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First shots already fired in a compelling fight for Ian Paisley seat

Published 03/03/2010

Ian Paisley DUP electioneering for Europe in Portadown. 11/6/84
Ian Paisley DUP electioneering for Europe in Portadown. 11/6/84
Ian Paisley pictured on his weding day to wife Eileen
Ian Paisley aged 12
Ian Paisley, Peter Robinson and Nigel Dodds with DUP Candidates for Belfast Council Elections. 24/4/89
The Rev Ian Paisley plays the flute at the independents Orange parade in Portglenone.2008
November 1985 - Ian Paisley and Jim Molyneaux address the 250,000 crowd at the Anti Anglo Irish rally in Belfast
Ian Paisley and Peter Robinson being arrested in Armagh.1980
Ian Paisley addresses a 12,000 strong crowd at the 40th anniversary of the Free Presbyterian church in the Kings Hall. 1999
A crowd of students pictured at a meeting with Ian Paisley (centre) near Belfast City Hall. 9/10/1968.
The Reverend Ian Paisley speaking at a ceremony held at Stormont to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the death of Edward Carson. October 1985
15/08/1971 of The Reverend Ian Paisley during a press conference in Stormont, Northern Ireland.
Ian Paisley at a protest rally at Carrickfergus Castle in 1971
Former Northern Ireland First Minister Ian Paisley holding his first great grandchild Caleb Cassells
Ian Paisley and Martin McGuinness after being sworn in as ministers of the Northern Ireland Assembley, Stormont. May 8, 2007.
Ian Paisley confronts an RUC officer when refused access to Duke Street where the Civil Rights parade went on. 10/10/1988
Ian Paisley at the scene of the IRA motar attack on Newry Police Station. which killed 9 officers. 28/2/1985.
Ian Paisley
Former DUP leader Ian Paisley wearing the traditional red beret of paramilitary group the Ulster Resistance in Ulster Hall
Ian Paisley leaves Crumlin Road jail in the 60s
Unionist protests at visit to Belfast of Charles Haughey, former Taoiseach. Pictured Rev Ian Paisley. 11/4/1990.
The Queen greeted by First Minister Ian Paisley in east Belfast
Former Northern Ireland First Minister Ian Paisley will not seek re-election
Hundreds of thousands of Unionists crowded Belfast City Centre in a huge "Ulster Says No" rally against power sharing after a call by the Rev Ian Paisley and other Unionist leaders of the time. Picture by Photopress
Ian Paisley demonstrates at Stormont in 1981
Ian Paisley at DUP HQ in 1985. The party leader held a sledge hammer to depict his 'smash Sinn Fein' message
Ian Paisley and Martin McGuiness, right chat as they leave after a meeting at City Hall in New York, Monday Dec. 3, 2007
Ian Paisley and Peter Robinson are taken away by police in Armagh after protesting a vist by Charles Haughey in 1980
Democratic Unionist Party leader Ian Paisley and Sinn Fein President Gerry Adams speak to the media during a press conference at the Stormont Assembly building in Belfast
Ian Paisley after meeting with the General John De Chastelain in 2004
Martin McGuiness, left, Northern Ireland's Deputy First Minister, Ian Paisley, Northern Ireland's First Minister, center, and Mayor Michael Bloomberg, right, react as they listen during a meeting at City Hall in New York, Monday, Dec. 3, 2007. Paisley and McGuinness are on their first US trip together to drum up business for Northern Ireland's economy.
Duncan L. Niederauer, center, CEO of the New York Stock Exchange, presents a gift to the two leaders of Northern Ireland's newly devolved government, First Minister Dr. Ian Paisley, right, and Deputy First Minister Martin McGuiness, left, at a breakfast held by the American Ireland Fund, at the New York Stock Exchange, Monday, Dec., 3, 2007. The two leaders made a joint presentation to a business audience of the case for United States investment in Northern Ireland.
Confrontation at Lisburn market: UKUP leader Bob McCartney making a point and alongside DUP leader Ian Paisley and councillor Paul Given
Ian Paisley and Martin McGuinness were branded the 'chuckle brothers'
Northern Ireland First Minister Ian Paisley, right, and Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness in New York after they rang the opening bell, Wednesday Dec. 5, 2007

Early blows were being traded last night in the battle to replace Ian Paisley as North Antrim MP.

The former First Minister's retirement announcement after 40 years of holding the seat clears the way for his MLA son to take on ex-party colleague Jim Allister.

The General Election showdown between Ian Paisley jnr and the Traditional Unionist Voice leader promises to be a bruising encounter that will have a major bearing on the future direction of unionism.

As tributes poured in for the 83-year-old former DUP leader yesterday following his announcement that he is stepping down, attention was last night already starting to turn to the intriguing contest to fill the seat of a man who has dominated politics for decades.

A polling day date has yet to be set by the Prime Minister and the formal selection of the DUP's North Antrim candidate will not take place until next Monday.

But Mr Paisley jnr appears to be guaranteed the nomination, and the campaign is already as good as under way.

He will defend his father's majority of almost 18,000 from 2005. But the political landscape has changed since then, with the DUP's decision two years later to enter a Stormont Executive with Sinn Fein.

Mr Allister quit the party in protest at that move, and will see the North Antrim contest as a major opportunity to destabilise power-sharing.

The DUP will continue to hit back, accusing him of having no alternative and effectively seeking a return of direct rule.

The TUV leader and former MEP was quickly on the attack yesterday. “North Antrim, I believe, will be looking for an MP with integrity and sound judgment. If Ian Paisley jnr is a candidate then the capacity for sound judgment will be a particular issue,” Mr Allister said.

He also cited controversies surrounding Mr Paisley jnr over his links to developer Seymour Sweeney and his approval for the secondment of PSNI personnel to train Libyan police.

While praising Mr Paisley snr's past record as a “towering Parliamentarian”, the TUV leader said the former First Minister's legacy would be “terrorist-inclusive government” at Stormont.

Mr Paisley jnr retorted, accusing his ex-colleague of continuing a “tirade of personal name calling and abuse even of an 83-year-old man”.

The DUP MLA said: “Jim Allister's trade in smear won't put bread on anyone's table. His personalised attacks directed at Dr Paisley and me won't attract extra jobs. His mud-slinging won't help the families struggling to make ends meet.

“Allister has nothing to say on the issues that matter: jobs, health, education, agriculture. Instead all he offers is character assassination directed at me. In fact, I don't think I've heard him say anything pleasant in public life about anyone.

“Not only is such behaviour underhand, but it is not what the public wants. I believe the people want and deserve better than the mud-slinging Allister offers.”

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