Ian Paisley Biography

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Ian Paisley Early Life

Ian Paisley, born 6 April 1926, was probably the most fiery, uncompromising and bellicose Ulster politician throughout the North’s Troubles. But late in life, one of the most turbulent figures in Northern Ireland politics throughout the 20th century underwent a transformation as he agreed to share power with Sinn Féin. In 1979, Ian Paisley is elected as a member of the European Parliament for Northern Ireland, a seat he retains until 2004. Among his most dramatic moments as an MEP came in 1988 when he was physically removed from the chamber for heckling the pope during his address, holding up a sign reading ‘John Paul II Antichrist’. Mr Paisley established the DUP in 1971 after leaving the Protestant Unionist Party. The DUP would go on to become the largest party in the Northern Ireland Assembly and Mr Paisley would become Northern Ireland’s First Minister.

Mr Paisley went from being strongly against the Belfast Agreement in 1998, largely due to Sinn Fein’s inclusion in negotiations, to supporting the 2006 St Andrews Agreement which led to the DUP entering government with Sinn Fein in May 2007.

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Ian Paisley founded the Free Presbyterian Church of Ulster on St. Patrick’s Day, 1951 following a dispute with the Presbyterian Church in Ireland.

Ian Paisley Biography and Profile

Ian Richard Kyle Paisley was born on the 6th of April 1926 in Armagh and was brought up in Ballymena, County Antrim. Ian Richard Kyle Paisley, Baron Bannside PC, was a loyalist politician and Protestant religious leader from Northern Ireland. He became a Protestant evangelical minister in 1946 and remained one for the rest of his life.

The son of a Baptist minister Ian Paisley was born in Lurgan, County Armagh, but later educated at Ballymena Model School, Ballymena Technical High School, South Wales Bible College, and the Reformed Presbyterian Theological College in Belfast. In 1946 Paisley was ordained to the Baptist ministry by his father in a ceremony, “… which took place in the presence of three clergymen (all unorthodox) …” (Marrinan, 1973; p13). In March 1951 Paisley played a central role in the forming of a new church which initially took the name of ‘Crossgar Congregation of the Free Presbyterian Chruch of Ulster’.

Shortly afterwards Paisley was appointed as Moderator of the Free Presbyterian Church. It was through his religious activities, based around a fundamentalist brand of Protestantism, that he first came to public prominence. This was further increased with his condemnations of the growing trend of ecumenism between the other Protestant churches and Catholicism. By the mid 1960s he had also emerged as a vociferous opponent of the unionist political establishment accusing it of seeking to betray the interests of Northern Ireland Protestants by seeking to reach an accommodation with Irish nationalism.

In particular Paisley was to target Captain Terence O’Neill, then Prime Minister of Northern Ireland, and accused him of weakening the constitutional link with Britain on account of the policies being adopted by his government. This opposition was if anything to intensify after the visit of Séan Lemass, then Irish Taoiseach, to Stormont in January 1965 and led Paisley to launch an “O’Neill must go” campaign.

In all these efforts he was also able to utilise the concerns of sections of the unionist community with regards to the emergence of the civil rights movement in Northern Ireland. This led to him establishing two organisations, the Ulster Constitution Defence Committee and Ulster Protestant Volunteers, and these were to be prominent when he began to organise Protestant counter-demonstrations to coincide with civil rights marches.

Although there were later claims that such groups were associated with loyalist paramilitary groups these were accusations that Paisley was always to strongly deny. In one instance in Armagh in November 1968 Paisley’s involvement in one of these protests led to his arrest and he was later to serve six weeks in jail. At the Northern Ireland general election of February 1969 he unsuccessfully challenged O’Neill in his Bannside constituency and although narrowly defeated his strong electoral performance, further weakened the position of the beleaguered Prime Minister.

His growing political influence was further strengthened in 1970 when Paisley first won a seat in the Stormont Parliament at the Bannside by-election of April 1970 (1970-72). In June 1970 at the Westminster he followed this when he was elected the new MP for North Antrim (1970-present). On both occasions he had stood as a representative of the political party he had established, the Protestant Unionist Party (PUP) but in September 1971 joined with other unionist dissidents to help form the (Ulster) Democratic Unionist Party (DUP). In 1973 he assumed the leadership of the DUP (1973-present).

Initially the DUP opposed the Unionist governments of James Chichester-Clark and Brian Faulkner as they sought to introduce measures to address the complaints of the civil rights movement. Then following the suspension of Stormont in March 1972 and the introduction of direct rule from Westminster the DUP joined in the efforts to secure its immediate restoration. When this failed Paisley committed the DUP to work for a return of a legislative assembly for Northern Ireland but rejected any alternative that involved either some form of power-sharing with the minority community or the participation of the Irish government. He therefore led the DUP in both the Northern Ireland Assembly (1973-74), the Constitutional Convention (1975-76) and the Northern Ireland Assembly (1982-86).

Furthermore Paisley had also taken a high profile role in the 1974 Ulster Workers’ Council (UWC) strike which resulted in the collapse of the short lived power-sharing administration. His relationship with other Unionists at times was often fraught and his failed attempt in 1977 to repeat the UWC was widely condemned. In spite of this setback at the election to the European parliament in June 1979 he was to top the poll (a feat he has repeated in 1984, 1989, 1994 and 1999) and took his seat as an MEP (1979-2004).

