Ian Paisley able to communicate 'to some degree'

Ian Paisley Ian Paisley was taken ill on Sunday

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Northern Ireland's first and deputy first minister have called on the community to give "prayerful support" to Ian Paisley and his family.

The former DUP leader was admitted to hospital on Sunday with heart problems.

His family remain at his bedside in the Ulster Hospital at Dundonald.

Jim Flanagan, editor of the Ballymena Guardian, who has spoken to close family friends, said Mr Paisley had been able to communicate "to some degree" with family members.

Speaking to the Evening Extra programme on Tuesday, he said he understood Mr Paisley had "a reasonable night" in hospital on Monday.

While it is believed Mr Paisley is being treated for a heart condition, Mr Flanagan said he understood he had not suffered a heart attack.

In a statement on Tuesday afternoon, Northern Ireland's first and deputy first ministers, Peter Robinson and Martin McGuinness, said they had been in contact with the Paisley family.

They offered their best wishes to Mr Paisley and his family and called on the community to "give prayerful support to Ian and his family at this time".

"The first minister and the deputy first minister would appeal for the Paisley family to be given the space and privacy they deserve and that their wishes are respected," they said.

"There will be no further commentary from the Office of the First Minister and Deputy First Minister at this time."

Earlier, Ian Paisley Junior told the BBC he spent the night at the hospital but did not elaborate on his father's condition.

DUP MLA Jonathan Craig told Good Morning Ulster that he was praying for the Paisley family.

"As a party leader and a friend he has touched not only myself, but four generations of my family have sat under his ministry," he said.

"We are deeply worried and concerned and our thoughts and prayers are with the Paisley family at this time."

Baroness Paisley released a statement on Monday confirming that her husband is being treated in the Ulster Hospital.

She requested that the family's privacy is respected at a difficult time.

In February of last year, Mr Paisley was fitted with a pacemaker after falling ill at a House of Lords meeting.

At the end of last month, more than 3,000 people gathered to hear him preach his farewell service at Martyrs' Memorial Church in east Belfast.

The service marked the official end of his six decades of full-time ministry.

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