After a tumultuous 40-year career, Ian Paisley bowed out of the House of Commons on Tuesday, announcing he would not stand again in the forthcoming general election, while defending his decision to go into a power-sharing government with Sinn Fein.
The 83-year-old former Northern Ireland First Minister said he had done the deal with Sinn Fein because the public wanted a compromise. He said he had no regrets about entering the power-sharing arrangement with former IRA members.
“After a period of tough negotiations it was my view that, provided our conditions were met, the overwhelming majority of the people of Northern Ireland wanted me to do the deal. It was as simple as that.” The securing of the deal at St. Andrews in 2006 led to Mr. Paisley serving as First Minister and Sinn Fein's Martin McGuinness as Deputy First Minister of Northern Ireland. They were so often pictured together joking, they were nicknamed the “Chuckle Brothers”, which stuck until Mr. Paisley stepped down in 2008. “I believe I showed the leadership required to get the best possible deal in the circumstances,” he said.
The announcement draws to a close the career of a man who dominated Ulster politics throughout the Troubles, as a fundamentalist, firebrand and, latterly, peacemaker. Mr. Paisley was a key player in the Ulster workers' strike of 1974, which brought down the first power-sharing government between unionists and nationalists, and condemned Northern Ireland to decades of political stasis. The move was critical to the formation of the province's present assembly government. However, his influence has waned in recent years amid declining health. — © Guardian Newspapers Limited, 2010