‘No truth’ in claims that Paisley gave cash to UVF for bombings

Story characterised by enraged son as attempt to impugn reputation of dead father

Ian Paisley jnr with his father the Rev Ian Paisley at The Seven Towers Leisure Centre in Ballymena for the North Antrim seat count in 2010. File photograph: PA

Ian Paisley jnr with his father the Rev Ian Paisley at The Seven Towers Leisure Centre in Ballymena for the North Antrim seat count in 2010. File photograph: PA

 

Claims made in a BBC TV documentary that Northern Ireland’s former first minister Ian Paisley supplied money to the Ulster Volunteer Force (UVF) to carry out bombings in 1969 are untrue, his son has said.

Ian Paisley jnr said there was “absolutely no truth whatsoever” in the allegations about his late father, and it was a “filthy story designed to try and impugn the reputation of a dead man”.

A spokeswoman for the BBC said the corporation has “complete confidence in the editorial integrity of the programme”.

In the documentary, a former British army officer, David Hancock – who served as a major in Northern Ireland from 1968 to 1970 – describes how an RUC district inspector in Kilkeel, Co Down, informed him Paisley had supplied money for the bombing of water and electricity installations in early 1969.

The UVF hoped that the attacks on targets such as the Silent Valley reservoir in the Mourne mountains and the water pipeline at Annalong, Co Down, would be blamed on the IRA and force Northern Ireland’s beleaguered prime minister, Terence O’Neill, to resign.

Mr Hancock recalled: “I was good friends with the district inspector down in Kilkeel. He showed me the evidence that they had of the involvement of money from Paisley into what was then called the UVF, where they got the explosives from, how it was carried out, who did it and why.”

Ian Paisley jnr: programme ‘hurtful and disgusting’.
Ian Paisley jnr: programme ‘hurtful and disgusting’.
The Rev Ian Paisley and James Molyneaux in 1985 with supporters in Hillsborough, Co Down, prior to the signing of the Anglo-Irish Agreement. File photograph: Dermot O’Shea/ The Irish Times
The Rev Ian Paisley and James Molyneaux in 1985 with supporters in Hillsborough, Co Down, prior to the signing of the Anglo-Irish Agreement. File photograph: Dermot O’Shea/ The Irish Times

The programme cites a police intelligence report of the period that said the UVF was linked to Paisley, a connection the cleric denied.

Speaking on BBC Radio Ulster’s Nolan Show, Ian Paisley jnr described the claims as “gossip”, and said his father had been in prison when the bombings took place.

Ian Paisley snr was jailed in March 1969 for organising an illegal counterdemonstration to a civil rights march in Armagh the previous year.

“If there had of been, in the words of the programme, evidence shown to him [Hancock] by the police, I think my father would have been questioned about that by the police and indeed that evidence used to convict him,” said Mr Paisley, “so I think it’s complete and total poppycock”.

The founder of the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP), Paisley snr was its leader for 37 years. He died in 2014, aged 88.

Mr Paisley said what was “probably most hurtful and disgusting” was that the programme is scheduled to be broadcast on the fifth anniversary of his father’s death.

“That’s particularly hurtful to my mother and particularly hurtful to the rest of my family,” he said.

‘Incandescent’ widow

He said in the last 24 hours he had spoken to his mother, Baroness Eileen Paisley, about the claims made in the programme, and she had “completely dismissed them out of hand”.

She was “incandescent”, he said, “that the BBC wouldn’t even approach her and speak to her about it.

“They never contacted my mother and never contacted myself,” he said. “No one in my family was given a chance to defend the reputation of my late father, no one was contacted to do that. He was in jail. If they had sufficient evidence to put to him about all of this they would have done so. The story is untrue, and there is absolutely no credible evidence or basis on which to make the allegations they have made.”

A BBC spokeswoman said “as no allegations were made against the wider Paisley family it was not necessary to offer them a right to reply”.

“The series leads our autumn programming and was scheduled to follow on from BBC Northern Ireland’s portfolio of news-related content recognising the 50th anniversary of troops entering Northern Ireland in 1969.”

The seven-part series, Spotlight on the Troubles: A Secret History, begins on Tuesday on BBC1 Northern Ireland and BBC Four.

It also contains rare footage of former Sinn Féin deputy first minister Martin McGuinness allegedly preparing a car bomb for an IRA attack on Derry’s Guildhall in 1972 and reveals a “top secret” memorandum from 1972 in which British army commander Gen Michael Carver proposed as a “lasting solution” to the conflict that the British government gradually escape from the “commitment to the Border”.