Ian Paisley: I’d accept Sinn Fein in top Stormont job
Former DUP leader Ian Paisley has said he would accept a Sinn Fein First Minister, if it was the will of the people of Northern |Ireland.
The firebrand politician — once a fierce critic of power-sharing with republicans who vowed to “smash Sinn Fein” — said he would have to “accept” the outcome of next year’s Assembly elections, even if Martin McGuinness was elected to the top position at Stormont.
However, Lord Bannside, as Rev Paisley is known since his elevation to the House of Lords, pointed out that Sinn Fein did not become the majority party “on his watch” and pledged to play his part in preventing that happening.
In an article written for today’s News Letter, Lord Bannside said: “For many years I had to accept that the DUP that I founded and led was not the majority party. But, I worked at it and when I left off the leadership I left my party having the largest mandate in Europe (of the Northern Ireland parties), the largest mandate in Westminster and the largest mandate in Stormont — we even had a few Lords.
“Sinn Fein didn’t become the majority party on my watch.
“Naturally as a unionist I will continue to play my part to prevent that happening in the future.
“Roll on the centenary of our beloved Ulster for I believe it |will be grand.”
Meanwhile Lord Bannside, who stood down as First Minister in June 2008 making way for his DUP successor Peter Robinson, dismissed the idea of unionist unity as a “political non runner”.
The 84-year-old, who held the North Antrim seat in Westminster for 40 years, said he supported improved inter-party relationships but argued that limiting choice for voters, as called for by Orange Order Grand Master Robert Salters, was not in the best interests of the electorate.
There have been calls for greater cooperation between the DUP and Ulster Unionist Party, particularly in fighting knife-edge seats.
Mr Paisley said he believed devolution had strengthened the union and hoped that by 2021 the Republic “will have rejoined the Commonwealth”.