Throughout the early 1980s the DUP’s electoral contests with the Ulster Unionist Party (UUP) were frequently bitter as both sought to establish themselves as the dominant voice of Northern Unionism. This rivalry was suspended in 1985/86 as both parties combined to organise a campaign of political resistance against the 1985 Anglo-Irish Agreement (AIA). But by the time the AIA was suspended for a period in the early 1990s, to allow for all-party talks involving the Irish government to take place, relations between the two parties were to deteriorate again.

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With the emergence of the ‘Peace Process’ in Northern Ireland Paisley condemned the Downing Street Declaration (DSD) of December 1993 as another in a long line of “sell outs” by the Brtitish government. A similar response greeted the Irish Republican Army (IRA) ceasefire of August 1994 and the DUP voiced its opposition to any attempt to involve representatives of the Republican movement in a fresh round of political talks. In May 1996 however Paisley again led his party in the elections to the Northern Ireland Forum.

After being returned as a member of this new body he agreed to take part in all-party talks in the absence of Sinn Féin (SF) when these got underway in June 1996. The party’s commitment to these negotiations however was tenuous and after pulling out on a number of occasions only later to return, the DUP formally withdrew in the summer of 1997 as moves got underway to involve SF in the process. When this culminated with the signing of the Good Friday Agreement (GFA) in April 1998 he immediately attacked it and campaigned vigorously for a ‘No’ vote in the subsequent referendum campaign in May 1998.

A month later in June 1998 he was elected to the new Northern Ireland Assembly (1998-present) and since then has been at the forefront of the DUP’s ongoing efforts to oppose the GFA. As part of this campaign Paisley and his party again became engaged in a bitter struggle with the UUP. With growing unease amongst sections of the unionist electorate concerning the GFA, this was to ensure that the DUP achieved its best ever result at the Westminster and local government elections of June 2001.

This momentum was maintained at the election to the Northern Ireland assembly in November 2003 when the DUP gained ten seats and won 25.6% of the first preference vote. In January 2004 Paisley announced that he would be standing down as an MEP ahead of the election to the European Parliament in June 2004.

Ian Paisley Timeline

  • Born April 6th 1926. Armagh son of Baptist preacher father and grew up in Ballymena, Co Antrim.
  • March 1951. Paisley forms the fundamentalist Free Presbyterian Church after a split with the main Presbyterian Church over opposition to ecumenism
  • June 1961. Ian Paisley comes to prominence as he leads a protest march against official sympathy messages and flags lowered to half mast for the death of Pope John XXIII
  • April 1970. Paisley is elected as Protestant Unionist Party MP at Stormont for Bannside in a by-election and in June that year he is elected as MP at Stormont for North Antrim
  • 1971.Paisley co-founds the Democratic Unionist Party of which he is leader until 2008.
  • May 1974. The DUP leader leads opposition to the Sunningdale agreement including the loyalist workers strike which causes the collapse of the five-month-old power sharing administration
  • Paisley is elected as a member of the European Parliament for Northern Ireland, a seat he retains until 2004. Among his most dramatic moments as an MEP came in 1988 when he was physically removed from the chamber for heckling the pope during his address, holding up a sign reading ‘John Paul II Antichrist’.
  • December 1985. In protest at the signing of the Anglo-Irish Agreement Ian Paisley resigns his Westminster seat (later re-elected). A month earlier he led an ‘Ulster Says No’ rally against the agreement at Belfast City Hall.
  • Paisley opposed the Good Friday Agreement which eventually ended the Troubles.
  • The DUP becomes the largest political party in the Northern Ireland assembly as David Trimble’s UUP loses out. Ian Paisley claims the Good Friday Agreement was “dead and buried”. The DUP’s dominance continues in 2004 Westminster and 2005 local elections.
  • Despite facing dissent in his party over the St Andrew’s Agreement Dr Paisley signals that he is prepared to enter power with Sinn Féin and that a powersharing agreement was possible in the timeframe set out by the British and Irish governments
  • May 2007. Paisley is appointed Northern Ireland First Minister with Martin McGuinness as Deputy First Minister leading the powersharing Northern Executive after republicans accepted the new PSNI
  • February 2008. A controversy over Dr Paisley employing his son as a researcher while he also worked as an Assembly member and junior minister and questions over his son lobbying for property developer leads to the resignation of Ian Paisley Jnr as minister.
  • May 2008. Paisley steps down as first minister and DUP leader and is succeeded by Peter Robinson.
  • Paisley steps down froom the House of Commons as an MP for North Antrim after 40 years. He was created a life peer as Lord Bannside in the House of Lords
  • January 2011 . Paisley, officially ends 65 years of ministry in a retirement service at the Martyrs Memorial Free Presbyterian Church in south Belfast. He also steps down from the Northern Ireland assembly in this year.

Ian Paiseley’s Death

Paisley was treated in hospital for an unspecified heart problem.September 12th, 2014. Ian Paisley’s death was confirmed by his wife Baroness Eileen Paisley. Ian Paiseley was aged 88.

Ian Paisley Family

Ian Paisley Spouse: Eileen Paisley, Baroness Paisley of St George’s (m. 1956–2014). Ian Paisley Children: Ian Paisley Jr, Rhonda Paisley, Cherith Paisley.

  • Ian Paisley Biography and Profile

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