Cameron was right to 'tell the truth' on Bloody Sunday: Introducing an older, more mellow Rev Ian Paisley

The former firebrand was looked back on his 60-year career in politics during a series of interviews with the BBC

In the 1960s he took to the streets to denounce the nationalist civil rights movement as anti-British, anti-Protestant and an IRA front.

But Rev Ian Paisley appears to have mellowed in his autumn years – causing  amazement by conceding that many of the mainly Catholic movement’s complaints were justified.

During more than 40 hours of interviews to be broadcast by the BBC, the 87-year-old agreed that the then unionist government was unfair and unjust in refusing to grant the central civil rights demand of one man-one vote.

“The whole system was wrong,” he declared in his interviews. “It wasn’t one man-one vote. A fair government is that every man has the same power to vote for what he wants.”

The former firebrand said that the political system in Northern Ireland in the 1960s “was not acceptable, not acceptable at all”.

Dr Paisley added: “Those that put their hands to that have to carry some of the blunt and blame for what has happened in our country.

“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. It was bad for everybody.”

He insisted however that none of this justified the violence of the Troubles, emphasising: “I don’t believe in killing and never have.”

His remarks came in a series of interviews conducted by veteran Belfast broadcaster Eamonn Mallie, in which the 87-year-old political and religious leader looked back on his 60-year career. The first of two BBC television programmes is to air on Monday night.

In comments that could be seen as callous, Dr Paisley also described a republican bomb attack which almost killed prime minister John Major and cabinet ministers in 1991 as “a cracker for the IRA”.

He also said that he had been angered by the events of Bloody Sunday in Londonderry, when paratroopers in 1972 had shot civilians who he said were protesting within the law.

He had been further angered by attempts at a cover-up, and was glad to hear David Cameron eventually “telling the truth”.

In recent years Dr Paisley has stepped down from the post of Northern Ireland’s first minister and from the leadership of the Free Presbyterian church which he headed for decades.

He is currently in hospital for health tests, and in February 2012 spent a week on a life support machine suffering from heart failure. However, in the lengthy interviews he shows no sign of any mental deterioration.

Although Dr Paisley has moderated his views on some issues, he did not deviate from his strongly fundamentalist attitudes. Mallie put it to him that he had once accused the Queen Mother and Princess Margaret, who had an audience with the Pope, of “committing spiritual fornication with the Antichrist”.

Mr Paisley responded: “That was the language of Luther and Calvin and Protestantism, and I have no apology to make for being a Protestant.”

He stuck to his statement that he was anti-Catholic but “I love the poor dupes who are ground down under that system.”

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs People

Ashdown Group: Human Resources Manager

£28000 - £35000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: A successful organisation...

Recruitment Genius: Internal Recruiter - Manufacturing

£20000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An Internal Recruiter (manufact...

Ashdown Group: HR Manager (CIPD) - Barking / East Ham - £50-55K

£50000 - £55000 per annum + 25 days holidays & benefits: Ashdown Group: HR Man...

Recruitment Genius: Operations / Project Manager

£40000 - £48000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This software company specialis...

Day In a Page

Migrant crisis: UN official Philippe Douste-Blazy reveals the harrowing sights he encountered among refugees arriving on Lampedusa

‘Can we really just turn away?’

Dead bodies, men drowning, women miscarrying – a senior UN figure on the horrors he has witnessed among migrants arriving on Lampedusa, and urges politicians not to underestimate our caring nature
Nine of Syria and Iraq's 10 world heritage sites are in danger as Isis ravages centuries of history

Nine of Syria and Iraq's 10 world heritage sites are in danger...

... and not just because of Isis vandalism
Girl on a Plane: An exclusive extract of the novelisation inspired by the 1970 Palestinian fighters hijack

Girl on a Plane

An exclusive extract of the novelisation inspired by the 1970 Palestinian fighters hijack
Why Frederick Forsyth's spying days could spell disaster for today's journalists

Why Frederick Forsyth's spying days could spell disaster for today's journalists

The author of 'The Day of the Jackal' has revealed he spied for MI6 while a foreign correspondent
Markus Persson: If being that rich is so bad, why not just give it all away?

That's a bit rich

The billionaire inventor of computer game Minecraft says he is bored, lonely and isolated by his vast wealth. If it’s that bad, says Simon Kelner, why not just give it all away?
Euro 2016: Chris Coleman on course to end half a century of hurt for Wales

Coleman on course to end half a century of hurt for Wales

Wales last qualified for major tournament in 1958 but after several near misses the current crop can book place at Euro 2016 and end all the indifference
Rugby World Cup 2015: The tournament's forgotten XV

Forgotten XV of the rugby World Cup

Now the squads are out, Chris Hewett picks a side of stars who missed the cut
A groundbreaking study of 'Britain's Atlantis' long buried at the bottom of the North Sea could revolutionise how we see our prehistoric past

Britain's Atlantis

Scientific study beneath North Sea could revolutionise how we see the past
The Queen has 'done and said nothing that anybody will remember,' says Starkey

The Queen has 'done and said nothing that anybody will remember'

David Starkey's assessment
Oliver Sacks said his life has been 'an enormous privilege and adventure'

'An enormous privilege and adventure'

Oliver Sacks writing about his life
'Gibraltar is British, and it is going to stay British forever'

'Gibraltar is British, and it is going to stay British forever'

The Rock's Chief Minister hits back at Spanish government's 'lies'
Britain is still addicted to 'dirty coal'

Britain still addicted to 'dirty' coal

Biggest energy suppliers are more dependent on fossil fuel than a decade ago
Orthorexia nervosa: How becoming obsessed with healthy eating can lead to malnutrition

Orthorexia nervosa

How becoming obsessed with healthy eating can lead to malnutrition
Lady Chatterley is not obscene, says TV director

Lady Chatterley’s Lover

Director Jed Mercurio on why DH Lawrence's novel 'is not an obscene story'
Farmers in tropical forests are training ants to kill off bigger pests

Set a pest to catch a pest

Farmers in tropical forests are training ants to kill off bigger pests