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Paisley speeches put loyalists behind bars says UDA leader

Brendan Hughes

UDA leader Jackie McDonald has said Ian Paisley should have realised how his words and influence encouraged loyalists to turn to violence during the Troubles.

The leading Belfast loyalist said many prisoners during the conflict cited Paisley's "blood and thunder speeches" as one of the main reasons they ended up behind bars.

The former first minister and DUP leader, who died earlier this month aged 88, has been regarded by many as responsible for fuelling sectarian tensions during the Troubles.

As well as McDonald, the TV documentary broadcast tonight includes contributions from Martin McGuinness, former British prime minister Tony Blair, Ian Paisley jnr and commentator Eamonn McCann.

Offering his own insight McDonald says: "[Paisley] said that he couldn't be held responsible for all the actions of all the people within his grouping.

"But on reflection, I look back and say he should have, then was the time to realise the power of his words and the influence he was having over individual people."

During his political career Mr Paisley faced criticism over his apparent links to loyalist paramilitaries, while those involved in violence have often cited him as their inspiration.

McDonald says: "There was a survey done in Long Kesh one time, in the Maze prison, when many young loyalist prisoners were asked about what was one of the main influences that put them behind bars.

"They said it was Paisley's blood and thunder speeches."

However, many loyalist paramilitaries eventually became disillusioned with Mr Paisley due to his increasingly ambiguous attitude towards them.

"I remember him doing an interview when he said, 'If anybody attacks our people, we will kill them'," he said.

"He didn't say we will defend our people or we will chase them, he says we will kill them. And when people did kill them, he disowned them."

* Paisley: A Life will be broadcast tonight on BBC One NI at 9pm

* CRITICISM: Ian Paisley

* INSIGHT: Jackie McDonald

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