Former unionist firebrand Ian Paisley has publicly accused the current leadership of the party he founded of betraying him and of suddenly, and brutally, ousting him.
In the second part of a televised interview broadcast on British television, Paisley also criticises his successor Peter Robinson for losing the DUP Westminster seat in east Belfast, and contrasts it with the performance of his son who had a “marvellous victory” in North Antrim.
And in a spectacular assault on the current DUP leader’s family, Ian Paisley’s wife Eileen branded the Robinsons as a source of “sleaze” -- a clear reference to Iris Robinson’s scandalous affair with a 19-year-old youth.
Describing his ouster to journalist Eamonn Mallie, Paisley says he was leaving for a meeting in Dublin in February 2008 when he was confronted by Robinson, DUP MP Nigel Dodds, and his own special adviser Timothy Johnston. He says Mr Dodds told him he was to be out of office by the end of the week.
“He said: ‘We want you gone by Friday’.
“I just more or less smirked, and Peter said: ‘Oh no, no he needs to stay in for another couple of months’.”
“One wanted two months to prepare the way for himself and the other one... I don’t know what he wanted,” he said.
The man famous for shouting ‘Never’, and for denouncing decades of peace talks, ultimately won the renegotiation of the 1998 Good Friday Agreement and secured a triple-lock guarantee of unionist majority rule. But he also found himself as First Minister at the Stormont Six-County Assembly -- alongside Sinn Fein’s Deputy First Minister, unionist hate figure Martin McGuiness.
Amid upheaval in unionism and after coming intense pressure from colleagues, Ian Paisley announced his resignation as first minister in 2008, just a year after he signed the St Andrew’s Agreement.
Peter Robinson took over as both first minister and DUP leader, while Ian Paisley’s son, Ian Paisley Jr, was sidelined. But Robinson was then beset with difficulties when it emerged his wife Iris, then also a DUP MP, had had an affair with a teenager.
The fall-out from the episode was one of the factors attributed to Mr Robinson losing his East Belfast Westminster seat in the 2010 general election.
Paisley said: “The man that they put in my position couldn’t keep his own seat in Westminster, and my son who followed me had a marvellous victory [easily winning his father’s Westminster seat in north Antrim]
“And for once we are seeing the true nature of the beast - that there was a beast here who was prepared to go forward to the destruction of the party, because losing seats in Northern Ireland is very serious and for East Belfast not to be a unionist seat in the House of Commons is a terrible blow.”
Commenting on accusations of corruption against her son, Ian Jr, Mrs Paisley tells the documentary:
“Ian’s name was cleared by the authorities in Stormont, everything that was said against him was proved to be false and he never brought any sleaze. His wife didn’t do anything wrong, he didn’t do anything wrong.
“There was nothing morally wrong with his character or his life. And we know eventually where the sleaze did come from.
“It came in the home of the man who is now leader himself, Peter Robinson, it came from his family, not from the Paisley family.”
However, the shifting power dynamic has seen the Paisley family increasingly marginalised by unionist hardliners, such as former DUP founder Desmond Boal, and even the extremist anti-Catholic church they helped to found.
In the documentary, Mr Paisley said he was forced to retire from the Free Presbyterian Church in early 2012. A letter from elders in the church requesting he step down precipitated the move.
His wife described the letter from the kirk as “absolutely shattering”.
“It was hurtful that was the way they thought they would treat us,” he says.