05/03/2008

Ian Paisley Announces The End Is Nigh

Ian Paisley has dramatically announced his intention to step down as First Minister less than half way through his term of office.

Speculation raged after Mr Paisley invited journalists to a media briefing amidst mounting pressure from his party and growing speculation from the media he was soon to step down.

It is thought recent controversies surrounding his son have allowed pressure from senior DUP figures to hasten his premature departure.

However, Mr Paisley denies the connection with his early departure and the present discontent surrounding his son’s actions.

He said: "I am not a fool, people who thought that they could get at me, got at him."

"They thought they could damage me by the damage they sought to take out on him, but that did not move me."

Ian Paisley Jnr sparked unabated criticism after being appointed to the Policing board just weeks after resigning as Junior Minister in Stormont.

It is believed Mr Paisley Jnr caused anger among his party colleagues after making comments regarding taking on Sinn Fein on the board, suggesting other members of his party were failing to fulfill their duty.

Mr Paisley's son stepped down during mounting pressure over his dealings with local businessman Seymour Sweeney and the Giants Causeway Development, as well as a host of questions about a number of other property deals.

The minister also attracted a wave of criticism over the three salaries he was receiving from the public purse for three separate roles.

The minister rejects any suggestion of wrong doing.

Ian Paisley Senior has also denied Peter Robinson is set to take over. The deputy leader is reported to have taken a growing role within the party for some time.

"This is not the Church of Rome. This is not Apostolic succession and I have no right to say who will succeed me," Mr Paisley said.

Deputy First Minister Martin Mcguinness said: "Ian Paisley has played a very powerful role in the course of the politics of the north of Ireland and the island of Ireland.

The historic decision he took to go into government with Sinn Fein has changed the face of Irish politics forever."

Mr Paisley turns 82 next month and plans to continue his role as an MLA and MP.

(DW/JM)

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