Former Northern Irish First Minister the Reverend Ian Paisley has died.
Paisley was one of the most significant figures in Northern Irish politics over many decades, and was widely regarded as one of the most controversial and divisive figures in the province’s recent history.
A staunch Unionist, Paisley broke away from the mainstream Ulster Unionist Party and formed the more hardline Democratic Unionist Party in 1971, at the height of the so-called “troubles” – a period of heavy violence between Northern Ireland’s Catholic and Protestant communities.
He had already founded his own protestant denomination, the Free Presbyterian Church of Northern Ireland, in 1951, serving as Moderator until 2008.
He was a staunch opponent of all negotiations and agreements with Irish nationalists, however he eventually softened his approach.
Following the Good Friday peace agreement of 1998, the electoral fortunes of the UUP went into decline, with Paisley’s DUP eventually supplanting it as the main Unionist party. In 2007, he achieved what would have seemed impossible just a decade earlier by reaching an agreement to share power with the hard line nationalist Sinn Féin party.
Upon his retirement from front-line politics, he was awarded a peerage and sat in the British House of Lords as Lord Bannside.
Breitbart London understands that he was unwell for some time and recently stopped being able to leave the house.
His wife, Eileen, has released a statement saying: “My beloved husband Ian this morning entered his eternal rest,” and adding that his funeral will be private and attended only by immediate family.
In a tweet that would have seemed extraordinary at the height of Northern Ireland’s troubles, nationalist leader Martin McGuinness wrote:
Very sad to learn that Ian Paisley has died.My deepest sympathy to his wife Eileen & family.Once political opponents – I have lost a friend.
— Martin McGuinness (@M_McGuinness_SF) September 12, 2014
Labour leader Ed Miliband has also paid tribute to Paisley, calling him a “formidable politician”.
He is survived by his wife and five children, one of whom, Ian Paisley Jr, is currently MP for North Antrim.