Born in Ballymena, Armagh, he co-founded the North’s first Free Presbyterian Church in 1951. In November 1968, he and Ronald Bunting led a Loyalist counter-demonstration against a civil rights march in Armagh, for which they were jailed. He became an MP for North Antrim in 1970 and founded the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) in 1970.
He opposed the Sunningdale Agreement in 1973, the Anglo-Irish Agreement in 1985 and the Good Friday Agreement in 1998. He was elected to the Northern Ireland Assembly, but refused to enter power-sharing. He later reversed his position and was First Minister, 2007-08. He continued to serve as MP until 2010.