Ian Paisley retires after 40 years
BELFAST (Reuters) - Ian Paisley, the firebrand protestant who played a central role in Northern Ireland politics through decades of violence and the peace process that followed, announced his retirement on Tuesday.
As the leading light of hardline unionists, for years opposed to making concessions to nationalists, Paisley became first minister in Northern Ireland's devolved government in 2007, sharing power with former foes.
His unlikely friendship with Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness, a former member of the armed nationalist group the IRA, earned the pair the nick-name "the chuckle brothers."
Paisley's decision not to stand for re-election to parliament in Westminster, where he is one of Britain's longest serving MPs, opens the way for his son, also named Ian Paisley to take a leading role in the province's politics.
The 83-year-old, who stepped down as first minister in June 2008, announced his retirement in his local newspaper, the Ballymena Guardian.
Paisley junior, a member of the Northern Ireland Assembly, said he did not want to pre-empt a meeting on Monday of the Democratic Unionist Party to select a new candidate for his father's seat, ahead of a general election that must happen by June.
"This is the end of a significant era in British politics and Ian Paisley has left a giant footprint to fill," Paisley junior said.
"I would want to pay tribute to the fantastic role my father has played as member of parliament for the last 40 years."
At the 2005 general election Paisley polled 25,156 votes, giving him a majority of almost 18,000.
(Reporting by Ian Graham; editing by Barbara Lewis and Robin Pomeroy)
- Tweet this
- Share this
- Digg this