Survey claims are denied

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Birches man Timothy Johnston has emerged as a major figure in last week’s controversy over Ian Paisley, with the former First Minister slamming his former DUP colleagues in the explosive BBC TV interview.

Mr Johnston – now chief adviser to Peter Robinson – held the same position with Dr Paisley in the run-up to the alleged period of ‘the long knives’ in 2008.

The Portadown Times has learned that he was a Young Unionist with the UUP during David Trimble’s early leadership of that party.

Dr Paisley – now Lord Bannside – told reporter Eamonn Mallie that Mr Johnston played a pivotal role by instigating a survey among the party’s top brass at Stormont, which showed deep dissatisfaction with Mr Paisley’s role as First Minister and his dealings with Deputy Martin McGuinness.

In a statement Mr Johnston insisted, “I totally refute any allegation, suggestion or implication that a survey conducted was ‘framed’ by me or anyone else. Dr Paisley commissioned the survey and was aware of its nature and its findings at the time… neither he nor Mrs Paisley have sought to raise any concerns with me.”

Mr Johnston also stated that it was very regrettable that Dr and Mrs Paisley co-operated in making the BBC programmes “that have significantly damaged his historical legacy, and in some aspects the programme content is simply untrue”.

David Trimble said, “He (Mr Johnston) was obviously more at home in the DUP, and that’s his prerogative.”

He added, “I have to say that I couldn’t understand the value of Ian Paisley’s interview, but that’s up to him. But I do feel it’s time for Northern Ireland to engage in socio-economic politics rather than looking to the past.”