Saturday 16 December 2017

Paisley in intensive care after serious heart scare

Deric Henderson and Noel McAdam

Ian Paisley was in intensive care last night after suffering acute heart problems.

The former Northern Ireland First Minister and DUP founder was admitted to the Ulster Hospital in Dundonald on the eastern outskirts of Belfast.

His wife Eileen, son Ian Junior -- who replaced him as North Antrim MP -- and daughter Rhonda were believed to be at his bedside in the hospital.

It is believed he had been suffering from heart problems -- almost a year after being fitted with a pacemaker.

The family and party members last night circled the wagons to protect the Paisleys privacy.

A statement on behalf of Baroness Paisley said: "She requests that the family's privacy be respected at this difficult time."

Now known as Lord Bannside, Dr 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 for North Antrim for almost 40 years.

Mrs Paisley's short note, issued through the South Eastern Health Trust rather than the DUP, went on: "No further statement or information will be issued at this time."

At their regular weekly meeting yesterday, former DUP colleagues in the Assembly were told Dr Paisley had been taken into hospital but were apparently given no details about his medical condition.

They were briefed in a meeting at Stormont and prayers were said. One member said they were given no details about how he became ill or his condition. "We were just told he was unwell and in hospital. That was all."

It is understood Mr Paisley has been on medication for several years for an enlarged heart, possibly since 2004. According to one source last night the illness could be linked to heart failure, not a heart attack.

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 at 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."

After withdrawing from church and public life he was starting to write his autobiography.

Irish Independent

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