t have any real differences with any of them – I can talk to them all and quite a number of them from both sides come to me unofficially and ask me. I’m glad that people think I’m worth consulting.”
Does he hear much from Martin McGuinness?
“Yes, he would still ring me up and we always are very straight talkers – both of us.”
He says that there has been “a good change in Northern Ireland” but adds that he is “very, very worried about this present outbreak of violence” and that he is “praying for the situation” in north Belfast.
There have been huge social changes in Northern Ireland during Lord Bannside’s lifetime, perhaps none so great as the change from when homosexuality was illegal (and his ‘Save Ulster From Sodomy’ campaign) to the present, where gay marriage appears to be around the corner.
“I don’t think it’s a major shift to the best,” he says, unsurprisingly.
“I think we should keep to the scriptural position on these things and I think the Bible is very clear on these things. I don’t think that that issue is an issue taken up by the majority of people; it’s an issue taken up by a very tiny minority who are trying to use their minority as a whip to whip others and I don’t like that.
“I think this is a serious thing – when you come to living and families and marriage; marriage is the marriage of a man and a woman. You can’t change it because you want to do it another way and then put that other way on the same basis as marriage.”
Baroness Paisley adds: “It can’t be a marriage – they can call it what they like but it’s not marriage.
“There’s a big swell against it at Westminster, in both houses.”
Dr Paisley says: “When these people come on, at the end of the day all they can say is that there should be freedom – but yet there’s not freedom.
“There’s not freedom to steal; there’s not freedom for me to hit you over the head...there’s no drawing of the line. It’s a very dangerous thing.”
Baroness Paisley adds: “It leaves the door open to all sorts. If you break the law in one way, you can break the law in any way.”
However, when asked about the comments of Lord Maginnis saying that gay marriage was “a rung on the ladder” to “other deviant practices” such as bestiality, Dr Paisley says that “he didn’t help his cause” with the way in which he phrased his opposition to gay marriage.
n To read the first part of the interview with Ian Paisley, visit www.newsletter.co.uk/news/politics