Northern Ireland

Reflections on Ian Paisley

Politicians have been reacting to the death of former DUP leader and Northern Ireland first minister Ian Paisley.

Prime Minister David Cameron

Image caption David Cameron said Ian Paisley made a huge contribution to the political stability in Northern Ireland

"Ian Paisley was one of the most forceful and instantly recognisable characters in British politics for nearly half a century.

"His length of service was remarkable, as a Stormont MP, a Westminster MP for 40 years, an MEP and, latterly, as first minister in the Northern Ireland Assembly.

"Of course, Ian Paisley was a controversial figure for large parts of his career. Yet the contribution he made in his later years to political stability in Northern Ireland was huge.

"I saw him most in the House of Commons, where his great oratory stood out. He had a deserved reputation as one of the most hard working and effective MPs.

"Ian Paisley will be remembered by many as the 'Big Man' of Northern Ireland politics. He will be greatly missed."

First Minister Peter Robinson

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Media captionPeter Robinson: "More than a colossus in unionism"

"I don't think that there's anyone who has had more influence in Northern Ireland over the years.

"He made a massive contribution, particularly to the process in which we are currently engaged.

"Even those who thought the least of his politics, thought the most of him as a person.

"He had a tremendous presence. You could see when he entered a room the whole focus of the room changed.

"He was a fantastic character, a real personality."

Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness

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Media captionMartin McGuinness: "I've lost a friend"

"I learned with deep regret and sadness of the death of former first minister the Rev Dr Ian Paisley.

"Over a number of decades we were political opponents and held very different views on many, many issues, but the one thing we were absolutely united on was the principle that our people were better able to govern themselves than any British government.

"I want to pay tribute to and comment on the work he did in the latter days of his political life in building agreement and leading unionism into a new accommodation with republicans and nationalists."

Irish president Michael D Higgins

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Image caption Irish president Michael D Higgins said Ian Paisley's impact was of immense significance

"Irrespective of one's political perspective, Dr Paisley was undoubtedly a man of immense influence on the contemporary history of this island.

"His early career was characterised by an uncompromising position of a constitutional kind.

"However, his embracing of the change necessary to achieve a discourse that might lead to peace was of immense significance, as was his commitment to building relationships in support of that peace.

"Having sent a representative to my inauguration, Sabina and I were happy to welcome him and Eileen to Áras an Uachtaráin, where he showed great interest in the history of the institution and the building.

"I also had the opportunity to speak with Dr Paisley at his last public engagement in City Hall, Belfast in November of last year."

Irish Prime Minister Enda Kenny

"I had the pleasure of meeting and talking to him in recent years, and I know that he treasured the peace and friendship that he had lived to see, and helped to build, between our traditions.

"His devotion to his faith and to the unionist people of Northern Ireland was deep and unshakeable.

"In time, history will come to a fuller judgment of his long career. And, while he was of course a divisive figure, his greatest legacy will be one of peace."

Former SDLP leader John Hume

"I knew Ian Paisley well throughout our many years in politics and we enjoyed a close working relationship in the European Parliament.

"During this time, Mr Paisley was a larger than life character in Irish politics and a dominant voice within unionism.

"While he was not always constructive, and often politically challenging, he could, on a personal level, be very charming.

"His overstated outbursts often overshadowed the understated constituency work he carried out for the people of North Antrim - who he represented as an MP and an MLA - and the tireless efforts he made on behalf of Northern Ireland as a member of the European Parliament.

"However, history will record his political career as a journey - one which took him from the politics of division to a place where he accepted agreement as a solution, the need for power-sharing and respect for diversity.

"But history will also ask if he should have reached this point sooner.

"Mr Paisley's passing marks the end of an era."

Labour Party leader Ed Miliband

"Dr Paisley was a towering figure in Northern Ireland politics for decades. His decision to take the DUP into a power-sharing partnership with Sinn Féin was the ultimate act of political courage and reconciliation.

"His willingness to work positively with Martin McGuinness was a key element in ensuring continued peace and stability in Northern Ireland.

"My thoughts are with Ian Paisley Jr and the rest of the Paisley family at this very sad time."

Former prime minister Tony Blair

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Image caption Tony Blair said Ian Paisley turned from militant to peacemaker

"Ian was a man of deep convictions. The convictions never changed. But his appreciation of the possibilities of peace, gradually and with much soul-searching, did.

"He began as the militant. He ended as the peacemaker.

"Over time I got to know him well. He could be an uncompromising, even intransigent, opponent. But he was also someone who loved Northern Ireland and its people.

"He led them but he also followed them. When they said to him peace was thinkable, he made it possible."

Former Irish prime minister Bertie Ahern

Image caption Bertie Ahern presented Ian Paisley with a musket at the site of the Battle of the Boyne

"Ian was a big man, he had a big heart.

"In my younger days I found him a very difficult character, but we ended up very good friends. He was a valuable character in the peace process."

Former US President Bill Clinton

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"I was saddened to learn of the death of Ian Paisley, whose 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.

"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."

Ulster Unionist Party leader Mike Nesbitt

"There will be plenty of time to reflect on Ian Paisley's impact on the shaping of the modern Northern Ireland and its relations with our nearest neighbours, but today is a time to give the Paisley household space to mourn.

