Ian Richard Kyle Paisley (born 6 April 1926), styled The Rt Hon. The Revd Ian Paisley and also known as Dr Ian Paisley, was the First Minister of Northern Ireland until his resignation on 5 June 2008. Paisley is a veteran politician and Protestant church leader in Northern Ireland. As the then leader of the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP), the largest single grouping in the 2007 elections to the Northern Ireland Assembly, he was elected First Minister with Sinn Féin's Martin McGuinness as deputy First Minister on 8 May 2007.
In addition to co-founding and leading the DUP (from 1971 to 2008), he is a founding member and immediate past Moderator of the Free Presbyterian Church of Ulster. Paisley has been a UK Member of Parliament for the constituency of North Antrim since 1970, and is a member of the Northern Ireland Assembly for the same constituency.
In 2005, Paisley's political party became the largest Unionist party in Northern Ireland, displacing his long-term rivals, the Ulster Unionists (UUP), who had dominated Unionist politics in Northern Ireland since the partition of Ireland. Paisley is also an author, lecturer and speaker.
On 4 March 2008 he announced that he would step down as First Minister and leader of the DUP after the US-Northern Ireland Investment Conference in May 2008.. Peter Robinson duly took over as DUP leader on 31 May 2008, and replaced Paisley as First Minister on 5 June 2008.
They have five children, three daughters Sharon, Rhonda and Cherith and twin sons, Kyle and Ian. Three of their children have followed their father into politics or religion: Kyle, into the church; Ian is a DUP assemblyman; and daughter Rhonda a retired DUP councillor and artist. He has a brother, Harold, who currently preaches the Gospel in the United States and Canada.
Following rumours, it was confirmed in July 2004 that Paisley had been undergoing tests for an undisclosed illness and in 2005 Ian Paisley, Jr. confirmed that his father had been gravely ill. Ian Paisley confirmed in 2006 that he had made a full recovery.
In 1946 he was ordained at a ceremony in the independent Ravenhill Evangelical Mission Church on the Ravenhill Road, Belfast. Four ministers from four different denominations performed various roles in the service but some have questioned whether they had ecclesiastical authority from their churches to participate.
In 1988, when Pope John Paul II delivered a speech to the European Parliament, Paisley shouted "I Denounce you as the AntiChrist!" and held up a red poster reading "Pope John Paul II ANTICHRIST" in black letters. John Paul continued with his address after Paisley was ejected from the hemicycle by fellow MEPs. Some reports claimed that other MEPs assisted in expelling him from the chamber , and that Paisley was booed and struck by other MEPs, who also hurled objects at him, leading to his hospitalisation. The elderly Otto von Habsburg helped to wrestle Paisley out of the room. It has been reported that Paisley brought several posters with him and when a poster was snatched away, he immediately re-commenced with a new poster
Paisley continued to denounce the Catholic Church and the Pope after the incident. In a television interview for The Unquiet Man, a 2001 documentary on Paisley's life, he expressed his pride at being the only person to have the courage to denounce the Pope. After the death of Pope John Paul II in 2005, Paisley expressed sympathy for Catholics stating "We can understand how Roman Catholics feel at the death of the Pope and we would want in no way to interfere with their expression of sorrow and grief at this time. This was in contrast to Paisley's reaction to the death of Pope John XXIII in June 1963, when Paisley organised protests against the lowering of flags in public buildings after the death of the Pope .
He has claimed in an article that the seat no. 666 in the European Parliament is reserved for the Antichrist.
He and his organisation have publicly spoken out against what he views to be blasphemy in popular culture, including criticism of the stage productions Jesus Christ Superstar and Jerry Springer: The Opera. On at least one issue, Paisley shares views with his Catholic counterparts: he opposes legal abortion.
Though often at political odds with the Republic of Ireland, he has some religious followers in the Republic. It was specifically in his religious capacity that he first agreed to meet the Taoiseach, Bertie Ahern. Paisley revised this stance in September 2004, when he agreed to meet Ahern in his political capacity as leader of the Democratic Unionist Party. Known for a sense of humour, at an early meeting with Ahern at the Irish embassy in London, Paisley requested breakfast and asked for boiled eggs; when Ahern asked him why he had wanted boiled eggs, Paisley quipped "it would be hard for you to poison them", much to Ahern's amusement.
Paisley, an ardent teetotaller all his life, has sometimes asked journalists and nationalist politicians "let me smell your breath" when they asked him tough questions, insinuating that they had taken on board some alcohol, or "devil's buttermilk" as he often puts it.
