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25 May 2015

Kyle Paisley hints his twin is the man to tame DUP nest of vipers

Critical: Kyle Paisley

As political anoraks know, the twin of Ian Paisley MP is Kyle - a Free Presbyterian minister in Suffolk, who these days takes a great deal of interest in matters Northern Irish.

These days he seems to have become some kind of social liberal and a scourge of the more unpleasant aspects of his father's old party.

He has castigated Gregory Campbell over his mockery of the Irish language, denounced Peter Robinson for remarks about Muslims that showed him to be an "ignoramus", and condemned those stirring up "sectarian strife" over flags.

He's now defending mandatory coalition against criticisms from Jamie Bryson, explaining that while it is by no means perfect, it is the only form of government likely to work in Northern Ireland "at least for the time being" - though it could work better "if there was a better spirit abroad. This is the great need of the hour and something at which everyone can work".

Last week he championed Jenny Palmer - a Lisburn councillor described by colleagues and opponents alike as "a shining light" - who has been so disgracefully treated by the DUP that she and her councillor husband John have now resigned from the party.

In 2013 - being one of those politicians who cares about public standards - a troubled Mrs Palmer blew the whistle in a BBC Spotlight programme on dodgy goings-on over the £8m-a-year maintenance contract of the Red Sky building company.

Having been satisfied that the company was overcharging, as well as doing a bad job, she had been one of those on the board of the Northern Ireland Housing Executive who, in March 2011, voted to terminate its contract.

The-then Social Development Minister Nelson McCausland disagreed and asked that the decision be reversed and his special adviser, Stephen Brimstone, tried to bully Mrs Palmer into changing her vote "for the sake of the party".

Last month the Assembly's social development committee produced a devastating report, concluding that Jenny Palmer had told the truth, McCausland had been politically motivated and Brimstone had behaved badly.

In the Assembly debate last week McCausland made what Jim Allister described as "an arrogant attempt to defend the indefensible", Gregory Campbell defended him vociferously, and the DUP refused to join the other parties in voting to "note" the report.

The party then told Palmer she faced disciplinary proceedings and promoted Stephen Brimstone to work for Peter Robinson at an enormous salary.

Kyle Paisley was shocked at the discovery that the DUP was "a nest of vipers", denounced those DUP politicians who thought themselves "infallible" and the bullies in the party who lacked the "milk of human kindness" and would "treat fair as though it were foul and foul as though it were fair".

The Rev Kyle has insisted before that his criticisms are unrelated to the party having pushed his father into retirement and are in no way motivated "by any anti-Robinson feeling".

Yet he certainly seems to feel new leadership is needed. "Who will stand up and speak out against corruption?" he asks.

"One wonders if there is a real man left, who will draw on the grace of God and do what is right?" This includes contrition, repentance and "purging of the leaven", without which the DUP could die.

Who could this saviour be? Obviously not Gregory Campbell. Is there a clue in the decision of Mrs Ian Paisley jnr to indicate on Twitter that she 'favourited' a tweet from the Palmers' daughter, Hannah: "Disgusted at so called 'supporters' of my mother voting against the report in the Assembly today. Search your conscience."

Could it be that they think it time Ian Paisley rode to the rescue of their father's party?

Here's a thought. Presumably, Ian was as shocked as Kyle that the DUP had decided through "bent reasoning" that Jenny Palmer "was wrong for telling the truth".

Without the support of the media, Mrs Palmer's story would not have been told and the light would not have been shone on misconduct in public life.

Might Kyle persuade Ian to make a striking demonstration of his new moderate, truth-loving credentials by withdrawing his opposition to libel reform in Northern Ireland?

Ruth Dudley Edwards

© Ruth Dudley Edwards