Paisley Junior faces tough fight to hold on to father's seat
Published 03/03/2010 | 05:00
IAN Paisley Junior faces a titanic struggle to take over his father's Westminster seat in the upcoming British general election.
Northern Ireland's former First Minister Ian Paisley (83) announced yesterday that he is relinquishing the North Antrim seat which he first won in 1970.
Mr Paisley Jnr will be named as the DUP's candidate for the constituency next week, but he faces the prospect of a fiery election battle with the leader of the hardline Traditional Unionist Voice party, Jim Allister.
Mr Allister, who resigned from the DUP in protest at the decision to enter government with Sinn Fein, has become a talisman for unionists who remain opposed to mandatory coalition at Stormont.
Mr Allister's anti-power sharing party took nearly 80,000 votes from the DUP in last year's European election.
Mr Paisley's decision comes two years after he stood down as First Minister and relinquished the leadership of the DUP. Mr Paisley announced his decision to stand down in his local constituency paper, the 'Ballymena Guardian'.
After yesterday's announcement, Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness said he considered Mr Paisley a personal friend and was still in regular contact with him.
"We had the ability to sit down and talk to one another about the way forward and we were agreed as to how we should move forward," said Mr McGuinness.
"I would make no secret of the fact that myself and Dr Paisley come from very different political backgrounds and for much of his political career I would have strongly opposed much of what he stood for.
"In more recent times, however, particularly in the time that we spent in government, I found that we could work together for the good of the people that we represented without compromising our beliefs -- he as a unionist and myself as a republican.
"I have to say also that in that time he and I became friends and we remain in contact still and I would wish him and his wife Eileen all the best for the future."
The North Secretary, Shaun Woodward, said: "He is a remarkable figure whose politics are born from the deepest principles and most fervently held conviction and who not only contributed to debate but often dominated it."
Alliance Party leader David Ford said: "The news that he intends to step down as MP for the constituency really does mark the end of an era."
In an interview in yesterday's 'Ballymena Guardian', Mr Paisley said he had no regrets about his decision to share power with Sinn Fein in 2007.
"After a period of tough negotiations it was my view that, provided our conditions were met, the overwhelming majority of the people of Northern Ireland wanted me to do the deal, it was as simple as that."
He said he was saddened that some DUP members had left the party in protest at his decision to share power with Sinn Fein, but added: "I believe I showed the leadership required to get the best possible deal in the circumstances."