Even though no IRA threat materialised in Belfast, and despite it becoming clear that the IRA's activities during the Border Campaign were to be limited to the border areas, Ulster Protestant Action remained in being (the UPA was to later become the Protestant Unionist Party in 1966). Factory and workplace branches were formed under the UPA, including one by Paisley in Belfast's Ravenhill area under his direct control. The concern of the UPA increasingly came to focus on the defence of 'Bible Protestantism' and Protestant interests where jobs and housing were concerned. As Paisley came to dominate Ulster Protestant Action, he received his first convictions for public order offences. In June 1959, a major riot occurred on the Shankill Road in Belfast following a rally at which he had spoken.
In 1969, he was jailed along with Ronald Bunting for organising an illegal counter-demonstration against a Northern Ireland Civil Rights Association march in Armagh. He was released during a general amnesty for people convicted of political offenses.
Paisley easily retained his seat in every European election until he stood down in 2004, receiving the highest popular vote of any British MEP (although as Northern Ireland uses a different electoral system to Great Britain for European elections, the figures are not strictly comparable).
The DUP has been elected to each of the Northern Ireland conventions and assemblies set up since the party's creation. For a long time it was the principal challenger to the major unionist party, the Ulster Unionist Party (known for a time in the 1970s and 1980s as the Official Unionist Party (OUP) to distinguish it from the then multitude of other unionist parties, some set up by deposed former leaders).
In the 2003 Northern Ireland Assembly elections, the DUP overtook the UUP to become the largest party in Northern Ireland, achieving thirty seats to the UUP's twenty-seven, and in the 2005 UK General Election, achieving almost twice their vote share and taking nine seats to the UUP's one (successfully unseating then UUP leader David Trimble) and becoming the fourth largest party in the British House of Commons.
In April 1977, Paisley famously declared he would retire from politics if a forthcoming United Unionist Action Council general strike was unsuccessful. The strike failed, but Paisley did not keep the promise.
In December 1981 the United States State Department revoked his visa, citing his "divisive rhetoric".
A rally of protesters, estimated between 100,000 and 200,000 people (depending on which source), met in front of Belfast City Hall after a campaign dubbed after its slogan "Ulster Says No". The rally, which was addressed by Paisley and then UUP leader James Molyneaux, passed off peacefully but was ignored by the government. On 9 December 1986, Paisley was once again ejected from the European Parliament for continually interrupting a speech by Mrs Thatcher.
In 1985, he and the rest of the Unionist MPs resigned from Parliament at Westminster in protest at the Anglo-Irish Agreement and were, all but one (Jim Nicholson, who lost his seat to the Social Democratic and Labour Party's Seamus Mallon), returned in the resulting by-elections.
In 1995, he played a part in the Drumcree conflict over marching at Drumcree, County Armagh between the Orange Order and local residents of the Garvaghy Road. The march passed off after the decision was made by the Royal Ulster Constabulary (RUC) to allow it and Paisley ended the march hand in hand with David Trimble who appeared to perform a "Victory Jig". This "Victory Jig" was seen by some as an act of triumphalism.
Although Paisley often stresses his loyalty to the Crown, he accused Queen Elizabeth of being Tony Blair's "parrot" when she voiced approval of the Agreement. The claim is reflective of the current custom in the United Kingdom of the Monarch reflecting the position of the government, never publicly contradicting official government policy.
As part of the deal, the Republic altered the controversial Articles 2 and 3 of the Constitution of Ireland, which had originally claimed its government's de jure right to govern the whole island of Ireland, including Northern Ireland.
The DUP fought the resulting election to the Northern Ireland Assembly, to which Paisley was elected, while keeping his seats in the Westminster and European parliaments. The DUP took two seats in the multi-party power-sharing executive (Paisley, like the leaders of the Social Democratic and Labour Party and Sinn Féin chose not to become a minister) but those DUP members serving as ministers (Peter Robinson and Nigel Dodds) refused to attend meetings of the Executive Committee (cabinet) in protest at Sinn Féin's participation.
Having spent most of his career, as he himself jokingly admitted once, saying 'No', Paisley assumed the chairmanship of the Agriculture committee of the Northern Ireland Assembly created by the Belfast Agreement, where he was praised (even by Sinn Féin members with whom he worked) as an effective, coordinating chairman. The Minister for Agriculture, Nationalist SDLP's Bríd Rodgers, remarked that she and Paisley had a "workmanlike" relationship.
During fresh elections in 2003 Paisley and the DUP campaigned on the need for re-negotiation of the Belfast Agreement and emerged from the elections as the leading party entitled to the position of First Minister with Sinn Féin entitled to the Deputy First minister position. Progress could now only be achieved with Paisleys agreement. He refused to accept Sinn Féin in Government without further progress, and the British Government maintained the suspensions of the institutions.
Paisley and the DUP entered negotiations with the Governments and the other parties on the steps required and the changes needed to the Belfast Agreement. The December 2004 Comprehensive Agreement upheld the principles of the Belfast Agreement but foundered on the DUP demand for photographic evidence of IRA decommissioning. Following IRA disarmament in September 2005, the Governments set deadlines for the DUP and Sinn Féin to agree on a new Executive, with the alternative being direct rule from London.
