The ousting of Ian Paisley as DUP leader “killed him”, his son has claimed.
Ian Paisley Junior, who followed his father’s footsteps into politics, was speaking after a longstanding DUP member resigned in disgust in how outgoing party leader Arlene Foster had been treated.
Paul Bell warned that the party stands to lose thousands of votes at the next election.
The North Antrim MP responded saying he understands Mr Bell’s hurt after the experience of his father who, in 2008, resigned as leader of the party he helped to found in 1971.
He went on to be elevated to the House of Lords as Lord Bannside. He died in 2014 at the age of 88.
“If anyone in this party can talk about difficulty, it’s me, you saw what happened to my dad, it killed my father,” Mr Paisley said.
“I know it hurts and leadership transfer hurts, but you know something, we have to get over that, keep on working as a party and we will make it work for our country because we are the only party that can save the union, retain the union and build the union.
“My heart goes out to Mr Bell, he’s been a long serving member of this party, our arms will go around him again. The key word in Edwin’s speech tonight was stretching out the hand of forbearance, that starts inside and we tolerate each other, we tolerate our peculiar personalities and we get on with each other and we make this place better.”
Asked if the coup against Mrs Foster was “revenge for his father”, Mr Paisley responded: “Please don’t put it like that, there was no vendetta or anything like that, I’m not saying that and please don’t twist things.
“It was instrumental in the downfall of not only my father as his political career but in the ending of his life, there is absolutely no doubt about that, it hurt him, it broke his heart. My father went to the grave with a broken heart because of what happened in his church and in his party, now frankly there is no secret about that, people who loved my dad know that’s the case.
“But that has nothing to do with what went in there tonight, I’m expressing a view, I understand hurt, I’ve seen hurt and that’s why I understand it.”
Mr Paisley also said he understands that the letter which ousted Mrs Foster has been read to her.
Earlier this week Mrs Foster said she still had not seen the reported letter of no confidence which led to her resignation.
“I understand that the chairman of the party has that letter, the chairman of the party, I understand, has read that letter to Arlene Foster and he’s told her the number of names that are on that letter,” she said.
“The process that the party has always adopted is that those letters are not shared with other people who have gone.
“My father never ever saw the requisition order that was signed against him. He accepted it because he accepted the good grace and standing of our party chairman.”