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The Rev Ian Paisley dies aged 88

The Rev Ian Paisley (Photo: PA)

The Rev Ian Paisley, Protestant firebrand and former leader of the Democratic Unionist Party, has died at the age of 88.

The Rev Paisley served as First Minister of Northern Ireland for a year when power was first devolved in 2007.

His deputy, Martin McGuinness of Sinn Féin, expressed sadness at the news of his death.

“Over a number of decades we were political opponents and held very different views on many, many issues but the one thing we were absolutely united on was the principle that our people were better able to govern themselves than any British government,” he said.

“I want to pay tribute to and comment on the work he did in the latter days of his political life in building agreement and leading unionism into a new accommodation with republicans and nationalists.

“In the brief period that we worked together in the Office of the First and Deputy First Minister, I developed a close working relationship with him which developed into a friendship, which despite our many differences lasted beyond his term in office.”

Michael Kelly, editor of the Irish Catholic newspaper, said the Rev Paisley had “fanned the flames of hatred and murder”.

During St John Paul II’s address to the European Parliament the Rev Paisley had held up a sign saying “Anti-Christ” and started shouting “I renounce you” before he was forcibly removed from the hall. He is also infamous for saying of Catholics during a Loyalist rally in 1969: “They breed like rabbits and multiply like vermin.”

In 2010 the Rev Paisley led protests against the visit of Pope Benedict XVI to Britain.