Northern Ireland

Ian Paisley backs unity - under crown

Lord Bannside
Image caption Ian Paisley is now Lord Bannside of North Antrim

Former DUP leader and first minister Ian Paisley has told the House of Lords he would support Irish reunification - under the British crown.

In his first speech since joining the Lords in July, he cited a letter in Tuesday's Irish Independent newspaper.

The writer "invited Her Majesty to come over and take the whole of Ireland under her control".

Mr Paisley - now Lord Bannside - said that it was "a very good thought".

"If we all came together with Her Majesty at our head, I think we would do very well."

In an apparent reference to King William III's victory at the Battle of the Boyne in 1690 he added: "Another king did that at a certain famous watering place that I will not mention here today."

Citizenship

Lord Bannside was speaking in a Lords debate, opened by Liberal Democrat Lord Maclennan of Rogart, on the role of active citizenship in society.

He said that rights were easy to list and were enshrined in law, but responsibilities were not so well defined.

"This generation needs to have a study of not only citizenship but to be able to make that study practical and applicable to the places where they live," he said.

"I appreciate the motive and also the probationary period that is needed for new immigrants coming into our country to carry out their responsibilities.

"They must know that the country to which they come is only such a country as it is because others, in times past, took up those responsibilities and involved themselves to make this land better than it was."

The former North Antrim MP went on: "I believe we must replace the benefit system by teaching the real benefits that flow from our personal commitment to hard work and I believe that we shall see our country come out of the terrible place it finds itself in today.

"There is hope where there is dedication and there is hope where that dedication is employed with all the strength that we have."

He said the UK did "need to open our doors to newcomers" and, without past generations of immigrants, it would now be a "poor country".