It was one of the quieter moments in Ian Paisley’s political career. For a man whose name is synonymous with the word firebrand, his elevation to the House of Lords after 40 years in the Commons was a remarkably low-key affair.
As Mr Paisley took his oath of allegiance to the Queen in the ceremony which made him Lord Bannside yesterday, there was absolute silence from those watching from the red benches.
Clasping the Bible in one hand, the 84-year-old former First Minister’s voice was only a couple of notches up from a whisper until it was magnified when he reached the final four words: “So help me God.”
Slow, deliberate and purposeful, with a hint of his other career as a preacher, there was no mistaking who the newest member of the House of Lords was.
Dressed in the traditional ermine-trimmed red gown he entered the chamber flanked by DUP peer Lord Morrow and former Commons speaker Baroness Boothroyd.
As he was presented, the clerk read out the ‘Letter Patent’ which formally grant him access, conferring on Ian Richard Kyle Paisley the title of “Baron Bannside, to have and to hold and to him for his life”.
Wife Eileen, also a member of the Lords, watched proudly on while the gallery was packed with the rest of the family, include Ian Paisley jnr and DUP colleagues William McCrea and Jeffrey Donaldson.
Former First Minister and political adversary Lord Trimble was less expressive about the introduction of the new peer. He witnessed the event with little reaction.
Lord Bannside - a title he chose to reflect the starting point of his Parliamentary career in the now defunct constituency — and his supporters then proceeded out of the chamber stopping at the Woolsack for the traditional welcome handshake from the Lord Speaker, Baroness Hayman.
She gave him a warm smile and whispered a few private words, marking the end of the ceremony that took just five minutes.
Speaking afterwards, Northern Ireland’s newest Lord dismissed any suggestion that taking a seat in the Lords represented his retirement from political life.
He said: “The best debates today are in the House of Lords. It is a body with a large amount of expertise.
“When they debate a subject in the House of Lords those in the House of Commons read every word carefully.”
Lord Bannside also said he was not in agreement with calls for the House of Lords to be reformed.
“It can still make a difference as a chamber; it is doing plenty of work.
“I have sat for 40 years in the other House and I can say that the standing of the House of Lords is higher than it has ever been.”
Lord Bannside was one of 56 new peers announced on one day by Downing Street and he was introduced to the upper chamber along with two Labour peers, Jeannie Drake and Maeve Sherlock.
Baroness Drake (62) was deputy general secretary of the Communication Workers Union from 1996 to 2008.
Baroness Sherlock (49) is a former chief executive of the Refugee Council and advised Gordon Brown between 2000 and 2003 while he was Chancellor.
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