Belfast Telegraph

Ian Paisley Jr gets the Freedom of London - joining Churchill, Diana and Mandela

By Deborah McAleese

What does Ian Paisley Junior have in common with Florence Nightingale, Nelson Mandela and Lady Diana?

Just like the founder of modern nursing, the former South African President and the Princess of Wales, the motorbiking North Antrim MP is now a freeman of the City of London.

Mr Paisley has joined the ranks of leading world figures and statesmen, such as Lord Nelson, Winston Churchill, Archbishop Desmond Tutu and most recently, Sir Tim Berners-Lee, inventor of the world wide web.

He is due to be awarded the Honorary Freedom of the City of London at Guildhall today in recognition of his efforts to increase business between the city and North Antrim, particularly the role he played to help Wrightbus secure the contract to supply London Routemaster buses.

The honour also recognises his advocacy of the Union in parliament.

"It is not every day a person receives word that they are to be given the freedom of a city.

"But to be honoured with the freedom of our nation's capital I am more than privileged and pleasantly surprised," said Mr Paisley.

He added: "I am very pleased that my proposer was so enthusiastic about the work I have done in promoting business and commercial links between North Antrim companies and London and that this has been recognised.

"I told the Wrightbus company about the honour last week and I know they are very pleased both for me and once again for another very positive mention of their world-leading product and the workforce who produce it."

Mr Paisley said he was delighted with the working relationships he has had the opportunity to establish in London on behalf of North Antrim businesses.

"In cases such as that of Wrightbus it is very rewarding to see positive outcomes for Northern Ireland's manufacturing sector as a result," he said.

Mr Paisley added: "I saw it my duty as a unionist to speak up for our Union in parliament this year during the Scottish referendum campaign,

"I was delighted to speak publicly about the importance of its preservation.

"Being honoured in this way for doing so is very humbling."

Granting of the Freedom of the City of London is one of the oldest surviving traditional ceremonies still in existence today.

Other recipients include Dynasty star Joan Collins, Oscar winner Dame Judi Dench, co-founder of Microsoft Bill Gates, one of the most successful opera tenors of all time Luciano Pavarotti and Harry Potter creator JK Rowling.

The honour is a symbolic modern version of a tradition which began in the 13th century as an "economic transaction" and today is purely a honorary title.

So while Mr Paisley will still have to pay for his Tube tickets, he will get a certificate marking the honour.

Read more:

Stop treating us like thick Paddies, MP Ian Paisley blasts officials 

Power-sharing critics should eat their words: Paisley 



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