Paisley: Government provoked Dublin and Monaghan bombings

The Rev. Ian Paisley has effectively accused the Irish Government of provoking the 1974 Dublin and Monaghan bombings which claimed the lives of 33 people.

He declared: “The political leaders brought it on themselves.”

The Protestant Ulster Volunteer Force (UVF) set off the two car bombs in the Republic at the height of a violent loyalist strike across Northern Ireland by the so-called Ulster Workers Council which ended with the collapse of the first power sharing executive in Belfast 40 years ago.

Mr Paisley and his then hard-line Democratic Unionist Party supported the stoppage which had the backing of thousands of members of the paramilitary Ulster Defence Association (UDA) which brought the country to a virtual standstill in protest against the formation of a coalition of Unionist and Nationalist ministers based at Parliament Buildings, Stormont.

No one has ever been charged with the atrocities, although there have been persistent accusations that rogue members of the Royal Ulster Constabulary colluded with the bombers.

Mr Paisley, 87, said he was shocked.

In the first of a major two part television documentary on his life he said: “I was very much shocked that there was anyone going to be hurt in that way. But I mean, who brought that on themselves was the people that, their own political leaders, and they had endorsed in what their attitude to Northern Ireland, and at that time the attitude of the south government in Northern Ireland was ridiculous, so it was.”

He insisted the killings were not justified. He never believed in killing. He told journalist Eamonn Mallie: “I not only had nothing to do with it, but I’d said I had nothing to do with it and denounced the people who had done it....What more could I do?”

The former MP for north Antrim, who quit as DUP leader in 2010, added: “I took my stand. I denounced what was wrong, but I could not say to the people: ’Just sit down and let them put a rope round your neck.”’

Mr Paisley, who once vowed he would never share power with Sinn Féin, but who spent over a year at Stormont as Northern Ireland First Minister working with Martin McGuinness, the deputy First Minister and former IRA leader, stepped down from politics In May 2008, just weeks after he resigned as Moderator of the Free Presbyterian Church which he founded.

His long-time deputy party leader Peter Robinson took over as First Minister.

In August 1986 Mr Robinson, now aged 65, led a loyalist invasion of the village of Clontibret, Co Monaghan, in protest against what he claimed were inadequate security measures along the Irish border following Margaret Thatcher’s signing of the Anglo-Irish Agreement the previous year which, for the first time gave the Republic a constitutional role in the affairs of Northern Ireland.

Mr Robinson was arrested and later fined IR£17,500 for unlawful assembly.

Paisley said the protest should not have happened and when asked if there was a feeling within his family then that Mr Robinson was making a leadership challenge – Mr Paisley was out of the country at the time – he replied: “Everybody has a right to decide for themselves what their answer to that is. I think he thought that was going to be a tremendous uprising as a result of all that, and that didn’t happen.”

He added: “He did it and he must take account for it and it’s so unimportant you know in the light of what was happening. It was only like a fella scratching a match and the match burns out, and that’s when he throws it away.”

Mr Paisley revealed how his father James’s life was spared when a gang of up to 50 republicans threatened to shoot him, a Baptist minister, in the early 1920s. They dragged him from his Austin 6 car and held him up against a wall. Mr Paisley was a baby at the time.

One of the gang allegedly shouted: “How dare you touch this man. His wife has just had their second child and it would be very unlucky to us if we did this.” They then decided to release him unharmed. Mr Paisley told the programme: “The reason he got away was me. Because I had been born.”

Mr Mallie asked him: “So you were the little miracle that arrived and saved his life?” Mr Paisley replied: “That’s right, that’s right. Amazing.”

Mr Paisley also spoke about:

:: His first sermon as a preacher at Crossgar Mission Hall, Co Down, after leaving school at 16: “It lasted for three minutes. It was a disaster. It was very humbling.”

:: Leading a protest to remove an Irish Tricolour flag at Divis Street, Belfast, in 1964 which ended in two nights of rioting: “I believe I was right in what I did.....The people who rioted are the people (who) will have to pay for that.

:: His 1968 claims that priests handed out sub machine guns to parishioners and that Catholic churches were used to hide men: “What I said, I said. I have nothing to add to it.”

