World renowned musician James Galway has created a furore among unionists by admitting he regards himself as someone from “British occupied part of Ireland”.
Galway, who grew up in the loyalist York Street area of north Belfast, was also condemned by unionists for saying that the former DUP leader Ian Paisley was “responsible for killing indirectly by planting the thoughts of violence”.
The comments were made by the famous musician as he arrived in Belfast ahead of a concert at Crumlin Road jail.
Galway, who learned to play the flute in a Protestant marching band, said he never admired Ian Paisley Snr. He told the BBC Nolan Show that “I think he was on paper a man of God but in reality I don’t think he was”.
When asked if he believed Mr Paisley, who died last year, was responsible for some deaths during the conflict he said: “Well, I’m sure he was because he wasn’t exactly preaching let’s all live together, was he?
“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?”
The 75-year-old also spoke of how growing up in Belfast as a young Protestant. He said he believed he was “brainwashed” by Presbyterians. The musician, who was knighted in 2001, said he considered himself to be Irish, rather than so-called ‘Northern Irish’.
“I would like Ireland to be Ireland. People ask me where do you come from and I say Ireland,” he said.
“And they say ‘are you Irish?’ And I say ‘yes I’m Irish’.
“No [I don’t consider myself to be ‘Northern Irish’]. I am Irish.
“[The difference] is very complicated. They say, ‘well how do you become a Sir?’ I say, ‘because I come from the British occupied part of Ireland’.”
DUP MP Sammy Wilson said the musician’s remarks were “out of touch and incoherent” and said he had been hypocritical to accept a knighthood.
“I have always admired Sir James’ work but some of his comments were offensive, inaccurate and downright disgraceful,” he said.