Northern Ireland news

Bombing claims anger Rev Ian Paisley's family

Rev Ian Paisley pictured in the late 1960s.

FORMER Stormont MP Austin Currie claims he was told by a bodyguard of Rev Ian Paisley about a planned attack in Co Donegal just days before a UVF man blew himself up at a power station.

The revelation is made in a BBC Spotlight programme looking back at 50 years of the Troubles.

Thomas McDowell, a member of the UVF, died planting a bomb which exploded prematurely at a power station near Ballyshannon in October 1969.

A quarry worker and father-of-10, he is commemorated on UVF rolls of honour.

In 2006 loyalist publication The Fallen and the Brave put his name at the head of a list of 'volunteers' killed in the Troubles.

He was described as a God-fearing and popular man driven to act as he did in the midst of "an ever deteriorating political and sectarian situation".

McDowell was from the Co Down village of Kilkeel and a member of Ian Paisley's Free Presbyterian Church.

The UVF man was linked to previous explosions at Silent Valley reservoir close to Kilkeel.

The bombing campaign was originally blamed on the IRA, an attempt by loyalists to de-stabilise the government led by Terence O'Neill.

O'Neill resigned as prime minister after his party believed he had lost control. He would later find out that the spate of bombings were in fact carried out by UVF in order to drive him from office.

Rev Paisley described O'Neill as a "traitor and a lundy" as he tried to introduce reforms that would meet civil rights demands.

While publicly the administration dismissed him as a "booming cleric", archived documents show they were recording his public meetings and sermons with a view to prosecuting him for incitement.

A police briefing note uncovered by the BBC team also claimed that the 'Paisleyite' movement and the UVF were 'one in the same', an allegation he denied.

David Hancock, a former British army company commander, was stationed close to Silent Valley when a bomb - that cut off part of the water supply to Belfast - exploded in 1969.

Speaking to the BBC Spotlight team, he claimed an RUC inspector based at Kilkeel showed him evidence that the bomb was financed by Rev Paisley - a claim rejected by the former DUP leader's family.

Austin Currie also told the BBC that Paisley's then bodyguard, Samuel Stevenson, met him secretly and told him about a plan to "take action in the Free State" and that the Ballyshannon power station was to be targeted.

The allegations have angered the Paisley family.

The late DUP leader's son Kyle Paisley said yesterday: "A slanderous allegation does not suddenly become a truth because it is repeated by a man of rank or a public figure held in esteem.

"To credit the repetition of an unfounded allegation as though there was some merit in it is a sell out of self-respect".

The first of the seven-part series, Spotlight on the Troubles: A Secret History, will be broadcast on Tuesday September 10, at 8.30pm on BBC One.

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