Belfast Telegraph

MPs unite in tributes to Paisley

Dr Ian Paisley was a "formidable" public individual whose work towards building a peace settlement in Northern Ireland could be his finest tribute, MPs have said.

MPs of all sides remembered a man of "considerable personal grace" who was kind, gentle and funny behind closed doors.

They also paid tribute to former leader of the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) as a central figure in the Northern Ireland peace process.

Paying tribute on behalf of the Government, International Development Minister Desmond Swayne said MPs' thoughts will be with their colleague, Dr Paisley's son Ian, currently the member for North Antrim, and the rest of his family.

Mr Swayne told the Commons: "(Dr Paisley) was absolutely critical to the peace process in Northern Ireland and the House and the nation will be grateful to him for the role that he played in that.

"Our thoughts will undoubtedly be with the honourable member for North Antrim and the loss that his family have suffered.

"The Doctor was a big personality with a formidable public persona but those who will have known him in the House will have known a very different man who was kind and gentle."

Deputy Speaker Eleanor Laing described Dr Paisley's death aged 88 as "very sad news".

She said: "The death of Lord Bannside, known in this House as honourable member for many years for North Antrim, the Reverend Ian Paisley, will be a great loss to Parliament and to the political body as a whole.

"He was a man of great principle, a big parliamentary personality in every way, always kind, and always ready with a witty and amusing word to lighten a dark hour.

"He will be greatly missed in this House, in the other place (Lords), and generally.

"I'm sure that the House will wish to give its sympathy and its thoughts tot he current member for North Antrim, his son, and the rest of the Paisley family."

The SDLP's Mark Durkan (Foyle) had started the round of tributes by raising a point of order.

Mr Durkan said: "On a point of order can I ask if it would be appropriate for the House to perhaps reflect on the sad news of the death of the Lord Bannside who served in this House for so many years with such character and colour as the Reverend Ian Paisley.

"Members will know that belonging to a different party I had many differences over the years with Ian Paisley and his views and his stances.

"However, in all the dealings I and everybody else had with him he was a man of considerable personal grace.

"He also was someone who in spite of the fact that he opposed agreements and institutions actually came to a position where he helped to ensure that we have a settled process and even more agreements around those arrangements and institutions.

"I know that the members of his own party, the party he founded, are not unfortunately able to be here today. I want to express condolences to them and I know that because the House is going into recess we will not have the normal opportunity that may have arisen for members to pay their respects."

Labour shadow international development minister Alison McGovern paid tribute to Dr Paisley on behalf of her party.

She said: "On this side we are saddened by the loss of Lord Bannside, the former member of Parliament for North Antrim.

"And I support and my colleagues support most deeply the word just said by the member for Foyle and by the minister.

"Our thoughts are of course with his family. We send them our very deepest sympathies and most particularly his son, our current member for North Antrim."

Liberal Democrat deputy leader Malcolm Bruce praised Dr Paisley's ability to stand his ground but still build bridges to deliver peace in Northern Ireland.

Sir Malcolm said: "He was of course somebody who never had any difficulty in making his voice heard and indeed before these microphones came in he didn't even need one.

"But I think he will be remembered as a quite different man in private. A man with a great sense of humour and a great charm which I think many people would be surprised (about).

"But he also had his principles and in the end he was able to stand his ground and yet reach across and help to deliver a peace settlement in Northern Ireland that many thought he would not do.

"I think that in itself is his finest tribute."

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