THE DUP closed ranks yesterday as it sought ride out the storm precipitated by Ian Paisley's scathing attack on his former party colleagues. In what appeared to be a co-ordinated effort to gag elected representatives, all DUP MLAs and councillors stayed silent and were declining media requests to discuss the repercussions of Eamonn Mallie's explosive interview with lord Bannside and his wife Eileen.
All that was left for the press and broadcasters was to pick over sunday night's extensive statement from the protagonists on the receiving end of the former DUP leader's hard-hitting remarks. In the second and final instalment of Paisley - Genesis To Revelations, aired last night, the former first minister accused DUP leader Peter Robinson and his deputy Nigel Dodds of confronting him with deadline ultimatums for his departure.
According to the 87-year-old former North Antrim MP, Mr Dodds told him: "We want you to be gone by friday." The senior DUP figures criticised the programme and have rejected the former leader's version of events. They said Mr Paisley's participation in the programme has only served to harm his legacy.
A party spokesman said the former DUP leader was entitled to his own opinions but "not entitled to his own facts".
"We are saddened to see lord Bannside harm his own legacy," the spokesman said.
"In his later years as party leader, many colleagues shielded his frailty from public view, to avoid embarrassment and protect his legacy."
He said those singled out for criticism were "hurt by untrue and bitter comments contained in the documentary". The spokesman also refuted speculation that the party had mounted any form of legal challenge against the two-part programme.
* LEADERS: Peter Robinson and Nigel Dodds pictured at Belfast City Hall last week. Inset, Ian Paisley
MAIN PICTURE: Simon Graham