“History will record his political career as a journey,” said John Hume (SDLP leader between 1979 and 2001) yesterday, “one which took him from the politics of division to a place where he accepted agreement as a solution, the need for power-sharing, and respect for diversity. But history will also ask if he should have reached this point sooner.”
Mark Durkan, Hume’s successor as leader of the SDLP, agreed, describing Paisley as “someone who in spite of the fact that he opposed agreements and institutions actually came to a position where he helped to ensure that we have a settled process and even more agreements around those arrangements and institutions.”
Tony Blair, Prime Minister when the Good Friday Agreement was signed, said, “His religious beliefs were profound and genuine. He talked to me often about the need for forgiveness and I am sure part of what made him finally take the road to peace, was his capacity, driven by his Christian belief, to contemplate and then work for reconciliation. I don’t suppose 40 years ago he would ever have thought that politically his life then would end as it does now. But I know he and Eileen would be very proud of his huge contribution to a peaceful future for Northern Ireland.”
Ian Paisley, Lord Bannside, is survived by his wife, Eileen, his sons Ian and Kyle, and his three daughters, Rhonda, Sharon and Cherith.
Greg Daly covers the U.K. and Ireland for Aleteia.