International flautist Sir James Galway has claimed that he was “brainwashed” by the Presbyterian Church in Ireland.
Speaking on the BBC Nolan Show yesterday, the musician also claimed to have be reincarnated and likened the Stormont government to a “Nazi” regime.
He agreed Northern Ireland was better in 2015 but added that “whoever wins the day, if it happens to be a bunch of thugs, do you want to really live in a society that they rule...I mean for example in Germany you would not like to be ruled by Nazis”.
The Belfast man, who now lives in Switzerland, went on: “When I grew up we were brought up as Protestants and we were brainwashed to the Protestant ethic and to their way of thinking.”
Asked who brainwashed him, he said: “Well actually by the Presbyterians who made the school systems separate.”
The former Ulster flute band musician also rejected any British identity, saying it was “immoral for one country to take over another country just because the other country is not so well armed”.
He added: “I would like Ireland to be Ireland. ‘[People] say: Well, how do you become a sir?’ I say: ‘Because I come from the British-occupied part of Ireland’.”
Sir James also spoke about his belief in reincarnation.
“I don’t know what I was before, maybe I was a musician or something, I don’t know...maybe I had to come back to get it right.”
And he said the late DUP leader Ian Paisley was indirectly “responsible” for murder. He asked: “How many people do you think he was responsible for killing indirectly by planting the thoughts of violence and no surrender in the heads of people who had no more sense?”
A spokesperson for the Presbyterian Church said his claims were “neither historically nor factually accurate” and that the Presbyterian, Methodist and Church of Ireland transferred their schools to the state in the 1920s and 1930s, forming “the controlled sector” which had “a warm, open” non-denominational Christian ethos; the Roman Catholic Church chose to retain control over their own denominational schools, as was its right, he added.
DUP MP Sammy Wilson said the flautist’s comments were “disgraceful” and that to express his “pro-republican viewpoint” but then accept a knighthood was “hypocritical” and “the typical hallmark of an anti-British social climber who cannot resist our British honours system”. He added that “we will always defend Dr Paisley’s record as a leader of unionism”.
In a brief statement issued last night, Sir James said: “Music is my life and love. We all have our views on life. I am here today to celebrate music. I love Northern Ireland and it is never my intent to cause offence.”