Ian Paisley: Private funeral for former DUP leader

Mr Paisley was buried in County Down after a private service in the family home Image copyright PAcemaker press
Image caption Mr Paisley was buried in County Down after a private service in the family home

Politicians in Northern Ireland have been paying tribute to Ian Paisley, whose funeral has taken place.

Mr Paisley was buried in County Down, following a private funeral service at his family home in east Belfast.

As a mark of respect, assembly business was suspended as MLAs remembered the former first minister and DUP leader.

Mr Paisley, who stepped down from politics in 2008, died on Friday, aged 88.

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Media captionNorthern Ireland Assembly business was suspended as MLAs paid tributes in the chamber

His successor as first minister and DUP leader, Peter Robinson, told MLAs: "Ian Paisley was a remarkable man, whose long career in public life has left an indelible mark upon all of us who knew him.

"Like so many, I was drawn towards politics by the clarity, the certainty, the strength and the conviction of his message."

The first minister said Mr Paisley had "taken his place in the chronicles of Ulster history, alongside the greats of unionism".

'Exceptional'

Mr Robinson added that since his death, politics seemed "a little less colourful and exciting".

"Ulster will never see the like of him again, he was an exceptional human being," he said.

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Image caption Assembly members queued to sign a book of condolence at Stormont

Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness told the assembly that sharing power with Mr Paisley during his first year in office was an "incredible experience" and one of the "most memorable" of his life.

The Sinn Féin MLA said that as a teenager, he remembered being "in fear" of Mr Paisley, because of his "huge stature, his booming voice, his politics that we didn't share or like".

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Media captionFamily friend Rev David McIlveen said the decision was thought out and the family wanted to express its grief in private

However, he said that after they went into government together they "genuinely grew to like each other and in doing so, we confounded the world".

Mr McGuinness said: "From the word go, for some reason, we hit it off. Not alone did we develop a positive and constructive working relationship, we actually became friends."

He added that both he and the Northern Ireland peace process had "lost a great friend" as a result of Mr Paisley's death.

After the tributes, MLAs signed a book of condolence in Stormont's Great Hall - members of the public have also been invited to do so.

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Image caption The union flag was flown at half-mast at Belfast City Hall
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Image caption A book of condolence also opened at Belfast City Hall
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Image caption Sinn Fein leader Gerry Adams was among those who paid tribute to Mr Paisley
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Image caption Mr Adams wrote his message in Irish and English

A book of condolence opened at Belfast City Hall on Monday, where the union flag was flown at half-mast.

A spokeswoman for Belfast City Council said the flag had been displayed under the College of Arms policy.

Mark of respect

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Image caption DUP councillor Lee Reynolds lowers the union flag to half-mast at the party's headquarters

The policy states the flag should fly at half-mast to mark the the funerals of first ministers and ex-first ministers of Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

All DUP constituency offices closed on Monday, as a mark of respect to the party's founder and former leader.

Several books of condolence for Mr Paisley were opened in towns and cities in Northern Ireland on Saturday.

Mr Paisley moved from a political "never man" to Northern Ireland's first minister.

He ended up leading a power-sharing executive at Stormont - although he had supported the strike to bring one down 30 years earlier.

Mr Paisley was a founder of the Free Presbyterian Church in 1951 after a split with the Presbyterian Church - he resigned as as moderator of the Free Presbyterian Church in 2008.

In 2011, he told the congregation at Martyrs Memorial Free Presbyterian Church in south Belfast that he was stepping down from ministry.

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