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Last Updated: Friday, 1 February 2008, 14:11 GMT
Ahern visit is new dawn - Paisley
Bertie Ahern and Ian Paisley
Bertie Ahern and Ian Paisley agreed working together is important
Ian Paisley has described Irish Prime Minister Bertie Ahern's historic visit to his constituency of Ballymena as a "good day for Ireland".

The first minister was speaking as he and Mr Ahern toured the Galgorm Resort Hotel and Spa where they discussed how to promote tourism in Ireland.

"It is a good day for the whole of Ireland because we need help from outside," Mr Paisley said.

Mr Ahern said he was honoured to have visited Mr Paisley's heartland.

"I do not believe even a year back it could have been envisaged we would have been together here," Mr Ahern said.

"It is an honour to be here with the first minister to talk about progress."

Bertie Ahern
The leaders gathered around a piano with songwriter Phil Coulter
Both men said it was important that the two parts of the island worked together for their mutual economic benefit.

"Guaranteeing investment and employment is a goal and objective we share and I do not think there is any sector of an economy that cannot grow and gain added value through cooperation," Mr Ahern said.

Earlier, a small number of people held a protest during the tour.

Town councillor Roy Gillespie, a former DUP member, unfurled a Union flag outside, while his wife, Ruby, was asked to leave the meeting after confronting Mr Paisley's wife, Eileen.

Ruby Gillespie
Ruby Gillespie was escorted away from Baroness Paisley
Mr Gillespie left the DUP over its decision to share power with Sinn Fein.

MEP Jim Allister, who also left the DUP in protest, said the "spectacle at Galgorm is yet another manifestation of the dramatic intensification in north/southery which is occurring under devolution".

Last year, Mr Paisley and Mr Ahern visited the site of the 1690 Battle of the Boyne in County Meath.

Mr Ahern and Mr Paisley agreed to the visit after talks in Dublin between the two men.

Ian Paisley and Bertie Ahern in Ballymena

Paisley and Ahern visit 1690 site
11 May 07 |  Northern Ireland
Bertie visits a sign of changed times
08 May 07 |  Northern Ireland
Paisley and Ahern set Boyne date
26 Apr 07 |  Northern Ireland

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