Ian Paisley says DUP told him to quit as leader

Ian Paisley says that Nigel Dodds told him "I want you to be gone by Friday"

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Ian Paisley and his wife have spoken for the first time about events surrounding his departure as DUP leader and first minister.

Although Mr Paisley, now Lord Bannside, said in 2008 that he was not pressured to quit he has now claimed he was told to go.

He blamed the current party leader Peter Robinson and his deputy Nigel Dodds.

They deny the Paisleys' account of events.

The claims are made in part two of the BBC programme Paisley: Genesis to Revelation.

Start Quote

Eileen Paisley

I detected a nasty spirit arising from some of the other MPs and the way they spoke to Ian”

End Quote Eileen Paisley

Mr Paisley claimed his special adviser, Timothy Johnston, presented him with a survey of DUP MLAs that contained criticisms of his work as first minister, not least his "chuckling" behaviour with Martin McGuinness.

'Treated shamefully'

Mr Paisley has alleged a meeting soon followed, involving Mr Robinson, Mr Dodds, party whip Lord Morrow and Mr Johnson.

"Nigel Dodds said to me I want you to be gone by Friday," he said.

"I just more or less smirked and Peter said 'no, no, no he needs to stay in for another couple of months'."

Eileen Paisley said her husband was "assassinated with words and deeds", treated shamefully and was left with no option but to stand down.

She described Nigel Dodds as a "cheeky sod".

"I detected a nasty spirit arising from some of the other MPs and the way they spoke to Ian," Mrs Paisley said.

"I was very annoyed one day with the way some of them spoke to him and addressed him.

"Whenever they said to him about what was going on and he said to them 'well, that's what should be done' and they said 'och doc', you know? Sort of, 'don't be so stupid'.

"That sort of set the alarm bells ringing in my head," she added.

'Embarrassment'

Start Quote

Peter Robinson

There are many who will believe that in agreeing to participate in these interviews Lord Bannside will have done nothing to enhance his legacy”

End Quote Peter Robinson DUP leader

Mr Robinson and his colleagues have said no such meeting took place as described, that the timing of Mr Paisley's departure was a matter for him and the passage of time had diminished his recollection.

In a party statement, the DUP said: "We are saddened to see Lord Bannside harm his own legacy.

"In his later years as party leader, many colleagues shielded his frailty from public view, to avoid embarrassment and protect his legacy.

"Those people are hurt by untrue and bitter comments contained in the documentary."

The party added that it would "not let untrue assertions dressed up as facts go unchallenged".

'Insult'

In a personal statement, Mr Robinson said: "There are many who will believe that in agreeing to participate in these interviews Lord Bannside will have done nothing to enhance his legacy.

"They will struggle to reconcile the spirit and tone he presents with that which they will have known and admired. This is not the Ian Paisley we knew.

"As someone who faithfully served Dr Paisley for many decades I will make one final sacrifice by not responding and causing any further damage to his legacy beyond that which he has done himself.

Eileen Paisley has described DUP treatment of her husband as 'shameful'

"Rather than return insult for insult, let me bless him with the mercy of my silence and wish him well," Mr Robinson added.

'Inaccurate'

DUP deputy leader Nigel Dodds said he was "personally very saddened to learn of the tone and contents of the latest programme on Lord Bannside".

"Clearly the passage of time has diminished accurate recall of events.

"What is being said now by Lord Bannside about meetings is inaccurate and stands in stark contrast to everything that he said and did at the time and, indeed, during the years since," Mr Dodds added.

Mr Johnston said the 2008 survey was carried out at Mr Paisley's request and rejected any suggestion it was framed to bring about the leader's removal.

In a statement, he said: "Dr Paisley commissioned the survey and was aware of its nature and its findings at the time.

'Irreversibly damaged'

Politicians have been giving their reaction to the interview

"At no point then or since has Dr Paisley or Mrs Paisley sought to raise these concerns with me despite having had every opportunity to do so."

Mr Johnston added: "After a long and distinguished career it is very regrettable that Dr Paisley, as well as Mrs Paisley, and those who now advise them, have co-operated in the making of two programmes that have significantly and irreversibly damaged his historical legacy.

"Unsurprisingly, the events of that time have not been accurately recalled and indeed the 'research' used by the production staff is wrong in many significant respects."

Jim Allister, the leader of the Traditional Unionist Voice, said the programme appeared to be both "gripping and brutal".

He said it shattered the myth of "one big happy family" and was unedifying. Mr Allister, a former member of the DUP, said it damaged both the Paisleys and Robinsons.

Mr Allister said the party faithful would be surprised by the manner of Mr Paisley's departure.

Mr Paisley has been one of the most controversial political figures of the 20th Century.

He has lived most of his life in the public eye and played a pivotal role in Northern Ireland's history.

Mr Paisley once vowed he would never share power with Sinn Féin, but spent over a year at Stormont as Northern Ireland's first minister working with Martin McGuinness, the deputy first minister and former IRA leader.

He stepped down from politics in May 2008, just weeks after he resigned as moderator of the Free Presbyterian Church, which he founded.

The documentary also examines that departure.

Part Two of Paisley: Genesis To Revelation - Face To Face With Eamonn Mallie is on BBC One NI on Monday 20 January at 22:35 GMT

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