Page last updated at 05:49 GMT, Friday, 30 May 2008 06:49 UK

Paisley raises 'unionist merger'

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Outgoing DUP leader Ian Paisley speaks to BBC NI's Political Editor Mark Devenport about his role in the peace process.

Outgoing DUP leader Ian Paisley does not think there will be any need for two main unionist parties in the future.

Mr Paisley hands over as DUP leader to Peter Robinson this weekend, and the party is holding a farewell event for him in Belfast on Friday night.

Speaking to the BBC, he said a DUP merger with the Ulster Unionists would be hard to achieve.

However, he thinks the parties should co-operate during election campaigns.

Mr Paisley has led the DUP since its formation in 1971. Mr Robinson has been deputy leader for 28 years, with one short break, and was appointed leader by unanimous decision of the party's assembly group.

BBC NI political editor Mark Devenport said: "On the verge of stepping down as DUP leader, Ian Paisley is in expansive form reflecting on his 40 years in politics.

"Some may see him as the Dr No who became Dr Yes, but he believes his policy has remained the same.

"He describes his decades of protest politics as very important and insists he only struck a deal once republicans met his bottom line on policing, disarmament and the use of violence.

"However, he does concede that a bout of serious ill health in 2004 brought home to him that if he was going to achieve peace he had to do it quickly.

"On the future he reckons Peter Robinson will prove a very good successor. He regards a merger with the Ulster Unionists as hard to achieve, but wants both parties to work together to maximise the unionist vote."

Peter Robinson is due to take over officially as DUP leader on Saturday, but the party is holding a farewell event for Ian Paisley in Belfast on Friday night.

More than 350 people are expected to attend the 100 a head dinner.


SEE ALSO
Robinson to follow Paisley path
14 Apr 08 |  Northern Ireland
Power-sharing will last: Robinson
07 Apr 08 |  Northern Ireland

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