Belfast Telegraph

Party chiefs: Pray for Paisley

Northern Ireland's political leaders have urged people to pray for the Rev Ian Paisley, who remains seriously ill in hospital.

Stormont First Minister and Democratic Unionist leader Peter Robinson and Sinn Fein deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness have both been in contact with the 85-year-old's family as they maintained a vigil at his bedside.

Former First Minister Mr Paisley continued to be treated in intensive care for suspected heart failure. He was rushed to the hospital on Sunday, just 10 days after preaching his final sermon as a church minister. Close family have remained with him at the Ulster Hospital, Dundonald, on the eastern outskirts of Belfast.

A spokesman for Mr Robinson and Mr McGuinness said: "The First Minister and the deputy First Minister have both been in contact with the Paisley family. They have offered their best wishes to Dr Paisley and his family and call on the community to give prayerful support to Ian and his family at this time. The First Minister and the deputy First Minister would appeal for the Paisley family to be given the space and privacy they deserve and that their wishes are respected."

Mr Paisley is a former moderator and founding member of the Free Presbyterian Church and was MP for north Antrim for almost 40 years.

His son Ian junior, who succeeded him at Westminster, was with other family members at the hospital through the day. He left at about 4.30pm without making any public comment on his father's condition.

There had been concerns several years ago about Mr Paisley's health, when he lost weight and looked gaunt.

But he made a good recovery from heart problems and while his voice was showing signs of obvious weakness, some people who were there for his farewell sermon at the Martyrs Memorial Church in Belfast on January 27 remarked on how well he appeared for his age.

After withdrawing from church and public life he was planning to write his autobiography.

Mr Paisley's five children - twin sons Ian Jnr and Kyle, an ordained minister as well, and three daughters, Rhonda, Sharon and Cherith - were among the 3,000 people attending his final address.

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