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Ian Paisley, Peter Robinson and Nigel Dodds with DUP Candidates for Belfast Council Elections. 24/4/89

Ian Paisley, Peter Robinson and Nigel Dodds with DUP Candidates for Belfast Council Elections. 24/4/89

Ian Paisley pictured on his weding day to wife Eileen

Ian Paisley pictured on his weding day to wife Eileen

Ian Paisley aged 12

Ian Paisley aged 12

Ian Paisley DUP electioneering for Europe in Portadown. 11/6/84

Ian Paisley DUP electioneering for Europe in Portadown. 11/6/84

The Rev Ian Paisley plays the flute at the independents Orange parade in Portglenone.2008

The Rev Ian Paisley plays the flute at the independents Orange parade in Portglenone.2008

Charles McQuillan

November 1985 - Ian Paisley and Jim Molyneaux address the 250,000 crowd at the Anti Anglo Irish rally in Belfast

November 1985 - Ian Paisley and Jim Molyneaux address the 250,000 crowd at the Anti Anglo Irish rally in Belfast

Ian Paisley and Peter Robinson being arrested in Armagh.1980

Ian Paisley and Peter Robinson being arrested in Armagh.1980

BELFAST TELEGRAPH

Ian Paisley addresses a 12,000 strong crowd at the 40th anniversary of the Free Presbyterian church in the Kings Hall. 1999

Ian Paisley addresses a 12,000 strong crowd at the 40th anniversary of the Free Presbyterian church in the Kings Hall. 1999

Test Pix

A crowd of students pictured at a meeting with Ian Paisley (centre) near Belfast City Hall.  9/10/1968.

A crowd of students pictured at a meeting with Ian Paisley (centre) near Belfast City Hall. 9/10/1968.

Belfast Telegraph

The Reverend Ian Paisley speaking at a ceremony held at Stormont to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the death of Edward Carson. October 1985

The Reverend Ian Paisley speaking at a ceremony held at Stormont to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the death of Edward Carson. October 1985

Belfast Telegraph

15/08/1971 of The Reverend Ian Paisley during a press conference in Stormont, Northern Ireland.

15/08/1971 of The Reverend Ian Paisley during a press conference in Stormont, Northern Ireland.

PA

Ian Paisley at a protest rally at Carrickfergus Castle in 1971

Ian Paisley at a protest rally at Carrickfergus Castle in 1971

Former Northern Ireland First Minister Ian Paisley holding his first great grandchild Caleb Cassells

Former Northern Ireland First Minister Ian Paisley holding his first great grandchild Caleb Cassells

Ian Paisley and Martin McGuinness after being sworn in as ministers of the Northern Ireland Assembley, Stormont.

Ian Paisley and Martin McGuinness after being sworn in as ministers of the Northern Ireland Assembley, Stormont.

Paul Faith

Ian Paisley confronts an RUC officer when refused access to Duke Street where the Civil Rights parade went on. 10/10/1988

Ian Paisley confronts an RUC officer when refused access to Duke Street where the Civil Rights parade went on. 10/10/1988

Ian Paisley at the scene of the IRA motar attack on Newry Police Station.  which killed 9 officers.  28/2/1985.

Ian Paisley at the scene of the IRA motar attack on Newry Police Station. which killed 9 officers. 28/2/1985.

Ian Paisley

Ian Paisley

Former DUP leader Ian Paisley wearing the traditional red beret of paramilitary group the Ulster Resistance in Ulster Hall

Former DUP leader Ian Paisley wearing the traditional red beret of paramilitary group the Ulster Resistance in Ulster Hall

Ian Paisley leaves Crumlin Road jail in the 60s

Ian Paisley leaves Crumlin Road jail in the 60s

Unionist protests at visit to Belfast of Charles Haughey, former Taoiseach. Pictured Rev Ian Paisley. 11/4/1990.

Unionist protests at visit to Belfast of Charles Haughey, former Taoiseach. Pictured Rev Ian Paisley. 11/4/1990.

The Queen greeted by First Minister Ian Paisley in east Belfast

The Queen greeted by First Minister Ian Paisley in east Belfast

Former Northern Ireland First Minister Ian Paisley will not seek re-election

Former Northern Ireland First Minister Ian Paisley will not seek re-election

Hundreds of thousands of Unionists crowded Belfast City Centre in a huge "Ulster Says No" rally against power sharing after a call by the Rev Ian Paisley and other Unionist leaders of the time. Picture by Photopress

Hundreds of thousands of Unionists crowded Belfast City Centre in a huge "Ulster Says No" rally against power sharing after a call by the Rev Ian Paisley and other Unionist leaders of the time. Picture by Photopress

Ian Paisley demonstrates at Stormont in 1981

Ian Paisley demonstrates at Stormont in 1981

Ian Paisley at DUP HQ in 1985. The party leader held a sledge hammer to depict his 'smash Sinn Fein' message

Ian Paisley at DUP HQ in 1985. The party leader held a sledge hammer to depict his 'smash Sinn Fein' message

Ian Paisley and Martin McGuiness, right chat as they leave after a meeting at City Hall in New York, Monday Dec. 3, 2007

Ian Paisley and Martin McGuiness, right chat as they leave after a meeting at City Hall in New York, Monday Dec. 3, 2007

Bebeto Matthews

Ian Paisley and Peter Robinson are taken away by police in Armagh after protesting a vist by Charles Haughey in 1980

