Lagan Valley MP Jeffrey Donaldson has said Lord Trimble “should be very careful” about laying blame for the outbreak of the Troubles at the door of Ian Paisley.
The DUP man was responding to claims that if it were not for Rev Paisley, the Troubles probably would not have broken out.
Mr Donaldson, who switched alliances from Trimble’s UUP to Paisley’s DUP over a decade ago, said that blaming unionist politicians for paramilitary violence was a “very dangerous road for anybody to go down”.
Following remarks last week by world-renowned musician Sir James Galway that Rev Paisley was “indirectly responsible” for Troubles killings because of his strident rhetoric, Lord Trimble had been asked what he thought.
There was “nothing unusual” about Sir James’ remarks, he responded. He said the loyalists who had bombed public utilities during the late 1960s were Paisleyites, for example.
“The probability is: no Paisley, no Troubles,” he said, but added that was different from saying that Rev Paisley bore responsibility for murders.
Mr Donaldson said: “Lord Trimble is entitled to his view. But I would remind him that he was a member of the Vanguard Unionist movement; a movement that had its own dalliances with organising mass rallies.”
He added that William Craig, leader of the Vanguard movement, “made comments that some might regard as being potentially provocative.”
Mr Donaldson then asked: “Does Lord Trimble feel that William Craig’s comments at the time potentially contributed towards the trouble? My view is the same as it would be with Ian Paisley: I don’t think that is a correct interpretation.
“I don’t believe that either Ian Paisley or Bill Craig, or any other unionist leader, can be held directly responsible for the violence of the IRA or any other organisation.
“And therefore I think it’s a very dangerous road for anybody to go down.
He added that “Lord Trimble should be very careful who he points the finger of blame towards”, because he was also “part of political unionism during that era.”
Lord Trimble remarked that Mr Donaldson’s reference to the Vanguard movement was a “red herring” as the relevant period for the cause of the Troubles was from 1964 to 1969.
He said: “What happens afterwards is after the Troubles have begun.
“If you’re looking at the origins of the Troubles, you look at that period.”
He cited a book by author Tom Hennessy called ‘The Origins of the Troubles’.
“It’s a very balanced book and Ian Paisley doesn’t come out of it very well,” he said.