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Paisley, Ian (1926–)

Northern Irish church leader, politician, founder of the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP), and representative of radical political unionism in the Northern Ireland conflict. Born on 6 April 1926 in Ballymena, Northern Ireland, Ian Richard Kyle Paisley received theological training at the Theological Hall of the Reformed Presbyterian Church in Belfast and was ordained to the ministry in 1946. As a Presbyterian minister, he helped to establish the first free Presbyterian Church of Ulster in 1951, which he has led since its inception.

Paisley's political career began during the Irish civil rights movement in the 1960s. During 1964–1971 he headed the Protestant Unionist Party, and in 1971 he founded and has since led the DUP. He has consistently fought any attempt to politically reconcile the Republic of Ireland and Northern Irish Republicans. He has pursued his irredentist goals as a member of the British Parliament (since 1970), a member of the Northern Ireland assembly (1973–1974 and again since 1998), and as a member of the European Parliament (1979–2004). Paisley and his supporters helped to bring down the 1973 Sunningdale Agreement and, together with the other major Unionist leaders, opposed the 1985 Anglo-Irish Agreement. His party took a similar stance toward the 1993 Downing Street Declaration. Although initially supportive of the talks that preceded the 1998 Good Friday Agreement, the DUP soon ended its cooperation when Sinn Féin was allowed to join in the arrangement. Paisley is a controversial figure and doubtless one of the most radical and aggressive Unionist politicians, but he is also described as a committed representative of his constituency members, regardless of their religious affiliations.

Matthias Trefs


Further Reading
Cooke, Dennis. Persecuting Zeal: A Portrait of Ian Paisley. Dingle: Brandon Books, 1996.; Moloney, Ed, and Andy Pollak. Paisley. Dublin: Poolbeg, 1986.; Smyth, Clifford. Ian Paisley: Voice of Protestant Ulster. Edinburgh: Scottish Academic Press, 1987.
 

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