‘Sense of betrayal still lingers for Paisley family’ Baroness reveals

Baroness Paisley at the Bannside Library in east Belfast.' Photo: Colm Lenaghan/Pacemaker Press
Baroness Paisley at the Bannside Library in east Belfast.' Photo: Colm Lenaghan/Pacemaker Press

The Paisley family felt “betrayed” over Lord Bannside’s departure from both the DUP and the Free Presbyterian Church, Baroness Eileen Paisley has said.

The widow of the former political leader repeated many comments first made in a television documentary broadcast just months before Ian Paisley died - but said she “didn’t dwell on it” as the hurt would be too much to bear.

I don’t dwell on it because it would grieve me too much

Dr Paisley, later to become Lord Bannside, founded the Free Presbyterian Church in 1951 and was also a founder member of the Democratic Unionist Party in September 1971.

The life he had known for more than half a century changed dramatically when he resigned as moderator of the church in 2008, before stepping down from politics a few weeks later.

Baroness Paisley said the entire family felt the sense of betrayal, but also said the pain of split was a price worth paying to save Northern Ireland’s power-sharing executive.

“We all felt that way, and it was very hurtful because Ian had given the best years of his life,” Baroness Paisley told BBC Radio Ulster’s Talkback programme on Thursday.

“We did talk about it and I think it was worth it. I mean, Christ was betrayed, so we can’t expect anything better from people - humanity is what it is.

“I’m disappointed in it, what they did. But I just have to let it be, I don’t dwell on it because it would grieve me too much and I’m not going to let anything like that get in on my life,” she said.

Baroness Paisley added: “Ian was the same, we didn’t let it get in on us. We lived through it and we got on with our own lives and they didn’t take his happiness away nor mine nor our family’s.

“But these things leave a scar on your mind and your heart really.”

Lord Bannside died in September 2014 and was buried following a service at his family home in east Belfast. At the time, his successor as both first minister and DUP leader Peter Robinson paid tribute to Dr Paisley as a “exceptional human being” whose death had left politics “a little less colourful and exciting”.

A death notice placed in the News Letter by the DUP described Dr Paisley as a “highly esteemed founding member, former leader, colleague and friend”.

However, the ill-feeling between the family and the party was evident when no senior DUP members were invited to the private funeral service.

During the Talkback programme, Baroness Paisley also spoke of her late husband’s relationship with Martin McGuinness.

Recalling a visit by the senior Sinn Fein member to the family home soon after the death was announced, she added: “He went in and bowed his head [over the coffin] and was quite emotional about it. I think that says a lot because you can’t put that sort of thing on, he was genuine. I think that speaks volumes for the influence Ian had on him and for the absolutely unique friendship that came about between them.”

Baroness Paisley’s choice of music during the broadcast included Ashokan Farewell - a lament she revealed was played at her husband’s graveside by a lone piper.

• Baroness Paisley has said she hopes Northern Ireland “finds peace” and “gets back to normal life” in coming years.

On a personal level, she described Christmas without her husband as “different,” and added: “I have great memories of Christmas and our life together”

Her choice of music on Talkback reflected her strong Christian faith.

Firstly, she selected a hymn sang the first night she heard Ian Paisley preach in 1950 - ‘And Can It Be That I Should Gain’.

Followed by:

‘The Aaronic Blessing’ arranged by John Rutter;

‘The old rugged cross’ performed by George Beverly Shea;

‘Ashokan Farewell’.

Baroness Paisley’s final piece of music was another popular hynm, Psalm 23, ‘The Lord is my Shepherd’ which was played on their wedding day.