Ian Paisley rushed to hospital with suspected heart attack
THE Rev Ian Paisley is in intensive care tonight after suffering from acute heart problems. The former Northern Ireland First Minister was admitted to the Ulster Hospital, Dundonald on the eastern outskirts of Belfast.
A statement on behalf of his wife, Baroness Paisley said: "She requests that the family's privacy be respected at this difficult time."
Mr Paisley, 85, was rushed to hospital on Sunday, 10 days after preaching his final sermon as a minister. He is a former moderator and founding member of the Free Presbyterian Church and was MP north Antrim for almost 40 years.
His son Ian Jnr succeeded him.
Party colleagues were briefed at a meeting Parliament Buildings, Stormont, but one source said they were given no details about how he took ill or his condition. "We were just told he was unwell and in hospital. That was all."
It is understood he is suffering from acute heart problems. One unconfirmed report claimed he suffered a massive heart attack and was seriously ill. Another said it was heart failure.
There had been concerns several years ago about Mr Paisley's health when he lost weight and looked gaunt.
But he made a good recovery from heart problems and while his voice was showing signs of obvious weakness, some people who were there for his farewell sermon at the Martyrs Memorial Church in Belfast on January 27 remarked on how well he appeared for his age.
One member of the congregation said: "I have rarely seen him in better form. Steady on his feet, it was typical Paisley cracking the odd joke with a jibe. He may have looked 85, but he was in fine form, really good."
After withdrawing from church and public life he was planning to write his autobiography.
Mr Paisley, once a fierce opponent of sharing government powers with nationalists and republicans in Northern Ireland, was elected First Minister in May 2007 with Martin McGuinness, a former IRA leader in Londonderry, as Deputy First Minister.
It was a remarkable partnership, the two men becoming firm professional and personal friends, and who were later nicknamed the "Chuckle Brothers".