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Paisley to stay until June, say insiders

By Noel McAdam

DUP leader Ian Paisley may stay on as First Minister until early June, senior party sources indicated last night.

The First Minister had been expected to stand down within days of the United States Economic Conference between May 7 to 9 but it now appears there will be a gap of some weeks.

The apparent rescheduling, which means Mr Paisley will preside over up to two Assembly question times, came on the day the Assembly group confirmed Peter Robinson as his successor.

Nonetheless, Mr Paisley was making one of his last appearances as First Minister at the despatch box for questions yesterday, just a few days after securing the new Emerald Fund for Northern Ireland with his political partner, Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness.

Mr Paisley was in upbeat form. He said he had never before witnessed such enthusiasm as he had seen for the forthcoming conference and he said he hoped that when the American industry chiefs arrive in Northern Ireland " there will be no controversy among us," he told MLAs.

There was laughter after Mr Paisley said: "I didn't go to the US as a beggar, rattling a can asking could I have paper money only."

Just like in his church, several members pointed out: "It used to be buckets."

Mr Paisley said he was glad to have made "these people" laugh. " When I came into this meeting I thought it looked as if they thought they were at a wake," Mr Paisley quipped.

The First Minister said there was so much interest in the conference that accommodation arrangements were being revised and he might have to allow some guests to stay in his house.

He said that President George Bush's ambassador had provided information on the right people to contact.

"They are not promising that they will think about it," he said. " They are coming."

Belfast Telegraph


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