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Ian Paisley does it his way with a final curtain call in Commons

By Craig Woodhouse

It was a low-key end to one of the most tumultuous careers in UK political history.

The Rev Ian Paisley, the scourge of so many prime ministers over the decades, ended his Westminster journey with warm words of tribute from Gordon Brown yesterday.

The Prime Minister hailed Mr Paisley's “long and distinguished career” and said his role in bringing peace to Northern Ireland would “adorn the history books in many decades and centuries to come”.

It came after Mr Paisley asked the Prime Minister to give himself “to the task of deliverance and victory and peace”.

Mr Paisley (83), delivered an 11-minute valedictory speech on Monday, but used Prime Minister's Questions to speak again before he calls time on a parliamentary career dating back to 1970.

And he built on the messages of condolence delivered by party leaders on recent deaths in Afghanistan.

Mr Paisley said: “I would like to say that this is the last time I will bother this House with a question and bother the Prime Minister with a question — and I am sure he is greatly relieved by that.

“I would like to associate myself and my colleagues with the words of condolence spoken in this House today.

“This is a sad and tragic hour in our nation and rumours of war and wars are common, and there is sorrow in hearts.

“Of course they bury their dead, they put up their monuments, but their heart is torn. And I have been in too many houses like that in Northern Ireland not to know how deeply the cuts are.

“I would like to ask the Prime Minister, that in view of this situation that we have here and its sadness and its sorrow, and the dark shadow that lies upon the whole of our world today, would you continue to give yourself as always to the task of deliverance and victory and peace, and may it come speedily.”

Mr Brown replied: “I think the whole House will want to pay tribute to you for a long and distinguished career — not just in this House but in representation in a number of forums, including holding the position of First Minister of Northern Ireland.

“And I believe the part you played in bringing the unionist community together — indeed bringing the whole community together in Northern Ireland — to ensure that we have devolution of power, and to ensure now that we have completed the process of devolution of power, is one that will adorn the history books in many decades and centuries to come.

“So on this day and on this occasion I want the whole House to thank you for your service to this House and to the whole community.”

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