In the October 2006 St Andrews Agreement, agreed on his fiftieth wedding anniversary, Paisley and the DUP agreed to new elections, and support for a new executive including Sinn Féin subject to Sinn Féin acceptance of the Police Service of Northern Ireland. This reversed decades of Paisley opposition to Sinn Féin such as his comments on 12 July 2006 in Portrush, following Orange Order parades when he said, "[Sinn Fein] are not fit to be in partnership with decent people. They are not fit to be in the government of Northern Ireland and it will be over our dead bodies if they ever get there.
Sinn Féin did endorse the PSNI, and in the subsequent election Paisley and the DUP received an increased share of the vote and increased their assembly seats from 30 to 36. On Monday 26 March 2007, the date of the British Government deadline for devolution or dissolution, Paisley led a DUP delegation to a meeting with a Sinn Féin delegation led by Gerry Adams which agreed on a DUP proposal that the executive would be established on 8 May. Later in April, Paisley met in Dublin with Taoiseach Bertie Ahern and publicly shook his hand, something Paisley had refused to do until there was peace in Northern Ireland.
On 8 May power was devolved, the Assembly met, and Paisley was elected as First Minister of Northern Ireland with Sinn Féin's Martin McGuinness as the deputy First Minister. Speaking at Stormont to an invited international audience he said, "Today at long last we are starting upon the road — I emphasise starting — which I believe will take us to lasting peace in our province. Paisley and McGuinness subsequently established a good working relationship and were dubbed by the Northern Irish media as the "Chuckle Brothers.
However, he again retained his North Antrim seat in the 2005 UK general election. In 2005, Paisley was made a Privy Councillor, an appointment traditionally bestowed upon the leader of the fourth largest political party in the British Parliament. In 2007, aged 81, he became First Minister of Northern Ireland. Upon the death of Piara Khabra in June 2007, Paisley became the oldest sitting British MP. In September 2007, he confirmed that he would contest North Antrim at the next General Election as well as serving the full four years as first minister stating "I might as well make hay while the sun shines.
Following his January 2008 retirement as a religious leader and pressure from party insiders, on 4 March 2008 Ian Paisley announced that he will stand down as DUP leader and First Minister of Northern Ireland in May 2008. On 17 April, Peter Robinson was elected unopposed as his successor.
British Government papers released in 2002, show that in 1971 Paisley attempted to reach a compromise with the nationalist Social Democratic and Labour Party (SDLP). The attempt was made via then British Cabinet Secretary, Sir Burke Trend. The papers show that Paisley had indicated he could "reach an accommodation with leaders of the Catholic minority, which would provide the basis of a new government in Stormont." It appears that the move was rejected once it became clear to the SDLP that the deal would favour the unionist majority. Speaking about the deal in 2002 Paisley said:
The SDLP did not want to go along the road that we would have wanted them to go. I wouldn't say there were talks, there was an exchange of views between us, but it never got anywhere. We were prepared to try and seek a way whereby we could govern Northern Ireland and that people of both faiths could be happy with the way it was being governed, but it all rested on the key point — the person with power would be the person that the people gave the power.
Though their parties are often at loggerheads, Hume and Paisley worked jointly on behalf of Northern Ireland in the European Parliament and on occasion worked jointly in the House of Commons. Indeed the complexity of their relationship was demonstrated when it was discovered that Hume had visited Paisley's home to dine with Ian and his wife, Eileen, on Boxing Day (26 December) one year in the 1990s.
John Hume tells the story of the occasion when he said to Ian Paisley, "Ian, if the word 'no' were to be removed from the English language, you'd be speechless, wouldn't you!" Paisley replied, "No, I wouldn't!
To his opponents however, including some unionists, Paisley is seen as a demagogue, a crude rabble-rouser who spent his political career saying 'no' and being passed by; "no" to O'Neill's reform, "no" to contacts with the Republic, "no" to Sunningdale, "no" to the convention, "no" to James Prior's rolling devolution, "no" to the Anglo-Irish Agreement, "no" to the Belfast Agreement. By them he is seen as a uniquely destructive influence whose extremism lost potential friends and helped alienate people outside Northern Ireland sympathetic to unionism. Paisley has never accepted any culpability for any violence, despite his many fiery speeches, which often presented the political conflict in stark Biblical terms as a millenarian battle between good and evil (see Historicism).
In September 2005, he was criticised for stoking unionist violence in Belfast over the 75-metre diversion of a provocative Orange Order march along a thoroughfare serving as a boundary between nationalist and unionist communities. Quoted by The Guardian newspaper, he called the diversion "the spark which kindles a fire there could be no putting out". Widespread loyalist riots followed, producing, among other results, what Northern Ireland secretary Peter Hain called "serious attempts to kill police in some instances".