Baroness Paisley: my husband would not have created this mess
Widow of late Ian Paisley criticises DUP leader Arlene Foster over political impasse
Eamonn Mallie with Ian Paisley and Baroness Eileen Paisley in 2014: Baroness Paisley urged leaders on both sides to ‘confess your sin and confess your mistakes’
Baroness Paisley said on Thursday Ms Foster should have stood aside temporarily as first minister more than a year ago over the Renewable Heat Incentive scheme, which was one of the triggers for the late Mr McGuinness standing down as deputy first minister.
The so-called cash-for-ash scheme, which could cost Northern Ireland taxpayers hundreds of millions of pounds, was set up in November 2012 and run by the North’s Department of Enterprise, Trade and Investment when Ms Foster was its minister.
“If you are a minister and someone in your department is wrong, the buck stops at your desk,” said Baroness Paisley.
“You have got to do what is right and stand down from your position until the matter is sorted out,” she told BBC Radio Foyle.
She said if today’s politicians “had followed the example that the late Martin McGuinness and my husband set for them this would not have happened”.
On the deadlock over the proposed Irish Language Act, Baroness Paisley said she supported neither an Irish Act nor an Ulster Scots Act. She didn’t believe there was a need for “a standalone act on any language because as far as I can see there is no barrier to the Irish language in Northern Ireland”.
She said the current political situation was “heartbreaking” and “politicians need to face up to facts”.
There was a need for political leaders to “confess sin and confess mistakes”. There was a requirement to “confess where they’ve gone wrong – and they have gone wrong” and to “cut out all nonsense . . . and come back and start anew. We all need proper government at this time.”
The big issue was that “people do not face up to the truth; they need to be honest with one another”.
She said the DUP was as much to blame as Sinn Féin for the current impasse.
Asked if she included the DUP in people not facing up to the truth, she said: “That’s right. They’re hiding from the truth. And you must be absolutely honest with one another because there’s only one way to be honest when you’ve made a mistake and it’s to confess your sin and confess your mistakes because no one is perfect.
“If that had been done at the beginning, there would have been a very different situation than the one we are in at the minute. We would not be in the mess we are in,” she added.
Meanwhile, as the British and Irish governments seek to determine if there is any possibility in the weeks ahead of resurrecting the collapsed DUP-Sinn Féin talks, the SDLP leader Colum Eastwood has urged the British and Irish governments to go over the heads of the parties to resolve outstanding disputed matters.
“I am calling on the British and Irish governments, as part of the intergovernmental conference, to agree a package of legislation and implement it,” he said at Trinity College, Dublin on Thursday.
He said such a package should include much of the draft accommodation that was agreed between the DUP and Sinn Féin and contained in the draft agreement text leaked to the Eamonn Mallie website.
“That means legislation for an Irish language Act and an Ulster Scots Act,” added Mr Eastwood. “It should include the establishment of legacy bodies and the release of inquest resources. And I’m also proposing that it should include reform of the petition of concern so that progressive measures such as marriage equality can finally be introduced in the North.”
And, as the deadlock continues, another example of how contentious is the row over the Irish language was the vandalising of the Irish language element of a bilingual sign outside Caledon, Co Tyrone. A sign near Portglenone, Co Tyrone was similarly defaced in December.
Local Sinn Féin Assembly member Colm Gildernew, condemning the incident, said: “Occurrences like this bring into focus the need for protection of Irish Language rights through Acht na Gaeilge.”