Ian Paisley: Former NI leader 'cast influential shadow'

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Media captionIan Paisley's widow Eileen and two sons Ian and Kyle paid tribute to him at a memorial service in Belfast

Former first minister Ian Paisley "cast an influential shadow over three generations", guests at his memorial service have heard.

Mr Paisley, the founder of the Democratic Unionist Party, died on 12 September at the age of 88.

More than 800 people joined his widow, Eileen, and his family at a special service at the Ulster Hall on Sunday.

They heard Rev David McIlveen call him "a faithful preacher, a people's politician and a distinguished leader".

Mr McIlveen told guests: "Dr Paisley's life has cast an influential shadow over at least three generations: as a faithful preacher of God's word, as a people's politician and as a distinguished leader in church and state."

Baroness Paisley said that her 58-year marriage was "not a dictatorship, but a partnership".

"Ian was often referred to as 'the big man', and he was certainly that! He was a big man with a big heart," she 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 afflicted and persecuted people across the world, securing freedom for quite a number."

Image copyright Kelvin Boyes / Press Eye
Image caption Eileen Paisley with her sons Kyle and Ian at the service

His son, Ian jr, said that his father spoke plainly.

"We have a letter that dad received from John Major, who, when he was prime minister, had written to dad asking for some answers to particular issues during the early days of the peace process," he said.

"Other politicians were clearly being obtuse in their answers. The reply dad sent was clear.

"John Major's response was a gem. He wrote: 'I receive a lot of correspondence from colleagues and it's not always clear what they are demanding or concerned about. With certainty, I can say this is not the case with you. I never need to ask my officials: 'What does Ian really mean?' "

Ian jr said his father was "a minister with a pastor's heart, and a politician with a servant's heart".

He said the family had received thousands of cards and letters after his father's death.

Kyle Paisley also spoke about his father as a pastor, leader and father.

He said the Free Presbyterian Church and the Democratic Unionist Party "reached their pinnacle at the point Ian Paisley left them".

Image copyright Kelvin Boyes / Press Eye
Image caption The memorial service was held at the Ulster Hall

Among the guests at the service were Northern Ireland's first and deputy first ministers Peter Robinson and Martin McGuinness and Secretary of State Theresa Villiers.

Also attending were former Irish prime minister Bertie Ahern and Scottish First Minister Alex Salmond.

More than 860 people accepted invitations for the service including relatives, friends and both nationalist and unionist politicians.

The ceremony concluded with a minute's silence broken by a recording of the former first minister's voice, quoting from the hymn, Amazing Grace.

Mr Paisley was one of the best-known, most controversial and longest-serving figures in British politics.

He was a preacher who founded his own church and later his own political party.

The hard-line unionist leader was famous for his opposition to Irish republicanism and any involvement of the Republic of Ireland in Northern Ireland's affairs.

In 2007, after decades of opposing power-sharing agreements, he entered government with his former enemies, Sinn Féin.

The Paisley family said that attendance at the event was by invitation only "due to the overwhelming numbers of those wishing to attend".

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