By Johnny Caldwell
BBC News website
In the first full-length interview since agreeing to go into power-sharing with Sinn Fein, Ian Paisley says he had no alternative but to do a deal with Sinn Fein "for the good of Northern Ireland".
Ian Paisley was interviewed by the BBC's Stephen Nolan
Speaking to Stephen Nolan for BBC 1's Nolan Live, he says he had many sleepless nights prior to 26 March with things on this mind ranging from the burning of his father's home in Rostrevor by the IRA to "the numerous funerals of innocent victims" he has attended over the years.
But when it came to the crunch, he said he was prepared to "step out of the class of the coward into the class of the man who is prepared to sell himself and his reputation for the sake of this country".
"We were told if we didn't do this then it was going to be curtains for our country," he says.
"How would I have faced my people if I had allowed this country to have the union destroyed and the setting up of a joint government by the south of Ireland?"
Does Mr Paisley still hate "Sinn Fein/IRA"?
"I hate the principles of the IRA and I hate the murders that they carried out, and I hate what they did to innocent people," says Mr Paisley.
What about Gerry Adams, who sat beside Mr Paisley in that already iconic photograph at Stormont - is he still to be considered "an enemy of the Protestant people"?
"I am not in a position to say what his present feeling is at this moment, but we know his policies, and know what they are.
"Now, having said that, there has been a change and in a few days' time the same Mr Adams will stand beside me and he will take an oath that he is going to accept the police force of Northern Ireland."
'Patting me on the back'
And what about working alongside Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness?
"I feel I have a job to do for the people of Ulster, and no matter who is sitting before me, I'm going to do that job by the grace of God.
"The people of Northern Ireland at this time are in a tremendous way supporting me. I never in all my history had more letters, had more calls, had more people came to me.
Earlier, Mr Paisley and Bertie Ahern shook hands in public for the first time
"I've been stopped in the street. When I'm going onto the plane people are patting me on the back and saying 'well done'."
With regards to the so-called 'tap tax', can Mr Paisley as first minister guarantee the people of Northern Ireland that they will never have to pay water rates?
"There will be a solving of this problem if we can achieve what we hope to achieve when we visit the chancellor," the DUP leader says.
"He has already made a stagger at it, but the stagger was not good enough for the simple reason that he was not given the full facts and, of course, people have been paying water rates.
"It seems to me that you shouldn't be asked for water rates twice," he says.
Has Mr Paisley a message for nationalists in Northern Ireland?
"My message to the nationalist people of Northern Ireland: Ian Paisley is not an ogre.
"Ian Paisley in his political work has never at anytime turned a Roman Catholic from his door."
Nolan Live will be screened on BBC1 Northern Ireland on Wednesday at 2240 BST.