As Lord Bannside faces a backlash over scathing revelations about former political colleagues, victims’ campaigner Ann Travers has praised his “genuine warmth”.
Recalling a visit to her family home in 1984, just days after the IRA murdered her sister and wounded her father, Mrs Travers said Ian Paisley’s support was a pleasant surprise.
“We all said a little prayer for my dad and for Mary, and he stayed for a cup of coffee and a chat,” she said.
“It was a bit strange at first because he had said so many things about Catholics, but when he left he gave me this big hug – I was only 14 at the time and that has stuck with me.
“He was very genuine and very warm.
“Of course there are plenty of things Ian Paisley has done that I wouldn’t agree with, but I always remember that day and that really human side to him.”
Mrs Travers said the first of the two BBC documentaries last week made her feel sad initially, but added: “Then I felt angry that so much happened in our country that needn’t have happened – that men on both sides said and did things that stoked the fires.”
Although the SDLP’s Alasdair McDonnell was the Travers’ family GP at the time of the shooting, Mrs Travers said that no other nationalist representative tried to comfort them.
“I wouldn’t put myself down as either unionist or nationalist, but I certainly know that the unionist community has been nothing but supportive of us and shown understanding.”