Ian Paisley has announced that he will resign as First Minister of Northern Ireland and leader of the Democratic Unionist Party in May.Ian Paisley has announced that he will resign as First Minister of Northern Ireland and leader of the Democratic Unionist Party in May.
The 81 year old veteran unionist leader confirmed last March 4th that he will quit in May 2008 after the international investment conference organised in Belfast by the Northern Irish Executive.
Dr. Paisley will resign as Northern Ireland's First Minister and leader of the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP).
His decision came after weeks of speculation and mounting pressure from within his own party to stand aside, following the resignation of his son Ian Paisley Jr. after a controversy about his links to a property developer.
Ian Paisley's son resigned February 18th as a minister in the Northern Irish powersharing executive after criticism about his financial dealings with a developer in his constituency and revelations that he was also being employed as a researcher in Westminster by his father.
Ulster Unionist Party leader Sir Reg Empey said that employing family members in unjustified circumstances had brought politics into disrepute.
It is understood that the First Minister of Northern Ireland decided to resign in order to prevent further instability in the Democratic Unionist Party and in the DUP-Sinn Féin powersharing Executive.
In his very own style, Dr. Paisley refused to endorse a successor saying: "This is not the Church of Rome. This is not an apostolic succession and I have no right to say who will success me", but confirmed that his successor will have his support and encouragement.
Political analysts expect Minister for Finance and DUP Deputy Leader Peter Robinson to succeed Ian Paisley as the DUP leader and Northern Ireland First Minister.
DUP deputy leader Peter Robinson admitted the party would have to adjust to the departure of its founder and leader: “The DUP was very much moulded around him. He's the only leader we have ever had”, said the Finance Minister.
After his resignation, Ian Paisley will continue as an MLA in Stormont and MP in Westminster.
Political leaders pay homage to Ian Paisley
Sinn Féin Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness highlighted the “positive and constructive working relationship” of Ian Paisley at the helm of the power sharing government.
Taoiseach Bertie Ahern described Ian Paisley as "a giant figure in the history of these islands" and as “a man who worked tirelessly for the people he represents and who has sincerely done what he believed was right.”
Fine Gael leader Enda Kenny said Dr. Paisley was a controversial figure who showed real conviction in establishing the power-sharing Assembly.
Irish Labour Party leader Eamon Gilmore said Mr Paisley said the Ian Paisley who resigns as First Minister is very different to the Ian Paisley who first led opposition to cross-border co-operation in the 1960s.
Former British Prime Minister Tony Blair praised Dr. Paisley's decisive contribution to the peace process: “In the final analysis, he made it happen. The man famous for saying 'No' will go down in history for saying 'yes'."
Ian Paisley said that the best tribute that could be paid to him was for people to continue making politics work in Northern Ireland.