By Anne Cadwallader
OMAGH , Co. Tyrone — Anyone who thought the Rev. Ian Paisley had mellowed with old age got a rude awakening this week as he launched a savage attack on the Ulster Unionist leader, David Trimble, and Britain’s prime minister, Tony Blair.
The 72-year-old DUP leader gave a speech to his annual conference that amounted to a vitriolic and impassioned denouncement of both men, whom he accused of treachery, betrayal, sell-out and worse.
Paisley denounced Trimble as a traitor, an Iscariot, "a liar, a cheat, a hypocrite, a knave, a thief and a loathsome reptile which needs to be scotched."
"The fierce battle to claw back what Trimble has sold to the enemy and to save our heritage will be fierce and long. But we owe it to our children to give them a province where the doors of the prisons are not opened to let out murderers but firmly closed to keep them in."
Responding, Gerry Adams the Sinn Fein leader, said Paisley well knew that his words had the effect of fostering sectarianism among his listeners. The eventual outcome of that was the murder of Catholic civilians, he said.
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Reg Empey of the Ulster Unionists accused Paisley of gross hypocrisy and said the DUP was "reveling" in the trappings of power at Stormont and looking forward to its ministerial cars, while growing fat on salaries.
Peter Robinson, the DUP deputy leader, made an outright appeal to all Ulster Unionists concerned about the peace process to leave the party and join his. The DUP claims to have set up eight new branches in the last two months, full of disillusioned UUP members.
In a speech that was vintage Paisley, the DUP leader had also lambasted the two giants of Irish nationalism picked out for praise by Tony Blair in his Leinster House speech last week. Daniel O’Connell, said Paisley, was a "sexual deviant" and Parnell a "turncoat."
Both were "perverts, provocateurs and perjurers" and the most "loathsome and despicable of Irish nationalists," he said, adding they came from the "same filthy nest" as Adams and Martin McGuinness.
"To present treachery as it is presented in Ulster today under the labels of statesmanship, friendship and Christian benevolence argues a degeneracy at which common humanity and justice blush," Paisley fumed.
"Of all vices to which human nature is subject, treachery is the most infamous and detestable of them all, being compounded of fraud, cowardice and revenge."
In a long passage that was scathing of Blair and his recent speech to the House of the Oireachtas, Paisley said it was no wonder Dublin had rejoiced.
"They could hardly believe it! Under the Agreement they had destroyed Ulster’s foundation," he said, referring to the repeal of the 1920 Act, which he said was the "basis of Ulster’s constitution in the United Kingdom."
He reserved his harshest words for Trimble and the Ulster Unionists, who, he said, "are responsible for the state of affairs which have developed because they refused to keep their promises, leave the talks, when the armed IRA/Sinn Fein were admitted."
Said Paisley: "We serve notice on Blair and Ahern, the man with the gun at their heads, Gerry Adams, Trimble and Mallon that they will have to crack us before they crack on with their treachery."