I had the opportunity to speak in the Assembly on Monday 15th to comment on the passing of former First Minister, Ian Paisley. My contribution is below:
My main purpose in speaking is to express my most sincere sympathy and that of my colleagues and the SDLP to Baroness Paisley and the family, including the children and grandchildren. I also extend a heartfelt sympathy to colleagues opposite and DUP colleagues of Lord Bannside across Northern Ireland. I could never, and would never, agree with much of Ian Paisley’s politics, but that was understood and very clear, but I have to pay tribute to him as a committed constituency representative and dedicated public servant.
I am not going to delve into the whys, wherefores or why nots. I will leave it to others and to history to judge Ian Paisley’s contribution to this place, particularly in the latter days in helping to bring about peace and devolution. In 2007, his efforts ensured that power-sharing and devolution were put back in place, but today our thoughts are with the family and friends.
I have known Ian Paisley for over 40 years. I do not want to admit how many years over 40, but it is a while. Despite fundamental political differences, at a personal level, we had many conversations and an enduring personal friendship that defied political differences.
So, today our thoughts and sympathy must be with Eileen, Baroness Paisley, with the extended family and with the grandchildren, who are grieving and trying to come to terms with this sad loss. We in the Chamber can move on at various speeds — some of us will maybe be able to move on quicker than others — but the point is that the family are left with a big gap in their lives. There is a husband, a father and a grandfather missing, and my and the SDLP’s sympathy goes out to all of them on this sad and difficult day. Thank you