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Last Updated: Friday, 21 October 2005, 15:57 GMT 16:57 UK
DUP leader to join privy council
DUP leader Ian Paisley
DUP leader Ian Paisley is joining the privy council
Democratic Unionist Party leader Ian Paisley is to be appointed to the Privy Council, Downing Street has announced.

The council officially advises the Queen, but is largely ceremonial and has not met in full for 50 years.

Appointment is for life, but only ministers of state participate in its policy work.

"The Queen has been pleased to approve Ian Paisley be sworn of Her Majesty's most honourable Privy Council," a Downing Street statement said.

The DUP leader is entitled to the status as the leader of the fourth largest political party in Parliament.

The party welcomed the news, with the DUP's deputy leader, Peter Robinson, saying the distinction was "greatly deserved" and recognised the changes in Northern Ireland politics.

Queen Elizabeth II
The Privy Council advises the Queen

"Ian has attained the respect and support of the people of Northern Ireland precisely because he has not compromised his principles," he said.

Ulster Unionist leader Sir Reg Empey has also sent his congratulations to Mr Paisley.

"The announcement is recognition of Dr Paisley's long service in parliament and to the people of North Antrim. I wish him well in his new role," he said.

Other Northern Ireland members of the Privy Council include Lord Molyneaux and David Trimble.

The Privy Council dates back to the earliest days of the monarchy, when it comprised those appointed by the King or Queen to advise on matters of state.

Right honourable

There are about 530 members and meetings of the council are held at royal palaces.

Traditionally, the Privy Council was a body of advisers to the British Sovereign.

As the power of the monarch declined the cabinet replaced the council as the senior decision-making body.

The council's duties are now largely formal and ceremonial.

The full council only comes together on two occasions: when the monarch dies and the council proclaims the accession of their heir; and when a monarch intends to marry.

Membership of the Privy Council brings with it the right to be called "Right Honourable".

So what is the Privy Council?
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