:: His allegation in 1968 that the Provisional IRA was the military wing of the Roman Catholic Church: “Well, it was, it’s true. It stands true in history. They have been the people the Church of Rome used to forward their interests.”

:: Housing discrimination against Catholics which existed in advance of the formation of the civil rights movement: “No, it wasn’t fair. A fair government is that every man has the same power to vote for what he wants. No, it wasn’t justice at all.....those that put their hands to that were, have to carry some of the blunt, and blame, for what happened in our country.” Mr Mallie challenged him: “What do you mean by that?” Mr Paisley replied: “I mean that if you vote down democracy you’re responsible for bringing in anarchy and they brought in anarchy, and they set family against family, and friend against friend.” He added: “The whole system was wrong. It wasn’t one man, one vote. I mean that’s no way to run any country. There should be absolute freedom and there should be absolute liberty.”

:: The civil rights movement which was led by John Hume, who went on to become the SDLP leader. He claimed it was a front for a united Ireland: “The civil rights movement was tied up with threats and was tied up in other things. It wasn’t only in that. It was part of the overall cauldron that was burning and was being heated in various sort of sections of the community to get their own way.”

:: Bloody Sunday in January 1972 when 13 unarmed civilians were shot and killed by British Paratroopers in Derry: “I was very angry that that’s what it had come to. I felt it was a very dangerous thing, and then the attempt to cover it for what it was not. The Inquiry afterwards proved that some of these people had neither weapons, nor were they using weapons. They were just making a protest within the law.”

:: British Prime Minister David Cameron’s apology for the killings: “Well, I wasn’t embarrassed. I was glad to hear him for the first time as a British leader telling the truth about it. Saying what really did happen.”

:: Margaret Thatcher after she opened talks with the Government in 1980: “I thought she would be a good friend to Northern Ireland, but I was sadly disappointed... I think that it really stirred people that where we have the Prime Minister going in and having the sort of ’love-in’ with the South. I don’t think that she should have been negotiating with Dublin at all on the future of this part of the United Kingdom.”

:: The 1985 Anglo-Irish Agreement which give the Republic of Ireland a role in the constitutional affairs of Northern Ireland: “It was a surrender document. And even very mild Unionist would agree with that. It did unite the Unionist people. For the first time I could sit in company with Ulster Unionists who saw the same way as I was seeing.”

:: An IRA bomb attack on Downing Street in February 1991: “I think it was a cracker....that they could go right in there and do that. I thought it should have put more of a strength into the muscle of the cabinet to go out and deal with the IRA the way they should have been dealt with.”

:: The IRA’s 1994 ceasefire: He said he shared the view of the then Ulster Unionist leader James Molyneaux who declared: “It was the worst thing that ever happened to us.” Mr Paisley said: “I think people had been so let down that they had no trust in the British government getting us a proper road to getting out of the killings, and getting out of the agitations made to try and destroy what our forefathers had fought and died for.”

:: The 1998 Good Friday Agreement: “It was a selling out of all that we stood for and all that our fathers died for and that people I was speaking for were the people who give their lives in two World Wars to keep us in a place of freedom. And this thing goes into the very core of the Ulsterman and I don’t think it’s understood. Ulster Unionists can fight things among themselves, but there is a place where we all join together, and where blood is mixed with blood, and bones are mixed with bones, we say: ’So far, but no farther.”’

Mr Paisley is still recovering in the Ulster Hospital, Dundonald, Co Down, where he spent the New Year after taking ill. Friends said he is making a good recovery.

Mr Mallie, 64, a former political editor with Downtown Radio and correspondent for The Observer, spent 40 hours interviewing a politician he has known for more than 30 years. He claimed Mr Paisley told him it would be his last interview.

Mr Mallie, whose son Michael helped him produce the programme, said: “He didn’t seek any editorial control. He took everything I was able to throw at him. He was gracious, but a wily old fox. A lot of this was incredibly painful for him, but when it finished he shook my hand and said: ”Right, that’s my last word.“

:: Paisley: Genesis To Revelation – Face To Face With Eamonn Mallie, BBC1 Northern Ireland, Monday, 10.30pm.

  • Click to stay connected with more stories like this
  • Sign up here to receive news by email. Once per day, no spam.

Most Read in Ireland