"My sympathies to Baroness Paisley and the family."

Sinn Féin leader Gerry Adams

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Image caption Gerry Adams said he was shocked and saddened by Mr Paisley's death

"I am shocked and saddened to learn of the death of Dr Ian Paisley.

"There will be plenty of time for political analysis but at this point I wish to extend my deepest sympathies to Ian's wife Eileen and to the Paisley family at this very sad time."

DUP deputy leader Nigel Dodds

"Like so many others, my involvement in politics was sparked by listening to the passion and energy that were the hallmarks of his oratory.

"He was the enduring figure of unionism throughout half a century.

"It is undoubtedly true that we will never see his like again and we are all the poorer for his passing."

SDLP leader Alasdair McDonnell

"I think Ian Paisley was an enigma.

"On the one hand, while he did some crazy things and he said some awful things, and he incited people at times to do things that would have been better not done, at a purely personal level, he had a kind and generous side.

"He was very much an enigma in that sense - the public persona was, in many ways, very much at odds with the personal and family man that he was."

Alliance Party leader David Ford

"Ian Paisley was a dedicated political representative who served the people of North Antrim for over four decades.

"This was a huge period of time working on behalf of his constituents. His passing marks the end of the era, Northern Ireland politics will not be the same following his death.

"Although many of us opposed his actions for many years, he played a key role in getting the Northern Ireland Assembly back on track in 2007 and I commended him for his work and effort in achieving this."

Traditional Unionist Voice leader Jim Allister

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"Whatever my considerable differences with Ian Paisley and strong disapproval of his Stormont legacy of terrorists in government, it is right to acknowledge his many decades of public service to Northern Ireland.

"In his time he was a colossus in the life of Ulster, renowned parliamentarian and gifted preacher. We are unlikely to see his like again."

Former leader of the Catholic Church in Ireland, Cardinal Sean Brady, was the first Catholic leader to meet Mr Paisley

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"He made it quite clear that the meeting was not ecumenical, it was social affairs, political affairs, we were the commission of social affairs and in that context we respected each other.

"It was respectful and I think he listened carefully, and after that he, of course, went on to enter into the power-sharing agreement which has delivered a lot of positive things for this country."

Bishop of Down and Connor, Noel Treanor

"Whilst his historic legacy in terms of his interaction with the Catholic community was at times controversial, his contribution to the search for peace and political stability in Northern Ireland was, in the end, crucial.

"He was a man marked by strong convictions and evangelical zeal, fearless in taking a principled stand on issues such as marriage and the family as well as the sanctity of human life at all stages, matters on which he often expressed his agreement with the Catholic Church.

"Dr Paisley has left an indelible mark on the history of the relationship between the unionist and nationalist traditions on this island. I will hold his family and all those affected by his passing in my prayers at this time of loss."

Former Alliance leader John Cushanan

"While I welcome the fact that he ultimately embraced power-sharing, it was too little too late.

"It should not be used to excuse the pain and suffering that he inflicted on the people of Northern Ireland for the majority of his political life, which was punctuated with nakedly sectarian acts and deeds; and the destruction of many political initiatives and moderate leaders of unionism who were engaged in genuine attempts to bring peace and stability to the province.

"When, as leader of the DUP he agreed to establish a power-sharing executive with Sinn Féin, they were merely re-establishing what had already been in place several decades before - the 1974 Power-Sharing Executive.

"Unfortunately, this courageous and imaginative political experiment was brought down by a combination of increasing IRA violence and the fascist UWC strike led by Ian Paisley and loyalist paramilitaries.

"Tragically, thousands more people were to lose their lives or suffer serious injury before Sinn Féin and the DUP embraced what already been on offer in 1974.

"The belated conversion of both should not result in an attempt to naively rewrite history."

UKIP Northern Ireland leader David McNarry

"The Doc or the Big Man, as he was affectionately known, treated me as a gentleman would, and I am deeply saddened by this news of his death.

"The unionist family will mourn together and grieve for a great man."

Edward Stevenson, Grand Master of the Orange Order in Ireland

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"Throughout his long and distinguished political career, Lord Bannside was a firm supporter and friend of Orangeism.

"He always retained a strong interest in the welfare of the loyal order and its history, as well as that of the independent Orange institution, with which he was more prominently associated."

Northern Ireland Secretary of State Theresa Villiers

"For more than five decades Ian Paisley was a dominant figure in Northern Ireland politics through his booming oratory and enormous personality.

"He was unswerving in his commitment to Northern Ireland's position within the United Kingdom. Yet he was, by his own admission, first and foremost a preacher.

"It is undoubtedly the case that he was often controversial in pursuing his goals. For now, however, it is right that we focus on the contribution he made to the Northern Ireland peace process, particularly in taking his party into government in 2007.

"Parliament has lost one of it great characters."

Scottish National Party leader Alex Salmond

"Ian Paisley's passing will be mourned across these islands. His vital role securing reconciliation across communities leaves lasting legacy."

