State papers: Paisley's 'eat himself to death' claims

By Éamon Phoenix

Image source, Getty Images
Image caption,
Not so finger lickin' good as far as the Reverend Ian Paisley was concerned

Former Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) leader, the late Ian Paisley, complained to the Northern Ireland secretary in 1990 about alleged attempts to smear him in the media.

In particular, he claimed officials had suggested he would "eat himself to death" on fast food.

His complaint has been revealed in previously confidential files released by the Public Record Office in Belfast.

The papers have been made available to the public under the 30-year rule.

'Extremely hostile'

At a meeting between the Reverend Ian Paisley, Ulster Unionist leader James Molyneaux and the Secretary of State Peter Brooke at Stormont Castle on 19 February 1991, the DUP leader said he was "disturbed" by Northern Ireland Office (NIO) briefings with foreign and British journalists.

These, he alleged, were extremely hostile to him. He said local journalists had been excluded because "they would not fall for NIO disinformation".

Mr Paisley said a senior European journalist had informed him of a recent briefing which had suggested "he was no longer a political force to be reckoned with" and was certain to lose the DUP leadership.

Image source, PA
Image caption,
Ian Paisley, former DUP leader and first minister, died in 2014

He referred also to a recent story in The Economist magazine in which an NIO source was quoted as hoping that "he would eat himself to death on Kentucky Fried Chicken".

'Pinch of salt'

In addition, junior members of the DUP were being "wined and dined" by NIO officials, seeking to persuade them to be "disloyal to the leader".

Mr Paisley stressed that such briefings were counter-productive and would be seen as evidence that the government was "rattled".

Mr Brooke, himself a former foreign correspondent, replied that he would take with "a pinch of salt" what any journalist told him about his sources.

However, the then secretary of state undertook to have Mr Paisley's allegations investigated.

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