Ian Paisley’s widow has said that her husband would have been delighted to see the UK vote to leave the EU – but has stressed that good relations should be maintained with Dublin despite the looming constitutional change.
Dr Paisley, who was Northern Ireland’s most famous Eurosceptic for decades, long argued for the UK to quit the EU, but died in 2014 with that political ambition unfulfilled.
The DUP founder’s old North Antrim constituency – now represented at Westminster by his son, Ian Paisley Jr – was second only to Lagan Valley in returning Northern Ireland’s most anti-EU vote, with 62 per cent of voters supporting Brexit in the referendum.
Recalling her husband’s forthright views on the Common Market and then the EU, Baroness Paisley told the News Letter: “He never changed his mind on that and I do believe that if he had been alive now he would have been leading the Leave campaign, for the good of the United Kingdom and maybe giving encouragement to other states that are concerned at what is taking place.”
She added: “I think he would have been very pleased with it. But it doesn’t mean that we cant work together here because when he and Martin McGuinness worked together they worked extremely well together.”
Baroness Paisley said that she did not want to see the decision lead to strained relations across the island of Ireland.
She said: “Things were changed so much a few years back whenever the new Assembly here took over. I think there has been a stronger relationship between north and south Ireland.
“The Irish people - no matter who they are or what they are, or their outlooks or religion - I think we are a great people altogether.
“I don’t think they would have any wish to separate from us, and I don’t think we would have any wish to separate from them and keep the [hard] border going with all the problems that went on there.”
She added: “I think the relationship between the south and the north is much, much better than it ever was and I don’t think they would want it to go back and neither would I - and i expect the majority of Northern Ireland people would not want that either.”
Dr Paisley was a fervent Eurosceptic, but also a staunch unionist.
When asked if she saw any irony in the fulfilment of his wish to break ties with Brussels leading to a threat to the Union of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, Baroness Paisley said: “I don’t know whether that [a border poll in Northern Ireland] will take place or not.
“I can understand – if I was a nationalist, I would probably want that too. But it’s about freedom of thought – you can’t change people’s ideas nor their ideals.
“It remains to be seen what will happen. I wouldn’t be concerned about it at the minute, anyway.”
The octogenarian DUP peer added that “what’s making Europe so unhappy [about Brexit] is that they were making such a big packet of money out of Britain]”.
Vote was against a system foretold in Bible, says Paisley
As well as opposing the EU on the grounds that it diminished British sovereignty, Ian Paisley also viewed the EU in religious terms, seeing it as the anti-Christ’s empire and a project which was “Satanic”.
Baroness Paisley said: “If you read the Bible you wil find that a lot of these prophecies are already being fulfilled. In the Book of Revelation it speaks about the woman riding the beast on many waters and there is a statue of that, as far as I remember, in Brussels. “And then there are other things which are foretold about a one-world state and one-world government and those things would have been of concern to him.”
When asked if she say the Referendum vote as a move to stop such an outcome, she said: “Yes, I would see it as going against it.”