Ian Paisley death: Catholic bishop Noel Treanor pays tribute
A Catholic bishop in Northern Ireland has recognised Ian Paisley's crucial contribution to the search for peace.
Dr Paisley once branded Pope John Paul II the anti-Christ during a memorable outburst at the European Parliament when the late pontiff came to deliver a speech in October 1988.
At the start of the conflict in the 1960s he campaigned against civil rights like one man one vote for all Catholics. Unrest over the issue helped spark the 30-year Troubles.
Bishop Noel Treanor said he was a man marked by strong convictions and evangelical zeal, fearless in taking a principled stand on issues such as marriage and the family as well as the sanctity of human life at all stages, matters on which he often expressed his agreement with the Catholic Church.
He said: "Whilst his historic legacy in terms of his interaction with the Catholic community was at times controversial, his contribution to the search for peace and political stability in Northern Ireland was, in the end, crucial.
"He made an immense contribution to local, Westminster and European politics and will be particularly remembered by his local constituents, from all sections of the community, for his commitment in representing their concerns."
Bishop Treanor represents Down and Connor, which includes Belfast and is one of the largest Catholic districts on the island of Ireland.
He said: "Dr Paisley has left an indelible mark on the history of the relationship between the Unionist and Nationalist traditions on this island. I will hold his family and all those affected by his passing in my prayers at this time of loss."
Dr Paisley revealed in a BBC television interview recently that he felt the system which discriminated against Catholics was wrong.
Despite leading counter-protests to the civil rights marches at the time, he said: "The whole system was wrong, it was not one man, one vote - that's no way to run any country. It should be absolute freedom and absolute liberty."
But he said he had opposed the civil rights movement because he felt those behind it wanted a united Ireland, adding that "no decent law-abiding Protestant could associate themselves with it".
Belfast Telegraph Digital