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Ian Paisley steps down as first minister

First Minister of Northern Ireland Ian Paisley (L), U.S. President George W.Bush, and Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness (R)meet in the Oval Office at the White House in Washington on December 7, 2007. (UPI Photo/Joe Marquette/POOL)
1 of 2 | First Minister of Northern Ireland Ian Paisley (L), U.S. President George W.Bush, and Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness (R)meet in the Oval Office at the White House in Washington on December 7, 2007. (UPI Photo/Joe Marquette/POOL) | License Photo

BELFAST, Northern Ireland, June 6 (UPI) -- Ian Paisley, the divisive Protestant preacher who ended up in an alliance with his old enemies, stepped down Thursday as first minister of Northern Ireland.

Peter Robinson, a longtime negotiator for the Democratic Unionist Party, was named to replace Paisley, The Guardian reported. Martin McGuinness of Sinn Fein, the former Irish Republican Army leader who gave up the gun for electoral politics, remains deputy first minister.

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Robinson and McGuinness were to meet Friday in London with Prime Minister Gordon Brown.

"We recognize that there are outstanding and unresolved issues which have been raised with the prime minister and which require urgent attention," the two men said in a joint statement.

Paisley and McGuinness formed an unexpected bond during their year in government. They were nicknamed "the Chuckle brothers" for their frequent outbursts of laughter.

"The deputy and myself had some very strong arguments ... but we never used bad language against one another," Paisley said in a statement as he departed. "We were prepared to differ and were prepared to do what we felt ... was best for the people of Northern Ireland."

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