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Last Updated: Saturday, 8 September 2007, 08:53 GMT 09:53 UK
Paisley to step down as moderator
Ian Paisley (r) and Peter Hain (l)
There were concerns over Ian Paisley's dual role
Northern Ireland's First Minister Ian Paisley will step down as Free Presbyterian Moderator in January.

The decision came after a five hour meeting in Belfast on Friday night involving church elders and ministers.

On the agenda was a presbytery commissioned-report which dealt in part with concerns over Ian Paisley's dual role as first minister and moderator.

It was also expected to hold elections for moderator and other offices, but this will now happen next year.

"It was agreed by an overwhelming majority of members that all presbytery offices remain as at present for the remainder of this calendar year," read a prepared statement.

"In January all offices will be vacated. Dr Paisley has indicated that he will not be standing for the office of moderator of presbytery."

Protest

The meeting had earlier been picketed by protesters who are unhappy about the DUP leader's decision to share power with Sinn Fein.

Mr Paisley has been elected moderator of the Free Presbyterian Church every year except one since he founded the church over half a century ago.

Meanwhile, the Secretary of State Shaun Woodward has said he is not convinced that opposition within the Free Presbyterian Church would damage the stability of the power-sharing executive at Stormont.

Interviewed for Radio Ulster's Inside Politics programme, Mr Woodward argued that the vast majority of voters continue to support Mr Paisley's political partnership with Martin McGuinness.




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