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Hundreds attend memorial service for Ian Paisley

Hundreds attend memorial service for Ian Paisley

HUNDREDS of people have attended a memorial service for the former politician and preacher Ian Paisley.

Dr. Paisley, or Lord Bannwnside as he later became known, passed away on September 12, at the age of 88.

More than 800 guests attended the Memorial Service which was held in the Ulster Hall in Belfast.

Among those who joined the Paisley family for the service were the Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness, Secretary of State Theresa Villiers, former Irish Premier Bertie Ahern and the Speaker of the House of Commons, John Bercow.

A portrait of Dr. Paisley dominated the stage area of the hall during the Service which included contributions from a members of the Family.

Speaking of her husband, Baroness Paisley, said: "Ian was one of the happiest men on earth. He was happy in his pulpit, in his incredible zest for life, in the three parliaments in which he served, and he rejoiced in the help he could give through these offices to many afficted and persecuted people across the world, securing freedom for quite a number."

Dr. Paisley's twin sons, Ian Jr. and Kyle, both paid tribute to their father. Kyle said the Democratic Unionist Party and the Free Presbyterian Church had reached "their pinnacle" at the point his father left them.

As the service drew to a close, the Reverend David McIlveen, who had early referred to his friend as "a faithful preacher, a people's politician and a distinguished leader", called for a period of silence. This ended with an archive recording of Ian Paisley (speaking at the sod-cutting ceremony for the Martyrs' Memorial Free Presbyterian Church in Belfast in 1971) being played.

A lone piper then accompanied the closing hymn, Amazing Grace.


Dr. Paisley had been a colossal presence in Northern Ireland’s political scene for more than fifty years. He was the hardline politician who went from throwing snowballs at Irish Taoiseach Sean Lamass at Stormont in 1965, to welcoming Taoiseach Bertie Ahern to the same building in 2007.

In his younger days had been the political and religious outsider who went on establish both a political party, the Democratic Unionist Party, and a church — the Free Presbyterians.

During his political career, Dr. Paisley had served both as an M.P. and member of the European Parliament. 

Throughout the Troubles, Dr. Paisley maintained his hardline political stance against numerous attempts to establish power-sharing political bodies. When the Anglo-Irish Agreement was signed in 1985, he launched the Ulster Says No campaign.

At the height of the campaign he delivered his famous Never, Never, Never speech at a rally in Belfast city centre which was attended by a crowd estimated at 250,000.

Critics were to claim that the DUP leader could only ever say ‘No’. But he was to confound his critics in 2006 when he announced his party would enter into power-sharing with his political enemies, Sinn Fein.

This led to Dr. Paisley becoming Northern Ireland’s First Minister with Sinn Fein’s Martin McGuinness as Deputy First Minister. What stunned observers even more was the fact that the pair appeared to get on so well. They were seen laughing together so often that they were dubbed ‘the chuckle brothers’.

After suffering health problems, Dr. Paisley decided to begin his withdrawal from public life. He stepped down as DUP leader and was replaced by his long-time deputy Peter Robinson, who also took over as First Minister.

In 2010 his son, Ian Paisley junior, was elected as MP for North Antrim, the seat his father had held for forty years. He was also replaced as head of the Free Presbyterian Church.

Only months before his death, Dr. Paisley had given what was to be his final major interview. Conducted by the veteran political journalist, Eamonn Mallie, the interview (see below), which was broadcast by the BBC, was to leave some former DUP colleagues reeling from stinging criticism.

Among the many tributes was one from Martin McGuinness who said he had lost a friend. In his statement, the Deputy First Minister said: “I have 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 live in building agreement and leading unionism into a new accommodation with republicans and nationalists.”

Mr. McGuinness added: “In the brief period that we worked together in the Office of the First and Deputy First Minister I developed a close working relationship with him which developed into a friendship, which despite our many differences lasted beyond his term in office.

“I want to send my sincere sympathy to his wife, Eileen, his children and extended family.”

First Minister Peter Robinson also paid tribute. He said: “I don’t think that there’s anyone who has had more influence in Northern Ireland over the years. Even those who thought the least of his politics thought the most of him as a person.”

Prime Minister David Cameron said: “His decision to take his party into government with Sinn Fein in 2007 required great courage and leadership, for which everyone in these islands should be grateful. Ian Paisley will be remembered by many as the ‘Big Man’ of Northern Ireland politics. He will be greatly missed.”

Irish President, Michael Higgins, also paid tribute. He said: “His early career was characterised by an uncompromising position of a constitutional kind. However, the 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.”

Dr. Paisley is survived by his wife Eileen and children Sharon, Rhonda, Cherith, Kyle and Ian. 

View the Death Notice for Dr. Ian Paisley.

View an excerpt from Ian Paisley: Face to Face with Eamonn Mallie

View Dr. Paisley’s farewell speech in Parliament

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