Paisley expresses support for civil rights movement

Former leader backs aims of movement, yet alleges it was ‘tied up in other things’

Former first minister the Rev Ian Paisley: stands by his denunciations of Catholicism. Photograph: PA

Former first minister the Rev Ian Paisley: stands by his denunciations of Catholicism. Photograph: PA

Fri, Jan 10, 2014, 01:00


The Rev Ian Paisley has expressed support for the Northern Ireland civil rights movement.

In what the former Stormont first minister has said is his final TV interview, he was asked for his view on the conditions for Catholics which prompted civil disobedience against unfair housing, employment and electoral policies.

Dr Paisley said: “It wasn’t fair. A fair government is that every man has the same power to vote for what he wants. No, it wasn’t justice at all.”

But he qualified his support and criticised the movement and its leaders, denouncing it as a front for those pushing for a united Ireland.

“Those that put their hands to that have to carry some of the blame for what happened in our country.

“The civil rights movement was tied up with threats and was tied up in other things. It was part of the overall cauldron that was burning and was being heated in various sorts of sections of the community to get their own way,” he said.

Dr Paisley also stands by his denunciations of Catholicism but denies he said everything attributed to him over many decades as a Free Presbyterian preacher.

The former DUP leader also said the Dublin and Monaghan bombings 40 years ago happened, in part, because “political leaders brought it on themselves”.

He said of the UVF bombings that killed 33 people: “I was very much shocked that there was anyone going to be hurt in that way.”

But he suggested that the people brought that on themselves through their own political leaders. He said: “The attitude of the Southern government on Northern Ireland was ridiculous.”

He adds: “I not only had nothing to do with it, but I’d said I had nothing to do with it and denounced the people who had done it. What more could I do? I took my stand.

“I denounced what was wrong, but I could not say to the people, ‘Just sit down and let them put a rope round your neck’.”

In the first of two in-depth interviews with journalist Eamonn Mallie to be broadcast by the BBC over consecutive Mondays from next week, the veteran unionist leader, now 87, denies responsibility for serious rioting following protests in Belfast led by him in the 1960s.

“I believe I was right in what I did,” he says.

“The people who rioted are the people [who] will have to pay for that.”

Pressed on claims that priests abetted the IRA and ammunition was stored in churches, Dr Paisley simply said: “What I said, I said. I have nothing to add to it.”

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