Rev Ian Paisley: Speaker of the Assembly pays tribute to his former leader

Ian Paisley eventually agreed to share government with Sinn Fein, with Martin McGuinness as his Deputy First Minister
Ian Paisley eventually agreed to share government with Sinn Fein, with Martin McGuinness as his Deputy First Minister

DUP MLA for Foyle and Speaker of the Assembly, William Hay has paid tribute to Rev Ian Paisley following his death at the age of 88.

Speaking on BBC Radio Foyle, William Hay said: “My first thoughts are with the entire Paisley family. I have known Ian Paisley for 40 years, not only as a politician but very much as a family friend.

“I have memories of him visiting the city and calling at our home. I can say we will never see his like again. Of course he was well known in the religious world as well. He was associated with our family from the ‘60s. I had known he was ill because when I was appointed to the (House of) Lords I received a call from Baroness Paisley. I asked how Ian was and was told he wasn’t vey well.

“When I was Speaker he would often walk up the corridor and have a cup of tea and a chat and that was Ian Paisley. Today, our first thoughts need to be with the family. But, I remember a very spiritual man, a very kind man if you were in trouble. I knew him on a personal and private level and he was a very thoughtful man.

“He was a larger than life figure - a giant. Unionism needed a voice and he was that voice.

“Politically, he was very forthright. When he made up his mind, that was that. He had total authority, total leadership. Some are born leaders and some have leadership thrust upon them. He was a born leader. I saw that in many, many difficult meetings.

“I will also remember a man of great humour. In private, I saw that coming out continually.”

From a period of complete opposition to dealing with republicans, Rev Paisley came to a point where he shared power with Sinn Fein.

On that point Mr Hay said: “The party felt we had the right deal. It wasn’t perfect, but we felt we could move forward and it could be sold to unionism. His friendship with Martin McGuinness was very genuine. The younger man was very protective of him. I saw that in many meetings with both men. Both men realised, that for Northern Ireland, with difficulty, they had to work together.”