Page last updated at 08:16 GMT, Tuesday, 6 April 2010 09:16 UK

Three MPs bidding farewell to Westminster

Three Northern Ireland MPs, all familiar faces on the political scene, will not be standing again in the upcoming general election.

DUP veteran politician Ian Paisley will not be fighting the North Antrim seat, the SDLP's Eddie McGrady is not standing in South Down and the DUP's Iris Robinson has stepped down in Strangford. BBC News looks back at their careers.

SOCIAL DEMOCRATIC AND LABOUR PARTY'S EDDIE McGRADY

SDLP's Eddie McGrady

South Down MP Eddie McGrady is stepping down from the seat he has represented at Westminster since 1987.

In February, the 74-year-old said that after 50 years as a councillor, assembly member and MP he had "recently" decided it was time to step down.

At the time, Mr McGrady said: "I have spent 23 years as an MP representing all the people of South Down and democratic Irish nationalism in the House of Commons.

"I know if SDLP leaders had not been there to challenge the British Government, to act in the interests of the Irish people, nationalists and unionists, and to demand justice and equality for all we would not have peace and no prospect of a better future."

Mr McGrady won the seat in the 1987 general election when he beat the sitting MP, Enoch Powell, by less than a thousand votes.

In the last general election in 2005, Mr McGrady polled 21,557 votes (44.7%).

Mr McGrady was first elected to Downpatrick Urban Council in 1961.

As well as Westminster, where he has been his party's chief whip since 1988, Mr McGrady was elected to the New Ireland Forum in 1984 and served in the Northern Ireland Assembly between 1998 and 2003.

DEMOCRATIC UNIONIST PARTY'S IAN PAISLEY

DUP's Ian Paisley

The former Democratic Unionist Party leader Ian Paisley, 83, has been an MP since 1970.

In March, Mr Paisley announced he would not seek re-election to Parliament.

The decision by the member for North Antrim signals the end of a 40 year role at Westminster.

Mr Paisley was first elected in April 1970 to the old Stormont parliament and then, in the same year, to Westminster.

During the following decades, he has been centre stage in Northern Ireland politics.

In recent years, he has stepped down from senior positions in politics and in his Free Presbyterian Church.

Mr Paisley stood down as Northern Ireland first minister in 2008.

At the last general election in 2005, Mr Paisley polled 25,156 votes, giving him a majority of nearly 18,000.

In March, Mr Paisley told the Ballymena Guardian he had "no regrets" about deciding to share power with Sinn Fein in 2007.

"After a period of tough negotiations it was my view that, provided our conditions were met, the overwhelming majority of the people of Northern Ireland wanted me to do the deal, it was as simple as that," he said.

Mr Paisley said he was saddened that some DUP members had quit in protest, adding: "I believe I showed the leadership required to get the best possible deal in the circumstances."

He first came to international prominence in the late 1960s as a hardliner and political firebrand but mellowed in recent years.

After the DUP and Sinn Fein agreed to share power in 2007, Mr Paisley formed an unlikely friendship with his former enemy Martin McGuinness of Sinn Fein.

DEMOCRATIC UNIONIST PARTY'S IRIS ROBINSON

Iris Robinson

The DUP's Iris Robinson said she was quitting politics in December 2009 after admitting she was battling mental illness.

The MP for Strangford's decision to step down from the seat came against a backdrop of an intense media spotlight on her private and public life.

A BBC Spotlight programme said she acted illegally over deals connected to a business being run by a man with whom she was having an affair.

The programme said she obtained £50,000 from two property developers for a business venture for her 19-year-old lover.

It was alleged that she failed to register the money, from two developers, at Stormont or Westminster.

Iris Robinson had been the MP for Strangford since 2001. In the 2005 general election, she polled 20,921 votes, (56.49%).

Mrs Robinson was elected to the Northern Ireland Assembly in 1998.

She was the party's health spokesman and chaired the Assembly Health Committee from 2007.

But it was to be in June 2008 that saw her embroiled in a major controversy over her beliefs about homosexuality.

Speaking on a BBC radio programme she described homosexuality as an "abomination" and that with help, gay people could be "turned around".

An online petition calling for Prime Minister Gordon Brown to reprimand Mrs Robinson gathered 16,000 signatures.

Mrs Robinson, a member of the Metropolitan Tabernacle Church in Belfast, defended her remarks claiming she aired them in the wrong environment before saying "love the sinner, not the sin".

Further controversy followed when the Westminster MPs expenses scandal broke.

Mrs Robinson described the reporting of the story as "a witch hunt" which almost led to her leaving politics.

In an interview with the News Letter, she said the reporting of her and her husband's salaries and expenses was "totally wrong in most cases".



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