Paisley says senior figures in DUP conspired to remove him from leadership
‘Anything that was done in getting me out was done behind backs’
The Rev Ian Paisley: When asked could he now enjoy that previous relationship with Peter Robinson, replied, “No, I don’t think so, his ways are not my ways. He has to answer for how he works.” He also quoted Scripture to state, “People, so-called friends, are probably secret enemies.”
Dr Paisley in a BBC television documentary broadcast tonight is fiercely critical of Mr Robinson, the man who was his deputy and strongest ally for almost four decades, going back to the formation of the DUP in 1971.
Dr Paisley, when asked could he now enjoy that previous relationship with Mr Robinson, replied, “No, I don’t think so, his ways are not my ways. He has to answer for how he works.” He also quoted Scripture to state, “People, so-called friends, are probably secret enemies.”
“Anything that was done in getting me out was done behind backs,” he added.
Dr Paisley (now Lord Bannside) also complained that his former special adviser Timothy Johnston, who is now Mr Robinson’s special adviser, was party to a loaded survey and questionnaire that was instrumental in his feeling compelled to stand down as first minister and DUP leader.
That document, according to the programme, Paisley: Genesis To Revelation – Face To Face With Eamonn Mallie, also contained disparaging references to Ian Paisley jnr which caused deep anger to Dr Paisley and his wife, Eileen, Baroness Paisley.
Dr Paisley said the references to his son were “disgraceful” and then went on to comment how Ian jnr won a seat in the House of Commons in the 2010 Westminster elections while Mr Robinson lost his East Belfast seat. “The man who they put in my position couldn’t keep his own seat in Westminster. My son who followed me had a marvellous victory,” he said.
“For once we are seeing the true nature of the beast, a beast here who was prepared to go forward to the destruction of the party, because losing seats in Northern Ireland is a very serious thing. For East Belfast not to be a unionist seat in the House of Commons is a terrible blow,” he added.
The programme in charting how Dr Paisley was forced to resign as DUP leader and first minister in March 2008 reported that Johnston put together a survey of DUP Assembly members that had seven questions, five of which related to the performance of Dr Paisley since he took over as first minister in May 2007.
According to the programme it referred to his not being across details, not being capable of doing his job, of having questionable judgment, and to his “Chuckle Brothers” relationship with the Sinn Féin Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness.
The survey found that 83 per cent of DUP MLAs felt he ought to retire in 2008 with some fearing he should go sooner or the party would irretrievably disintegrate.
Dr Paisley told Eamonn Mallie that he did not ask Mr Johnston for an analysis of his leadership but rather “a general view of the party and its thinking at that present time”.
Mr Johnston in a statement to the programme said the survey was carried out at Dr Paisley’s specific request. He rejected any suggestion that it was framed with the intention of bringing about Dr Paisley’s removal.
Dr Paisley said that a week later in February 2008 Mr Robinson, Mr Dodds, party chairman Lord (Maurice) Morrow and Mr Johnston held a meeting with him in Stormont Castle. “Nigel Dodds said to me, ‘We need you to be gone by Friday’. I just more or less smirked and Peter said, ‘Oh no, no, no, he needs to stay in for another couple of months’.”
Dr Paisley said he decided not to resist this challenge because he didn’t want to split the DUP.
A process followed where in March 2008 Dr Paisley announced that in May that year he was standing down as DUP leader and first minister. Mr Robinson succeeded him to the two posts.
The DUP in a statement to the programme said “no such meeting took place as described” at Stormont Castle and that Dr Paisley’s departure as first minister and DUP leader “was entirely a matter for him”.