Ian Paisley criticised over Dublin-Monaghan bombs comment

Ian Paisley The 87-year-old has been one of the most controversial political figures of the 20th Century

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Former Northern Ireland first minister Ian Paisley has been criticised for comments he made about the 1974 Dublin and Monaghan bombings.

Thirty-three people were killed by the UVF bomb attacks.

Speaking in a BBC documentary to be broadcast on Monday night, Mr Paisley said the Irish government effectively brought the attacks on themselves.

Mr Paisley's successor as first minister, Peter Robinson, said the only people responsible were the bombers.

"The people responsible for terrorist actions are terrorists," Mr Robinson said.

"Those responsible for priming the bomb, placing it and killing 33 people."

Ulster Unionist leader Mike Nesbitt said he was "absolutely shocked" by Mr Paisley's comments.

Talking about the Dublin and Monaghan bombs in the documentary, Mr Paisley said: "I was shocked, very much shocked, that there was anyone going to be hurt in that way.

"But, I mean, who brought that on them? Themselves, it was their own political leaders... at that time the attitude of the south government to Northern Ireland was ridiculous."

Mr Nesbitt said: "When we criticise the re-writing of history, this is precisely the type of comments which we mean.

"The people responsible for the murder of 33 people in Dublin and Monaghan in 1974 were the terrorists who planned and planted the bombs."

Mr Robinson also challenged Mr Paisley's account of the so-called "invasion of Clontibret".

In August 1986, Mr Robinson led a large group of loyalists into the County Monaghan village 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 agreement had given the Republic of Ireland a constitutional role in the affairs of Northern Ireland for the first time.

In the documentary, Mr Paisley said the protest, which resulted in disorder, damage and a fine for Mr Robinson, "shouldn't have been done".

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 (Mr Robinson) thought that there was going to be a tremendous uprising as a result of all that, and that didn't happen."

Mr Paisley 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."

Peter Robinson said that he had substituted for Ian Paisley at Clontibret as Mr Paisley had to attend a funeral

Speaking in Dublin on Friday, Mr Robinson said Mr Paisley's account was "a failure of recollection".

He said that Mr Paisley "was the one who had agreed to go to Clontibret".

"He had to leave to go to a funeral in the US and I stepped in as his deputy into the Clontibret arrangement," said Mr Robinson.

Mr Paisley made his comments in a BBC documentary looking at the former politician's journey from a firebrand preacher to his role as Northern Ireland's first minister.

Bloody Sunday

On the Bloody Sunday shootings in Londonderry in 1972, when 13 people were shot dead by the Army, he said: "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."

He said he welcomed Prime Minister David Cameron's 2010 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."

Mr Paisley also said the discrimination that once existed in Northern Ireland over voting rights was wrong.

"If you vote down democracy, you are responsible for bringing in anarchy," he said.

"It wasn't one man, one vote, I mean that's no way to run a country."

"The whole system was wrong."

At the time only ratepayers in Northern Ireland were entitled to votes, while Catholics were discriminated against in terms of housing allocation and the "gerrymandering" of electoral boundaries.

In the two-part documentary, Paisley: Genesis To Revelation, the veteran politician talked to journalist Eamonn Mallie about his life.

The 87-year-old 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.

Reflections

In the first of the two programmes, Mr Paisley discussed his early life and his relationship with his father James, a Baptist minister from Armagh; his conversion to evangelical Christianity at six years old; his first steps into ministry in Ravenhill, Belfast; why he founded and became moderator of the Free Presbyterian Church.

He also gave his reflections on the Cromac Street riots and the flag protests on the Falls Road in the 1960s; his thoughts around the 1968 Civil Rights Movement; and his opinion on Bloody Sunday.

Mr Paisley was speaking in a BBC documentary, to be broadcast on Monday night

He discussed how he founded the Democratic Unionist Party; involvement in the Ulster Workers' Council Strike in 1974; an IRA bomb attack on Downing Street; and how he felt about the 1985 Anglo-Irish Agreement and the Good Friday Agreement of 1998.

'Reflective, blunt and unabridged'

In the second of the two programmes, Eamonn Mallie asks Mr Paisley and his wife of 57 years, Eileen, about what they believe were the circumstances around his departure from the Free Presbyterian Church that he founded and as leader of the DUP, the political party he created.

Mr Paisley, who was admitted to the Ulster Hospital in Dundonald just before the New Year after taking ill, is still recovering there.

Mr Mallie said: "Having trawled through endless biographies, watched dozens of television interviews in these islands and further afield with retired world leaders and opinion makers, we do not believe any former prime minister or first minister has ever been as reflective, blunt or unabridged in laying bare the facts enveloping his or her public life.

"The tone in these programmes is mutually robust and challenging."

Paisley: Genesis To Revelation - Face To Face With Eamonn Mallie starts on BBC One NI on Monday 13 January at 22:35 GMT

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