Ian Paisley and DUP: Politics 'red in tooth and claw'
- 20 January 2014
- From the section Northern Ireland
So do you believe him then or do you believe him now?
Part two of Eamonn Mallie's documentary, From Genesis to Revelation, contains an extract from my interview with Ian Paisley when he announced his decision to stand down as first minister in March 2008.
"Q: Originally when you took office you said you wanted to serve a full four-year term. What made you change your mind? Was it pressure from others within your party who were unhappy about the direction of your leadership?
"A: No it wasn't. I don't think I can be pressured. I'm too old in the hide for that. I have been up and down for many long years before you were out of nappies and I can say to you that Ian Paisley is not easy to be pushed around."
Now, of course, we have a different story. A survey concluding it was time to go; an ultimatum from his former European assistant and a campaign on behalf of his successor, whom he describes as a "beast".
The version that the Paisley family wants viewers to believe is that the "Grand Old Man" consulted his conscience and his Lord, made a difficult decision that was in the best interests of a peaceful society and was rewarded by being dumped by both his party and his Church.
The flaw in this logic is that, at the time of his departure as first minister, Ian Paisley was already 82 and self evidently not as sharp as he had once been.
'Red in tooth and claw'
Also, the DUP founder had made a profession of bringing down any other unionist politician or Protestant churchman with whom he did not see eye to eye.
Lord Bannside will know better than most of us that this territory is covered by Matthew 26:52: "Put up again thy sword into his place: for all they that take the sword shall perish with the sword."
There are no shortage of daggers on display in the Mallie documentary - not just those that the Paisleys claim were wielded against them. Also, there are the stilettos that they attempt to insert into their successors.
Baroness Paisley's choice of words about both the Robinsons and Nigel Dodds are distinctly un-ladylike.
Rarely will viewers have seen politics quite so red in tooth and claw.
Like his hero Edward Carson, Ian Paisley has always wanted to be remembered as a giant of unionism.
Whether this documentary harms his legacy, as the DUP now claims, or simply adds spice to his story will be something for historians to judge.
One thing is for sure - with Ian Paisley's son, Ian Junior, still DUP MP for North Antrim, these revelations could lead to some very awkward encounters in the corridors at Westminster and Stormont in the weeks to come.