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BBC News Front Page | World | In depth | Northern Ireland

The search for peace
Ian Paisley
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• Loyalist splinter threat
• Marching and parades

Ian Paisley
• Sunningdale Agreement
• Anglo-Irish Agreement
• Peace talks
• Good Friday Agreement
• Drumcree

• DUP

Events Parties and paramilitaries
Piece together the puzzle of the Northern Ireland conflict by clicking the related subjects above.


• Ian Paisley on Sunningdale
• Ian Paisley on peace talks
• Ian Paisley on the Good Friday Agreement

Ian Paisley

For more than three decades, Ian Paisley has been a towering figure on Northern Ireland's political stage.

A half century after he first emerged, Mr Paisley's determination to resist any compromise which might, in his view, weaken Northern Ireland's position within the United Kingdom has remained absolute.

His politics and religious beliefs are inextricably linked and the Free Presbyterian Church, which he founded in 1951, remains the cornerstone.

Mr Paisleys large stature and booming voice first attracted major public attention in 1963 when he organised a protest march against the decision to lower the union flag at Belfast City Hall to mark the death of Pope John.

A year later, he threatened to tear down an Irish Tricolour displayed in a Belfast Sinn Fein office, if the authorities did not remove it first.

The authorities attempted to prevent the Paisley march. But in removing the flag themselves, they sparked the worst riot that Belfast had witnessed in decades.

Fierce opposition to the Catholic Church combined with a determination to resist the cause of Irish nationalism has always been the cornerstone of Mr Paisley's beliefs.

He was elected an MP in 1970, and an MEP in 1979 and he has used the positions to launch public denunciations and accusations of betrayal against anyone who he regards as an enemy of Protestant Ulster.

In the 1960s, the reform-minded Ulster Unionist Prime Minister Terence O'Neil was berated as a traitor to the unionist cause.

In later years, when direct rule was imposed from London, successive secretaries of state for Northern Ireland have endured his wrath.

Mr Paisley resisted any agreement that he believed would extend the influence of the Irish Republic into the affairs of Northern Ireland.

He opposed the 1973 Sunningdale Agreement and was a key player in the Ulster Workers' Strike which brought down the subsequent but short-lived power-sharing administration.

He also resisted the Anglo-Irish Agreement in 1985 and led the campaign against the Good Friday Agreement. This is the position he holds to this day.

He is fiercely opposed to any attempt to let Sinn Fein, the IRA's political wing, take up ministerial posts, or to set up cross-border bodies between Northern Ireland and the Irish Republic.

To that end, he is officially opposed to the Northern Ireland Assembly - but has refused to pass to others the two assembly posts his party is entitled to hold.

While he tells the electorate that he will have no truck with Sinn Fein, his critics say that he appears relaxed with his own party enjoying the trappings of shared power in the administration.

But those who have sought to write him off time and time again have perhaps reckoned without his political staying power.

Interviewed by Peter Taylor for his BBC series and book, Loyalists, Mr Paisley rejected all criticism that had ever been levelled against him, everything from being the immovable face of unionism to the mouthpiece of sectarianism.

"All I can say is that Ill not be changing," he said. "I will go to the grave with the convictions I have."

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