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banner Tuesday, 1 January, 2002, 10:29 GMT
Transcripts: Ian Paisley - The Protestant Leader
Reverend Ian Paisley
In 1971 Paisley considered a union with the SDLP
Dr. Ian Paisley was elected to the Northern Ireland Parliament in 1970 and became the MP for North Antrim. He founded the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) in 1971.

Documents disclosed under the UK's 30-year rule reveal that the government tried its best to avoid introducing direct rule to Northern Ireland in 1971, and yet they preferred it to a government run by Dr. Paisley.

Dr. Paisley has a reputation for standing in the way of political initiatives to bring powersharing to Northern Ireland over the past 30 years, however the documents reveal that he was prepared to try and reach an agreement with the nationalist SDLP in 1971.

BBC Television's UK Confidential special documentary spoke to Dr. Paisley about his views on the policy of internment and his political plans in 1971.


Dr. Paisley, what was your view of government security policy in 1971 prior to internment?

Well it was very poor. I didn't think that they were handling this situation but I didn't think they recognised the awful position we were in and I also think as far as internment was concerned that it was sort of folly.

I said I believed there could be an agreement between Roman Catholics and Protestants, but I never mentioned a coalition government.

Dr. Ian Paisley

Number one, I believe that any effective government seized with terrorism has a right to use executive internment to put people away, to take them out of the system, but that is an exacter fact. It's not a judicial act. It's not done on the basis of real evidence.

It's done really on the basis of security information, and if you do that, you can't then renege to a sort of semi judicial system as they did, and brought a man in and he was hid behind a blanket, and you saw his feet and he gave evidence against you before a commissioner.

I mean the whole thing was disastrous, but if you're going to do that, you would need to have good security to begin with, so that when you did intern people the trouble stopped and you knew you'd got the real people. But the police at the time had no real hard facts against those that were at that time making trouble.

I mean I had a constituent of mine who was interned. An old man of 70 because he had been an old IRA man in the early troubles, and he was so hated in the compound, that they wouldn't eat with him, or allow him to be in the same place with them, and he says: "You know, I was an IRA man - the old IRA in the old days. I'm only put in here because they knew that." And I mean they brought all sorts of people in.
Dr. Paisley's political career
1946 Ordained as the minister of Ravenhill Evangelical Mission Church, Belfast
1970 Elected to Northern Ireland Parliament
1971 Co-founded DUP
1972 Chairman of the Public Accounts Committee
1996 - 1998 Member of the Northern Ireland Forum for Political Dialogue
1998 Member of the New Northern Ireland Assembly

The second thing was that Faulkner, and I talked to a very high ranking police officer, who I'll not name, and he told me personally: "Ian, Faulkner told me to do it on a fifty/fifty basis. Get fifty Paisley-ites, and fifty IRA men and lock them up."

And he said: "Mr. Faulkner, I don't know one Paisley-ite who's been engaged in violence. If you can tell me who they are, I'd like to have a look at them." And I mean, if that's the way it was done, it was bound to end in disaster.

Of course no Protestants were interned. Did that surprise you?

At the beginning? Oh but they were interned afterwards.

No but when the swoop was carried out in August not one single Protestant was interned.

No.

It was all directed against one section of the community.

That's right because they had no evidence. I mean they had no evidence whatsoever. They hadn't a shred of evidence.

But they hadn't much evidence against those...

No. I've also said that. I mean, the thing was disastrous.

What's interesting is that these papers show that the government was trying, again, and again, to do anything to avoid introducing direct rule, and yet, they would do it to avoid having you as Prime Minister?

Yes, that's right. I wouldn't be a bit surprised. I mean when I was in the House of Commons, I told them what I felt, and that no way, they couldn't bribe me or beat me, or blacken me, because I mean that had all been done.

And I mean if I was going to be put out of politics I would have perished long since, as anyone who stood against officialdom in the old days perished. But I wasn't to perish, because the people had got my message, and I'm here because of the people.

The papers show that you'd indicated toward the end of 1971, to Cecil King, that you were prepared to try and reach accommodation with moderate Catholics, moderate nationalists, within Northern Ireland, that you believed could provide a basis for a new government in Stormont.

Are those reports of your conversations with Mr. King accurate?

We did meet, Mr. Bull and myself, did meet Mr. King at his request. We were shrewdly suspicious that he was an emissary, and we told him the truth as we saw it.

But even if you read these papers, you find that, number one, I insisted that before anything was done the people must have their say.

They'd have to have an election?

There'd have to be an election. I also made it clear - I mean I notice they put "coalition government" in inverted commas. I never mentioned coalition government.

Ian Paisley
Ian Paisley founded the Democratic Unionist Party in 1971
I said I believed there could be an agreement between Roman Catholics and Protestants, but I never mentioned a coalition government, because that government would have had to be strongly Unionist, it would have to be a Unionist government.

I never was given to the partnership idea at all, but I thought that there was still a possibility, and I believed at that time there was a possibility, that Roman Catholic members of the old Stormont, and ourselves could come to an arrangement, whereby we could find a way to cover Northern Ireland.

I wouldn't touch any proposal except that the electorate approved of it. Well any British Government that could destroy the part of Northern Ireland, could have surely found a way to have a general election and refer the matter to the democratic voters of this land.

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Ian Paisley
UK Confidential's interview with Reverend Ian Paisley
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