Tributes have been flooding in to the former First Minister and founder of the Democratic Unionist Party, Dr Ian Paisley, who passed away last Friday (September 12).
Dr Paisley’s death was announced by his wife, Baroness Eileen Paisley on Friday afternoon. In a statement Mrs Paisley said: “Although ours is the grand hope of reunion, naturally as a family, we are heartbroken.
“We loved him and he adored us and our earthly lives are forever changed.”
Both world leaders and local politicians were quick to honour the firebrand who changed the face of Northern Irish politics forever.
Dr Paisley was no stranger to Banbridge, where one of his largest Free Presbyterian Churches continues to grow.
The Free Presbyterian Church paid tribute to Dr Paisley’s “many, many years of faithful Gospel ministry”.
In a statement the church said: “We remember also the huge contribution that Dr Paisley made to the foundation and formation of the Free Presbyterian Church of Ulster; and we salute his gifted leadership in his role as moderator of Presbytery over many decades.”
Upper Bann DUP MP David Simpson said: “It is with great sadness that I have learned of the passing of Dr Ian Paisley. He was a true friend of Ulster and a loyal servant of Our Lord. I have known Dr Paisley from a very early age and the impact he has had on my life will never be forgotten. I have had the privilege of sitting under the preaching of Dr Paisley on numerous occasions and he has also been a great support to me throughout my political career.
“Dr Paisley has taken Ulster through a quite remarkable journey where he has been able to stand firm against those who have tried to put him down. Throughout his political leadership, Dr Paisley has ensured that his Christian values and principals were paramount to the decisions that he made. The impact he has had on society will be felt not only in Northern Ireland but right across the globe.
“Dr Paisley touched the lives of countless people, both as a preacher of the Gospel and as a dedicated political leader. He has left an indelible mark on history and shaped the political future of Northern Ireland.
“He will be sadly missed by his entire family circle and I can assure them of my thoughts and prayers at this time.”
Councillor Jim McElroy MBE said he was saddened to learn of Dr Paisley’s death and passed on his sympathies to the Paisley family.
“Dr Paisley was one of the greatest men Northern Ireland has ever seen,” said Mr McElroy. “He was a great man and a great preacher.
“He had a great influence on my life and I know him very well from a very young age.
“I would like to pass on my sympathies to his wife Eileen and the rest of the family.”
Councillor Junior McCrum said that Dr Paisley was “a great gentleman.”
He continued:”His main focus in life was to see souls saved and indeed many hundreds of people came to God through him and his preaching. He has left behind a great legacy. I cannot speak highly enough of him as a politician, a minister and a friend.
“I came to know him when I was young back when he was first elected to the European Parliament and I had, and will always have, great admiration for Dr Paisley. I would extend my sympathy to his wife Eileen and his entire family circle.”
Independant MLA John McCallister said: “For a generation, Ian Paisley substantially defined politics in Northern Ireland.
“Many of us will not have shared his views or agreed with the stance he took on many issues.
“His decision to enter powersharing in 2007 radically altered his legacy and reminds us all that peace requires risks and change. Since I entered fulltime politics in 2007, I was struck by the warmth and generosity Ian Paisley showed in private to all, including political opponents.
“His actions in 2007 however, have made Northern Ireland a better place and for that we can all be grateful.”
A book of condolence has been opened for the people of Banbridge District to sign it in Banbridge Town Hall from 9am-5pm each day this week.