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Ian Paisley quits after 40 years as MP

By Leslie-Anne Henry

Published 02/03/2010

Ian Paisley pictured on his weding day to wife Eileen
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
Ian Paisley DUP electioneering for Europe in Portadown. 11/6/84
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

The DUP’s founding father Ian Paisley today confirmed that he will not be standing in the forthcoming general election.

The 83-year-old former First Minister, who has represented North Antrim for 40 years, said that it was now time for a new generation of politicians to take over.

Mr Paisley was widely expected to retire as an MP after stepping down as DUP leader in 2008, but after the Traditional Unionist Voice took almost 70,000 votes from the DUP at last year's European election, he had signalled he might seek re-election.

The DUP will officially select its Westminster candidate for the North Antrim seat next week. Mr Paisley’s departure is likely to pave the way for a bitter personal battle between his son, Ian Paisley Jnr, and Traditional Unionist Voice leader Jim Allister.

His decision to stand down was announced in an interview with his local newspaper the Ballymena Guardian in which Mr Paisley claimed the DUP could retain the seat.

“I have no doubt that the people of North Antrim will again support the DUP candidate at the next election,” he said.

He has held the seat in North Antrim since 1970 and in his last general election in 2005 polled 25,156 votes giving him a crushing majority of almost 18,000 and increasing his vote by 4.8%.

“I fought in the 1970 campaign against the sitting Official Unionist MP Henry Clark. He had produced a picture of me at a public meeting in Kells and proceeded to set it on fire,” he told the Ballymena Guardian.

“The outcome of the election that followed got me into the Guinness Book of Records for the largest ever overturning of a majority.”

Famed for his firebrand oratory, Mr Paisley was a founding member of the Free Presbyterian Church in Ireland in 1951. His evangelical theology heavily influenced his political views and throughout the Troubles he forthrightly denounced Catholicism and the papacy.

During the conflict he was a fierce critic of power-sharing with nationalists and of the Republic having a say in Northern Ireland's affairs.

But in his later political life, the one-time cheer-leader for hardline unionism underwent somewhat of a political conversion which finally saw him enter office with his long-time enemy, Sinn Fein.

His decision to accept the position of First Minister alongside deputy First Minister and former IRA commander Martin McGuinness in 2007 saw him hailed as a peacemaker by moderates but criticised by many former followers who accused him of betraying Ulster.

What proved almost more remarkable was the warmth of the relationship the two erstwhile foes developed during their year in officer together, leading some to dub them the “Chuckle Brothers”.

In recent years Dr Paisley has been looking frail and suffered serious ill-health in 2004, later admitting that he had “walked in death's shadow”.

After leaving the Commons he joined his wife Eileen, who was made a Baroness in 2006, in the House of Lords.

His final years in the House of Commons have not been untouched by the expenses controversies that rocked British politics.

The ex-DUP leader was criticised for repeatedly claiming maximum £400-per month London food allowance payments, while double jobbing as Stormont's First Minister

Confirming his father’s intention to fully retire from politics Ian Paisley Jnr said his father had done a “fantastic” job and had “devoted his life” to the people of North Antrim.

Meanwhile political opponent Jim Allister said: “In the early years he did a very good job. We will will fight this election over every vote and will be honoured if the electorate vote us in.”

Belfast Telegraph

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