ENG: Ian Richard Kyle Paisley MLA (born 6 April 1926) is a politician and church minister in Northern Ireland. As the leader of the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP), the largest single grouping in the 2007 elections to the Northern Ireland Assembly, he was elected First Minister with Sinn Féin's Martin McGuinness as deputy First Minister on 8 May 2007.
In addition to co-founding the DUP and leading it from 1971 to 2008, he is a founding member and immediate past Moderator of the Free Presbyterian Church of Ulster. Paisley was UK Member of Parliament for the constituency of North Antrim from 1970 until 2010, and is a member of the Northern Ireland Assembly for the same constituency.
He is regarded as having encouraged sectarianism with his anti-Catholicism.
In 2005, Paisley's political party became the largest Unionist party in Northern Ireland, displacing his long-term rivals, the Ulster Unionists (UUP), who had dominated Unionist politics in Northern Ireland since the partition of Ireland. Paisley is also an author and speaker.
On 4 March 2008 he announced that he would step down as First Minister and leader of the DUP after the US-Northern Ireland Investment Conference in May 2008. Peter Robinson duly took over as DUP leader on 31 May 2008, and replaced Paisley as First Minister on 5 June 2008. On the 28 May 2010 it was announced that Paisley was to be made a peer in the Dissolution Honours List.
Ian Paisley was born in Armagh, County Armagh and brought up in the town of Ballymena, County Antrim, where his father James Kyle Paisley was an Independent Baptist pastor.
The senior Paisley had served in the Ulster Volunteers under Edward Carson.
He married Eileen Cassells on 13 October 1956. They have five children, three daughters Sharon, Rhonda and Cherith and twin sons, Kyle and Ian. Three of their children have followed their father into politics or religion: Kyle, into the church; Ian is a DUP assemblyman; and daughter Rhonda a retired DUP councillor and artist. He has a brother, Harold, who currently preaches in the United States and Canada.
Following rumours, it was confirmed in July 2004 that Paisley had been undergoing tests for an undisclosed illness and in 2005 Ian Paisley, Jr. confirmed that his father had been gravely ill.
Ian Paisley confirmed in 2006 that he had made a full recovery.
Electoral success and the DUP foundation
In the 1970 UK general election Paisley was elected the member of Parliament (MP) for the North Antrim constituency. He retained this seat until he stood down before the 2010 UK general election when he was succeeded by his son, Ian Junior. In 1971 Paisley and Desmond Boal established the most successful and longest lasting of his political movements, the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP), which replaced his Protestant Unionist Party. It soon won seats at local council, provincial, national and European level; Paisley was elected one of Northern Ireland's three Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) at the first elections to the Brussels and Strasbourg-based European Parliament in 1979, holding a rare, triple mandate, as an MEP, an MP, and a Member of the Legislative Assembly (MLA). On his first day he attempted to interrupt the then President of the European Council Jack Lynch, Taoiseach of Ireland, but was shouted down by fellow MEPs.
Paisley easily retained his seat in every European election until he stood down in 2004, receiving the highest popular vote of any British MEP (although as Northern Ireland uses a different electoral system to Great Britain for European elections, the figures are not strictly comparable).
The DUP has been elected to each of the Northern Ireland conventions and assemblies set up since the party's creation.
For a long time it was the principal challenger to the major unionist party, the Ulster Unionist Party (known for a time in the 1970s and 1980s as the Official Unionist Party (OUP) to distinguish it from the then multitude of other unionist parties, some set up by deposed former leaders).
In the 2003 Northern Ireland Assembly elections, the DUP overtook the UUP to become the largest party in Northern Ireland, achieving thirty seats to the UUP's twenty-seven, and in the 2005 UK general election, achieving almost twice their vote share and taking nine seat. to the UUP's one (successfully unseating then UUP leader David Trimble) and becoming the fourth largest party in the British House of Commons.