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.”

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs People

Recruitment Genius: Management Trainer

£30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Exciting career opportunity to join East...

Recruitment Genius: Senior Scientist / Research Assistant

£18000 - £28000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An ambitious start-up company b...

Reach Volunteering: Chair of Trustees

VOLUNTARY ONLY - EXPENSES REIMBURSED: Reach Volunteering: Do you love the Engl...

Day In a Page

Mau Mau uprising: Kenyans still waiting for justice join class action over Britain's role in the emergency

Kenyans still waiting for justice over Mau Mau uprising

Thousands join class action over Britain's role in the emergency
Isis in Iraq: The trauma of the last six months has overwhelmed the remaining Christians in the country

The last Christians in Iraq

After 2,000 years, a community will try anything – including pretending to convert to Islam – to avoid losing everything, says Patrick Cockburn
Black Friday: Helpful discounts for Christmas shoppers, or cynical marketing by desperate retailers?

Helpful discounts for Christmas shoppers, or cynical marketing by desperate retailers?

Britain braced for Black Friday
Bill Cosby's persona goes from America's dad to date-rape drugs

From America's dad to date-rape drugs

Stories of Bill Cosby's alleged sexual assaults may have circulated widely in Hollywood, but they came as a shock to fans, says Rupert Cornwell
Clare Balding: 'Women's sport is kicking off at last'

Clare Balding: 'Women's sport is kicking off at last'

As fans flock to see England women's Wembley debut against Germany, the TV presenter on an exciting 'sea change'
Oh come, all ye multi-faithful: The Christmas jumper is in fashion, but should you wear your religion on your sleeve?

Oh come, all ye multi-faithful

The Christmas jumper is in fashion, but should you wear your religion on your sleeve?
Dr Charles Heatley: The GP off to do battle in the war against Ebola

The GP off to do battle in the war against Ebola

Dr Charles Heatley on joining the NHS volunteers' team bound for Sierra Leone
Flogging vlogging: First video bloggers conquered YouTube. Now they want us to buy their books

Flogging vlogging

First video bloggers conquered YouTube. Now they want us to buy their books
Saturday Night Live vs The Daily Show: US channels wage comedy star wars

Saturday Night Live vs The Daily Show

US channels wage comedy star wars
When is a wine made in Piedmont not a Piemonte wine? When EU rules make Italian vineyards invisible

When is a wine made in Piedmont not a Piemonte wine?

When EU rules make Italian vineyards invisible
Look what's mushrooming now! Meat-free recipes and food scandals help one growing sector

Look what's mushrooming now!

Meat-free recipes and food scandals help one growing sector
Neil Findlay is more a pink shrimp than a red firebrand

More a pink shrimp than a red firebrand

The vilification of the potential Scottish Labour leader Neil Findlay shows how one-note politics is today, says DJ Taylor
Bill Granger recipes: Tenderstem broccoli omelette; Fried eggs with Mexican-style tomato and chilli sauce; Pan-fried cavolo nero with soft-boiled egg

Oeuf quake

Bill Granger's cracking egg recipes
Terry Venables: Wayne Rooney is roaring again and the world knows that England are back

Terry Venables column

Wayne Rooney is roaring again and the world knows that England are back
Michael Calvin: Abject leadership is allowing football’s age-old sores to fester

Abject leadership is allowing football’s age-old sores to fester

Those at the top are allowing the same issues to go unchallenged, says Michael Calvin