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Ian Paisley bids his final farewell to Westminster

Former DUP leader the Rev Ian Paisley made his farewell speech in the Commons last night, insisting Northern Ireland was “moving in the right direction”.

In an 11-minute valedictory speech, Mr Paisley wished for a time when the “Troubles” would be forgotten.

And he paid tribute to the Ulster people as “loving and caring”.

Peter Robinson, the current DUP leader, paid tribute to his predecessor's “colourful career,” describing him as a “colossus” of Northern Ireland politics.

“His name will be remembered in the history of Northern Ireland as one of the most influential figures in unionism,” Mr Robinson said.

“His leadership has been a major factor in bringing Northern Ireland through to the peaceful and stable society we are now enjoying.”

In a parliamentary career dating back to 1970 Mr Paisley often dominated debates on Northern Ireland with feats of towering oratory.

But last night he was in reflective mood before stepping down at the General Election.

He said the day had come when Northern Ireland must face the facts.

“There are people in Northern Ireland who have diverse religious convictions and diverse political convictions — but they can live together as neighbours.

“I am confident that with the good friendship that is in this House towards Northern Ireland that we will go forward and come to a day — I may not live to see it — when these Troubles will be forgotten.”

But he acknowledged there were “deep wounds” still to overcome and insisted: “We won't forget the price that was paid.”

Mr Paisley said: “Northern Ireland is moving in the right direction and this House needs to encourage it to go forward at this time.”

He welcomed the “good work” of various Northern Ireland Secretaries while admitting “some of them we would liked to have punched”.

In debate on parliamentary orders that will enable the creation of a Department for Justice in Northern Ireland, he added: “It doesn't mean we have reached the end of the journey — far from it. But we are in the right way.”

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