THE DUP's Ian Paisley has revealed he prays for Sinn Fein deputy First Minister Michelle O'Neill every day, saying his faith is "more important to me than all of the political stuff".
The North Antrim MP admitted to praying for both Ms O'Neill and his party colleague Arlene Foster, even suggesting that leading the DUP is a "lonely place".
In a frank interview with the Human Nature podcast, Mr Paisley said he hoped praying for the Sinn Fein politician showed people "that I am a person of faith".
"I'm praying that things will work out for us. I don't have a particular view of what working out for us means, you know. It's asking God for grace that people will understand and will serve the country well and the people well," he added.
Mr Paisley believes that being the leader of a party, including the DUP, which his late father founded, is "a very restrictive place to be".
"It's also an incredibly lonely place to be… and that's not necessarily a place that I want to be," he said.
He described Mrs Foster as an "incredibly resilient woman" who has "shown that she can take on really bitter and personal criticism and go through it and come out the other end".
"I'm not going to say come out the other end unscathed but come out the other end strong and determined because I don't think any of this stuff ever leaves you unscathed," Mr Paisley added.
He also spoke of his admiration for the late Martin McGuinness, particularly the way he showed his father "respect and acknowledgement".
"He was 15 to 20 years younger than my dad. My dad was in his 80s when he became First Minister. Martin McGuinness gave my father the respect he deserved as an older person. That to me meant a heck of a lot more than all the other nonsense that goes on in politics - that you accord a person respect and dignity because of their age and their standing and you don't take advantage of that," Mr Paisley explained.
He referred to the public rift between his late father and his former colleagues and how Mr McGuinness kept in contact with him when he stood down from Stormont, the DUP and his church.
"It was interesting that people who you would have thought would have been in more regular contact didn't stay in contact," he said.
"It's understandable they're busy, they've their own lives, but Martin McGuinness did make time to keep that contact - and to me that says a lot about the individual."
Asked if he was hurt knowing that certain people, including some in the DUP, did not keep in touch with his father, Mr Paisley replied: "Being very clear, none of this hurts me. I think it hurts them. It hurts their standing, it hurts their reputation because they were the people who lost out in terms of having that post-leadership relationship, which would have been very valuable to them, helping (them to) even close the circle in their own lives.
"So, I think that, you know, they were the losers."
In 2018 Mr Paisley was suspended from Parliament for 30 sitting days after he failed to declare two family holidays paid for by the Sri Lankan government.
Asked if he had any regrets, he said: "There's far too many to admit to or to go into.
"But I'm the first to admit that I'm sometimes too carefree, sometimes blasé about things when I should be different about things."
On the perception that some people have of him - associating him with free holidays, for example - he said: "Well, a lot of it has been self-inflicted. Being self-aware, you've got to accept that if you hadn't made those mistakes, people wouldn't have those ideas about you.
"I mean, I'm the first one to make a joke about those things because I realise that was an error, that was a mistake. My strength has been to admit to my mistakes."
In a deeply moving admission, Mr Paisley recalled the moment he learned that his father was passing away while in his advice centre in Ballymena and his final words to him over the phone.
"My sister Rhonda rang me and she said, 'Ian, dad's definitely going here - he's slipping away'. She put the phone to my dad and he said, 'Bye-bye, son'."
He didn't cry when his father died, but he did on the day of the burial when he was driving home from picking his daughter up at the airport and knocked over and killed a dog.
"I was driving down this country road and unfortunately a little dog ran out in front of our car," he said.
"I couldn't swerve because I would've gone over the ditch. I couldn't swerve into the road because there was a massive tractor right beside me.
"The dog had run out to bark at the tractor and I went right over the top of the dog and just killed it outright. I remember stopping the car, getting out and picking the wee dog up and it was just ruined. I wept like a baby, wept like an absolute child over killing that wee dog on the road. The owner came out and saw me and they knew me.
"I think it (the crying) was the emotion of everything else that had happened in the run-up and that had given me actually a lot of physical tearful release."
He also described the moment he fell in love with his wife Fiona while working a Saturday job at Dundonald International Ice Bowl as a young man. "I was one of the guys who skated round the ice rink, picked the kids up who'd fallen over and gave the instructions as to how to skate properly and how to stop properly," he revealed.
"It was particularly useful for noticing very good-looking girls who were on the ice... you would go over and help them skate a bit.
"Certainly, Fiona Paisley, or Fiona Currie as she was, caught my eye. We met there and I asked her out shortly after that. I have not been able to stop falling deeper and deeper in love with her every week. We're now married 30 years."
Asked what he would tell his family if it was his last day on earth, he said: "I'd tell them I love them."
÷ The Human Nature podcast is available on iTunes, Spotify, Google Podcasts and from impartialreporter.com