Ian Paisley and Peter Robinson are taken away by police in Armagh after protesting a vist by Charles Haughey in 1980

Democratic Unionist Party leader Ian Paisley and Sinn Fein President Gerry Adams speak to the media during a press conference at the Stormont Assembly building in Belfast

Democratic Unionist Party leader Ian Paisley and Sinn Fein President Gerry Adams speak to the media during a press conference at the Stormont Assembly building in Belfast

Ian Paisley after meeting with the General John De Chastelain in 2004

Ian Paisley after meeting with the General John De Chastelain in 2004

Martin McGuiness, left, Northern Ireland's Deputy First Minister, Ian Paisley, Northern Ireland's First Minister, center, and Mayor Michael Bloomberg, right, react as they listen during a meeting at City Hall in New York, Monday, Dec. 3, 2007. Paisley and McGuinness are on their first US trip together to drum up business for Northern Ireland's economy.

Martin McGuiness, left, Northern Ireland's Deputy First Minister, Ian Paisley, Northern Ireland's First Minister, center, and Mayor Michael Bloomberg, right, react as they listen during a meeting at City Hall in New York, Monday, Dec. 3, 2007. Paisley and McGuinness are on their first US trip together to drum up business for Northern Ireland's economy.

Bebeto Matthews

Duncan L. Niederauer, center, CEO of the New York Stock Exchange, presents a gift to the two leaders of Northern Ireland's newly devolved government, First Minister Dr. Ian Paisley, right, and Deputy First Minister Martin McGuiness, left, at a breakfast held by the American Ireland Fund, at the New York Stock Exchange, Monday, Dec., 3, 2007. The two leaders made a joint presentation to a business audience of the case for United States investment in Northern Ireland.

Duncan L. Niederauer, center, CEO of the New York Stock Exchange, presents a gift to the two leaders of Northern Ireland's newly devolved government, First Minister Dr. Ian Paisley, right, and Deputy First Minister Martin McGuiness, left, at a breakfast held by the American Ireland Fund, at the New York Stock Exchange, Monday, Dec., 3, 2007. The two leaders made a joint presentation to a business audience of the case for United States investment in Northern Ireland.

Stuart Ramson

Confrontation at Lisburn market: UKUP leader Bob McCartney making a point and alongside DUP leader Ian Paisley and councillor Paul Given

Confrontation at Lisburn market: UKUP leader Bob McCartney making a point and alongside DUP leader Ian Paisley and councillor Paul Given

Ian Paisley and Martin McGuinness were branded the 'chuckle brothers'

Ian Paisley and Martin McGuinness were branded the 'chuckle brothers'

Northern Ireland First Minister Ian Paisley, right, and Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness in New York after they rang the opening bell, Wednesday Dec. 5, 2007

Northern Ireland First Minister Ian Paisley, right, and Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness in New York after they rang the opening bell, Wednesday Dec. 5, 2007

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Ian Paisley, Peter Robinson and Nigel Dodds with DUP Candidates for Belfast Council Elections. 24/4/89

For a snapshot of unionist reaction to Ian Paisley’s decision to stand down after 40 years as MP, Ballymena on an early spring morning was the place to be.

The town where Mr Paisley grew up is situated in the heartland of his North Antrim constituency. His father James Kyle Paisley also served as an Independent Baptist pastor here.

First elected to Westminster in 1970, Dr Paisley held the North Antrim seat at nine subsequent General Elections, posting a 17,965 majority at the 2005 poll.

Few were surprised by his decision to quit, and most agreed that the founding father of the DUP would be impossible to replace.

There was also consensus among most DUP voters that they would opt for Ian Paisley jnr over Jim Allister come election day.

The story of Ian Paisley’s retirement was broken by the Ballymena Guardian.

The paper’s editor Jim Flanagan interviewed him at Stormont on Monday and found him in reflective mood.

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“He was casting his mind back to when it all started,” he said.

“It was a mood of mission accomplished. He’s done his best for 40 years and now feels it is time for someone else to build on that legacy. There was no regret.

“In fact I think he is even more convinced now that the decision he took three years ago to share power was the right one.”

Outside, people on the street were generally supportive of Mr Paisley’s time as MP, and agreed it was time he stood down.

Joy Richmond, from Ahoghill, said: “He’s in his 80s and at this time of life he deserves a break.

“He’s been like a father figure to this area and a lot of people will be sad to see him step down.

“I doubt whether his replacement will have the same appeal to so many people.”

Bill Hamilton, from Antrim, agreed it would be difficult to replace the former DUP leader.

“I doubt if the son will rise to anything like the same calibre and I doubt whether he will get anything like the same votes,” he said.

At The Front Page bar in the town centre the conversation centred on Mr Paisley.

The bar’s proprietor, Stephen Reynolds, said his character was the veteran politician’s strongest asset. He was a real character, there was that bit of celebrity status with him,” he said.

“His face, his demeanour, his tone — they were instantly recognisable. He will be missed but the memories will live on, and for most people it will be in a positive sense.”

Sandra Wallace said Dr Paisley had worked tirelessly for the town.

“He got a bit of criticism but he was very good for Ballymena,” she said. “He’s a good age and he has been around a long time, so it’s probably time someone younger took over.”

Meanwhile Elizabeth Davidson said Mr Paisley had worked hard for all sides of the community.

“Ian Paisley did a lot for all his constituents, no matter who they were,” she said. “At his age, he needs some time to himself and I’m sure everyone will wish him well.”


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