Ian Paisley today hit out at claims that he will be boosting Bertie Ahern’s troubled election campaign when the pair visit the site of the Battle of the Boyne later this week.
As he prepared to be sworn in as the North's First Minister at Stormont tomorrow, the Democratic Unionist leader denied that Friday’s tour of the site of the Battle of the Boyne – the scene of a famous victory in 1690 by King William of Orange over the forces of King James – was designed to give Mr Ahern a leg up in the General Election campaign.
The victory is celebrated every July by the Protestant Orange Order.
“We are going to the Boyne – where better to meet than at the site of the Battle of the Boyne?” he quipped.
“Certainly he is not going to go over the Boyne to take us over and I don’t know if we are going to have to go down it to get over, but I don’t think it is going to be a battle. I must say in fairness to the Taoiseach, this did not happen overnight.
“I made a promise that I would do this. People are saying that I am giving him a leg up because he is down. That’s pretty unfair because this was arranged long before that. If he thinks it is a leg up, then let him think it but it is not so because we had it all set up long before this.”
The Labour Party has raised concerns that Mr Ahern could be exploiting the peace process for political gain during the election campaign.
Labour leader Pat Rabbitte and party colleague Ruairi Quinn have both expressed concern about plans for Mr Ahern to address the House of Commons and House of Lords.
The Taoiseach is also due to attend tomorrow’s nomination of Mr Paisley and Sinn Féin’s Martin McGuinness as the North's First and Deputy First Ministers and the formation of the new power-sharing executive along with British Prime Minister Tony Blair.