Northern Ireland

James Galway: Ian Paisley Sr indirectly 'responsible' for killings in Northern Ireland

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Media captionSir James Galway has criticised the late former DUP leader Ian Paisley

Sir James Galway has launched an attack on the actions of Ian Paisley Sr, saying the late former DUP leader was indirectly "responsible" for murders.

The renowned classical flautist told BBC Radio Ulster's The Nolan Show he "never admired" the former Northern Ireland first minister.

He said: "I'm sure he was [responsible] because he wasn't exactly preaching let's all live together, was he?"

In a statement, the DUP's Sammy Wilson said legal action was "pending".

Sir James, originally from Belfast but now living in Switzerland, said he felt Mr Paisley Sr "on paper was a man of God, but in reality he never was".

Mr Wilson, the East Antrim MP, said the 75-year-old's comments were "the typical hallmark of an anti-British social climber".

Disgraceful

"The Paisley family have requested that we do not comment on Sir James's remarks because of pending legal action," he said.

"We respect this request. However, we will always defend Dr Paisley's record as a leader of unionism.

"During the interview, Sir James indicated that he doesn't take much interest in politics and perhaps he should have kept it that way."

Mr Wilson added: "I have always admired Sir James's work, but some of his comments were offensive, inaccurate and downright disgraceful."

In his career, Mr Paisley Sr, who was the leader of the Free Presbyterian Church, launched countless attacks on Catholicism and Irish republicanism.

Sir James said: "How many people do you think he was responsible for killing indirectly by planting the thoughts of violence and no surrender in the heads of people who had no more sense?

"How can you justify setting one side against another?"

Image copyright PA
Image caption Sir James Galway said he felt Ian Paisley Sr "on paper was a man of God, but in reality he never was"

Sir James said that "maybe [Mr Paisley] didn't have any choice" when he made a historic agreement to share power with Sinn Féin in 2007.

Mr Paisley Sr died in September 2014. He was 88.

Sir James, who was knighted by the Queen in 2001, also suggested that he was supportive of a united Ireland, and objected to the British empire's historic rule of Ireland.

He said: "Wouldn't you say it is immoral for one country to take over another country just because the other country is not so well armed? Wouldn't you think that was immoral?

"Well, let me put this to you - would you not think that 800 years ago what the British did was immoral and is still immoral?"

Occupied

Sir James said that as he grew up as a young Protestant in Northern Ireland he was "brainwashed to the Protestant ethic" by politicians and "Presbyterians who made the school systems separate".

The Presbyterian Church in Ireland said that was "neither historically or factually accurate".

"The Presbyterian Church in Ireland transferred our schools to state control in the 1920s and 1930s," a spokesperson said.

Sir James added that he considers himself to be Irish, rather than Northern Irish.

"I would like Ireland to be Ireland.

"[People] say: 'Well, how do you become a sir?' I say: 'Because I come from the British-occupied part of Ireland.'"

Later on Friday, Sir James issued a statement saying: "Music is my life and love. We all have our views on life. I am here today to celebrate music.

"I love Northern Ireland and it is never my intent to cause offence."

Mr Wilson described the interview as "incoherent" and said they would be viewed as having come from "someone who is out of touch with reality in Northern Ireland".

"Sir James's interview will have discredited him with many admirers.

"For Sir James to express his pro-republican viewpoint [and] criticise Northern Ireland being part of the United Kingdom but then accept a knighthood from our monarch is hypocritical.

"If Sir James's views are so dearly held then he should probably consider handing back the knighthood."

Stephen Nolan's full interview with Sir James Galway on BBC Radio Ulster's The Nolan Show is available on the BBC iPlayer.

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