Shadow Secretary of State Ivan Lewis

"As we reflect on Dr Paisley's remarkable life we are reminded of the enormous progress that has occurred in Northern Ireland since the darkest days of the Troubles.

"Dr Paisley's period as first minister working alongside Martin McGuinness was truly historic and a demonstration of his commitment to moving Northern Ireland towards a shared future."

Northern Ireland Affairs Committee chair Laurence Robertson

"I knew him for about 20 years, and always found him to be easily approachable, friendly and very knowledgeable.

"It is said that timing is everything, and, in the peace negotiations, he knew how long to say no for and when to say yes.

"It was this timing which enabled the peace deal to make progress in Northern Ireland and for devolution to finally take place."

Alastair Campbell, former spokesperson for Tony Blair

"Sad to hear of Ian Paisley's passing. For all the sound and fury he was a remarkable figure and 'Chuckle Brothers' with McGuinness a great moment."

Jonathan Powell, Tony Blair's chief of staff 1997 to 2007

"He did have this transformation in 2004.

"He went into hospital and came out a really rather changed man, both physically and mentally, and he told Tony Blair later that he had had a close encounter with his maker, he'd nearly died and on the back of that he changed his mind.

"He decided he wanted to die as Dr Yes, not as Dr No and when he came out, he was determined to succeed in getting the peace and thereafter he was well ahead of his party.

"He would be in meetings saying yes when the rest of the party were saying no. He was able to deliver them and without him, I'm not at all sure we would have got the St Andrews agreement."

Former secretary of state Shaun Woodward

"Ian was a giant. He loved Northern Ireland with a passion. Truly a great figure in political life. But equally a great man to his family and friends.

"Without his steadfast and dedicated commitment to bringing peace to Northern Ireland, the extraordinary steps - which today hallmark both the peace process and the political process - might never have been made.

"Our politics has truly lost a great statesman and a true public servant."

Former secretary of state Peter Hain

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Media captionPeter Hain: "Paisley was the big man of Northern Ireland politics"

"There were these two faces of Ian Paisley - the very nice decent man in private and then the public image, which was rather different."

Former Irish president, Mary McAleese and Dr Martin McAleese

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"Dr Paisley will be remembered by many people in Northern Ireland as a controversial figure, a political giant and spiritual leader.

"In more recent years when he felt the time was right he became an influential man of peace. His support for peace, reconciliation and power-sharing offered with characteristic commitment and conviction forms an important part of his considerable legacy."

Former US diplomat Dr Richard Haass

"Day to recall/honour Ian Paisley, whose evolution from peace process critic to participant was a historic milestone in Northern Ireland's path toward peace."

UKIP leader Nigel Farage

"Dr Ian Paisley RIP. A good friend to me in my early days in politics. The only man I've shared a platform with who made me feel shy."

George Galloway, Respect Party leader

"Sorry to hear of the death of Rev Ian Paisley.

"May God have mercy upon him and forgive his errors. As a private man he was good and kind."

Commentator Brian Feeney

"He was driven by a burning ambition to be top dog. To run his own church, to run his own party and to run Northern Ireland.

"It was an absolutely burning ambition and, in the end, he achieved all those things.

"I also think that people assume he has this tremendous animus against republicans and people who are his political opponents, and they forget that for many, many years one of Ian Paisley's greatest enemies were the Ulster Unionist Party.

"It was fellow unionists he disagreed with, that he believed were completely wrong and he wanted to supplant them. And, ultimately, he did that in the 2005 general election and took over from the Ulster Unionist Party."

Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby

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"He was a passionate advocate for his community, a parliamentarian who made his presence felt in our national life and a man of deep faith.

"History will remember him for many things but above all for having the courage, when he judged the moment to be right, of taking the difficult but vital steps towards reconciliation."

Rev Peter Murray, President of the Methodist Church in Ireland

"He had a remarkable ability as an orator to speak to the masses and also take a keen interest in the life of the ordinary person on the street.

"In recent years his willingness to take substantial steps towards building a strong working relationship with political opponents helped to build a peace process which we hope will prove to be a lasting legacy to future generations."

Primate of All-Ireland Richard Clarke

"Whereas Lord Bannside's political career was certainly controversial, he will nevertheless be remembered as a fair-minded constituency MP who worked hard for all his constituents.

"The legacy for which he will be most generously remembered will be his work in more recent years in progressing partnership government in the Executive of the Northern Ireland Assembly."

Ann McGregor, chief executive of the Northern Ireland Chamber of Commerce

"It was always a pleasure to work with Dr Paisley, with one of his last public appearances before retirement being at an NI Chamber luncheon in 2008.

"Despite being extremely well known on a world stage, Dr Paisley was a dedicated constituency man.

"He was also a strong supporter of the agricultural and small business sectors. He will be missed."

Eamonn McCann, one of the key voices in the civil rights movement

"What we were aware of was Ian Paisley's relentless hostility towards the civil rights movement.

"He corralled people into two separate camps and gave Protestant people to understand that their entire history, their identity, their sense of themselves, were all under threat from the idea of equal citizenship.

"Of course, you can say that Ian Paisley changed in later years and took a more benign attitude to life and to politics in the north, but really we are still living with the legacy of those years."