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Wait and see, says Paisley on church role

First Minister addresses Tele's Ulster Fry event at Labour conference

By Sam Lister

Ian Paisley today refused to rule out remaining leader of the church he founded.

The First Minister was quizzed about his future as a religious leader but would only say: "You'll have to wait and see."

Speaking at the Ulster Fry fringe event, sponsored by the Belfast Telegraph, at Labour's autumn conference, he also refused to be drawn on whether he would stand down as an MP if Gordon Brown called a snap election.

But the DUP leader was quite clear on one thing and that was that he will not be publicly shaking hands with Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness, despite them being dubbed the "Chuckle Brothers" because of their close relationship.

He insisted that the way he dealt with Sinn Fein was the same as it had always been - but admitted there had been "miracles he could chuckle over".

The 140-strong gathering included Policing Minister Paul Goggins, Northern Secretary Shaun Woodward and former NIO Agriculture Minister Lord Alf Dubs.

Mr Paisley told the bemused crowd: "All I can say is that I am a naturally happy person and I'm not going to let anyone, including Martin McGuinness, take that from me."

He called for extra funding for the province from Westminster and for Corporation Tax to be brought in line with the Republic, as well as demanding the disbanding of the IRA's Army Council.

And he criticised the lack of investment at the Giant's Causeway as a disaster.

On devolution of policing powers, he insisted that Northern Ireland should not be rushed on the issue, adding: "I want to see it happen when the people of Northern Ireland are ready for it to happen.

"I don't think that rushing is good in politics.

"This is not the time, our party has not changed one iota.

"Deadlines are a bad thing in politics.

"I believe in achieving what has to be done."

Martin Lindsay, editor of the Belfast Telegraph, also spoke at the event. He said that Northern Ireland was enjoying the fruits of power-sharing.

He added: "The political landscape of Northern Ireland has been transformed over the last 12 months.

"We have moved from conflict to power-sharing.

"It has been akin to riding a political roller coaster.

"I really ask, where can you find two parties anywhere in the world that are so diametrically opposed?"

Belfast Telegraph


From Belfast Telegraph