We had a real friendship and still have, McGuinness says of Ian Paisley

Ian Paisley and Martin McGuinness, pictured in 2007, as First and deputy First Minister of Northern Ireland.
Ian Paisley and Martin McGuinness, pictured in 2007, as First and deputy First Minister of Northern Ireland.

Martin McGuinness has said he is proud of the year he spent in office with Ian Paisley and maintains a friendship with the former DUP leader.

Asked for his reaction to the two-part BBC documentary Mr McGuinness said he did not want to get involved in the internal issues of the DUP.

But he added: “Ian Paisley had his own view of me for many decades I had my own view of Ian Paisley for many decades, but I do have to say that whenever we went into government together for that year (2007-08), we surprised everybody.

“It wasn’t a show, it wasn’t an act - we had, I think, a real friendship and a real understanding of our role in history, our place in history and the need to provide good leadership.

“And I am still friendly with Ian Paisley at this time, we still keep in contact and I want to continue to remember the good bits and remember the history making development that we were involved in.”

The deputy first minister continued: “I am proud of the year I spent with Ian Paisley in the office of the first and deputy first minister and I will remember it to my dying day.”

After Mr Robinson replaced Dr Paisley he was later beset with his own difficulties when his wife Iris, then DUP MP for Strangford, became embroiled in a political scandal after it was revealed she had an affair with a 19-year-old man.

The fall-out from the episode was one of the factors attributed to Mr Robinson losing his East Belfast Westminster seat in the 2010 general election.

The confidential survey’s criticism of Ian Paisley Jnr referred, among other things, to a lobbying scandal that had hit the headlines in the year prior to his father’s resignation. Mr Paisley Jnr was ultimately cleared of wrong-doing by the Assembly watchdog.

Dr Paisley described the comments in the survey about his son as “disgraceful”.

“They were absolutely disgraceful and they were disgraceful because the man that they put in my position couldn’t keep his own seat in Westminster, and my son who followed me had a marvellous victory,” he said.

“And for once we are seeing the true nature of the beast - that there was a beast here who was prepared to go forward to the destruction of the party, because losing seats in Northern Ireland is very serious and for East Belfast not to be a unionist seat in the House of Commons is a terrible blow.”

Commenting on her son, Baroness Paisley, who also contributed to the documentary, appeared to reference the scandal that consumed Mrs Robinson.

“Ian’s name was cleared by the authorities in Stormont, everything that was said against him was proved to be false and he never brought any sleaze,” she said.

“His wife didn’t do anything wrong, he didn’t do anything wrong.

“There was nothing morally wrong with his character or his life. And we know eventually where the sleaze did come from.

“It came in the home of the man who is now leader himself, Peter Robinson, it came from his family, not from the Paisley family.”