Belfast Telegraph

Ian Paisley: The final resting place of former DUP leader and First Minister

Dr Paisley’s family shuns the pomp of a state funeral and will bury the giant of NI politics in this|peaceful cemetery

Ian Paisley will be laid to rest in this modest plot in rural Co Down — in what will be a private end to a very public life.

As former First Minister, Lord Bannside could have opted for the pomp of a state funeral from Stormont similar to the televised service for footballer George Best in 2005.

But instead the ‘Big Man’ who founded his own church and political party will be buried in a quiet church graveyard where the Paisley family own three plots.

Sunday Life has decided not to name the graveyard out of respect for the family’s wishes to keep the service strictly private.

His burial will be attended by immediate family members only.

The Paisley plot lies next to the graves of a former Belfast preacher and his wife.

Dr Paisley, who had been ill for some months, died at home on Friday aged 88.

Rev David McIlveen, his close friend of 50 years, said that despite his poor health Dr Paisley was “grateful, and in good spirits” in the weeks leading up to his death.

Rev McIlveen arrived at Paisley’s family home just moments after his death.

“It was very peaceful, he was accepting,” he said.

Rev McIlveen said he had called to his old friend twice on Thursday, the day before he died, and said he had accepted his failing health with “amazing grace”.

“On Thursday I found him just as I always found him, he was very content and restful,” said the retired Free Presbyterian minister.

“He was very peaceful, there was no sign of him becoming agitated at any time.

“That peace came from his faith. He was very content, even when his health was fading.

“He remained in good spirits and expressed his gratitude to those who had cared for him, even though we all owe him more than he owed us.”

Yesterday as books of condolence opened across Northern Ireland, Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness was one of the first to pay his respects at the Guildhall in Derry.

The Sinn Fein MLA, who was dubbed one half of the ‘Chuckle Brothers’ while heading the powersharing executive with his former political enemy, wrote: “In rising above old enmities we pointed the way to a better and peaceful future. The peace process and I have lost a friend.”

DUP Deputy Leader Nigel Dodds signed a book of condolence in Newtownabbey, while others opened in Ballymena and Lisburn.

A book at Belfast City Hall and

Stormont will open tomorrow.

Speaker of the NI Assembly William Hay will lead MLAs in their tributes to Dr Paisley in the Assembly Chamber at noon tomorrow, after which Assembly business will be suspended as a mark of respect.

Political leaders from around the world have also been reacting to Dr Paisley’s death. Yesterday, former US President Bill Clinton said he had been “saddened” to hear of his passing.

“His remarkable political career carried him from being the leader of hardline unionism to his service as First Minister of the Northern Ireland Assembly, which was marked by his good working relationship with Martin McGuinness,” he said.

“In the end, the once polarising Paisley demonstrated that reconciliation and cooperation is better than conflict and discord. That is how he advanced peace for the people he loved so much.

“My thoughts and prayers are with his family and his many friends and supporters.”

Dr Paisley’s daughter-in-law Fiona, wife of north Antrim MP Ian Paisley Jnr, shared a family picture of her children with their grandfather on her Twitter page and wrote: “Happy memories, loving Papa will be sadly missed.”

In a newspaper death notice yesterday, the family stressed: “House, funeral and service very strictly private.”

 There had been speculation that Dr Paisley’s wish that only immediate family should attend his funeral was a final snub to the DUP and Free Presbyterian Church, both of whom he had been distanced from in recent years.

He had angrily claimed in his last TV interview that he was callously ousted from the organisations he founded.

Senior DUP figures are said to be shocked that they had been banned from paying their last respects to the party founder who lived so much of his life in the public eye.

But Rev McIlveen refused to speculate on the fall-outs, and said the decision to hold Dr Paisley’s funeral privately was made because he was a modest man devoted to his family.

“For me the decision shows the humility of the man and the family,” he said.

“In Ulster people talk about having

a big send-off, which I’ve never understood — they want a big funeral with lots of people.

“That would have been of no interest to Ian; his priority was his family.”

Rev McIlveen said that in recent months Dr Paisley had become “more and more detached” from Northern Ireland’s politics.

He added that if The Doc were to pick what he would be remembered for, it would be his 60-year ministry.

“I feel that if he had to choose his legacy, it would be his ministry rather than his political achievements despite their importance,” he said.

“The lives of hundreds of people across Northern Ireland were changed and enriched by his preaching.

“He introduced so many people to the word of God.

“It was a privilege to know him.”

Asked if he was disappointed not to be attending Dr Paisley’s funeral, First Minister Peter Robinson said: “I think you’d need to know the Paisley family.

“This is a close-knit family. Ian loved his family beyond all else — you could see when you were away that Ian would never had put his head on the pillow at night without ringing ‘Mammy’ to see how things were at home.

“I suppose, having given so much of Ian to the public, this is their last opportunity to express and to pay tribute to the man who meant so much in their lives.

“I don’t think anybody would deny them that; I think they have indicated that there will be a public occasion at a later stage where others can have the opportunity to pay tribute to him.”

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