Former DUP leader Ian Paisley dies aged 88

Guy Bentley
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Ian Paisley dies aged 88 (Source: Getty)

The former leader of the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) Ian Paisley, died this morning aged 88.

In a statement, Baroness Paisley said:

Although ours is the grand hope of reunion, naturally as a family, we are heartbroken.

We loved him and he adored us, and our earthly lives are forever changed.

A controversial figure Paisley was instrumental in the Northern Ireland peace process, he entered a power-sharing executive with Sinn Fein at Stormont.

He was elected to the post of First Minister of Northern Ireland in 2007 declaring "Today at long last we are starting upon the road—I emphasise starting—which I believe will take us to lasting peace in our province." Paisley was also a founding member of the Free Presbyterian Church of Ulster.

Paisley's former deputy First Minister said:

Over a number of decades we were political opponents and held very different views on many, many issues but the one thing we were absolutely united on was the principle that our people were better able to govern themselves than any British government.

I want to pay tribute to and comment on the work he did in the latter days of his political life in building agreement and leading unionism into a new accommodation with republicans and nationalists.

Paisley was replaced as First Minister in June 2008 by DUP leader Peter Robinson. In a statement issued this afternoon Prime Minister David Cameron paid tribute to Paisley's contribution to politics:

Of course, Ian Paisley was a controversial figure for large parts of his career. Yet the contribution he made in his later years to political stability in Northern Ireland was huge. In particular, his decision to take his party into government with Sinn Fein in 2007 required great courage and leadership, for which everyone in these islands should be grateful.

I saw him most in the House of Commons where his great oratory stood out. He had a deserved reputation as one of the most hard working and effective MPs.

Ian Paisley will be remembered by many as the ‘Big Man’ of Northern Ireland politics. He will be greatly missed.