Belfast Telegraph

Ian Paisley death: Respected in town he knew so well

By Nevin Farrell

Ian Paisley's name was synonymous with his Ballymena heartland where he dominated politics since being elected MP in 1970.

From informal visits to Saturday markets in the town to his blood-and-thunder speeches during countless political rallies in places like Ballymena Town Hall, many locals can recall their encounters with the man they called 'The Doc'.

Away from his strong political opinions, most people in Ballymena yesterday agreed on one thing, that regardless of class or creed he was a good MP who strived to get things done for them.

They also agreed he had extraordinary charisma.

Ballymena DUP mayor Audrey Wales, said it was "a very sad day" and she wished to pass on her sympathy to Mr Paisley's wife Eileen and her family.

She added: "Dr Paisley did a lot of good work for the whole community. He had his views but he worked for everybody.

"He had a charisma of his own and could hold an audience whether that was a political meeting or in a church."

Ballymena Guardian editor Jim Flanagan said: "He was the most charismatic political figure ever to come out of this country.

"Dr Paisley, or Lord Bannside, took his title from this area.

"He dominated politics in this community for 40 years and in 19 successful elections he topped the poll, and you can now see a fondness for him from his erstwhile detractors."

Outside Ballymena Town Hall – where Mr Paisley's booming voice often reverberated – Sherman Wright said: "Ian Paisley earned my respect when he sat down with his enemies.

"He went against his own grain and it takes a lot to do that. God rest him as he is a human being."

At Mount Street – the street where Mr Paisley grew up – Siobhan McKinney (56) said: "He was an outspoken man but you could count on him to fight for you no matter what you brought to him regardless of religion. He had his own beliefs but as an MP he was good."

Another Mount Street resident, Paul Bell (46), said: "He had a decent head on him.

"At the end of his career he made more sense, more than the politicians we have now."

Mr Paisley also had a keen sense of humour and another local quipped: "He is probably chuckling somewhere that at least he died on the 12th even if it wasn't the 12th of July."

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