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Paisley says farewell to elective politics

BELFAST, Northern Ireland, March 24 (UPI) -- Ian Paisley, the firebrand Presbyterian who ended up in coalition with Catholic Republicans in Northern Ireland, said goodbye to elective politics Wednesday.

In his final speech in the Assembly, Paisley called on Catholics and Protestants to work together, the Belfast Telegraph reported. He will sit in the House of Lords as Lord Bannside.

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"We are facing hard financial times ahead, difficult decisions will have to be taken as the Assembly sits in this place," he said. "We share this province and have to make a shared future in it."

Paisley was born in Northern Ireland, the descendant of Scottish Protestants who moved there in the 17th century. He was a founder of the Free Presbyterian Church of Ulster and of the Democratic Unionist Party, which he headed from 1971 to 2008.

For years, Paisley was one of Northern Ireland's most hard-line Unionists, opposed to any political ties between Northern Ireland and the Irish Republic. He sparked two days of rioting in 1964 when he demanded police remove an Irish flag from Sinn Fein's Belfast headquarters.

In 2006, Paisley finally embraced power-sharing after several years of pushing for and winning concessions from Sinn Fein. He served as First Minister from May 2007 to June 2008, and worked so well with his deputy, Martin McGuinness of Sinn Fein, that journalists called them "the chuckle brothers."

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