Ian Paisley praises progress in final speech

Tuesday 23 March 2010 18.28
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Ian Paisley - Standing down at British general election
Ian Paisley - Standing down at British general election
Ian Paisley - 'A colossus of Ulster politics'
Ian Paisley - 'A colossus of Ulster politics'

Former DUP leader Ian Paisley made his farewell speech in the House of Commons last night, insisting Northern Ireland was 'moving in the right direction'.

Watch the full speech here

In an 11-minute valedictory speech, Mr Paisley wished for a time when the Troubles would be forgotten and paid tribute to the Ulster people as 'loving and caring'.

In a parliamentary career dating back to 1970, Mr Paisley often dominated debates on Northern Ireland.

However, last night he was in reflective mood before stepping down at the upcoming general election. He said the day had come when Northern Ireland must face the facts.

He said: 'There are people in Northern Ireland who have diverse religious convictions and diverse political convictions - but they can live together as neighbours.

'I am confident that with the good friendship that is in this house towards Northern Ireland that we will go forward and come to a day - I may not live to see it - when these Troubles will be forgotten.'

But he acknowledged there were deep wounds still to overcome and insisted: 'We won't forget the price that was paid.'

Mr Paisley said: 'Northern Ireland is moving in the right direction and this House needs to encourage it to go forward at this time.'

He welcomed the 'good work' of various Northern Ireland Secretaries while admitting 'some of them we would liked to have punched'.

In debate on parliamentary orders that will enable the creation of a Department for Justice in Northern Ireland, he added: 'It doesn't mean we have reached the end of the journey - far from it. But we are in the right way.'

Current DUP leader Peter Robinson paid tribute to his predecessor's 'colourful career,' describing him as a colossus of Ulster politics.

'His name will be remembered in history of Northern Ireland as one of the most influential figures in Unionism,' Mr Robinson said.

'His leadership has been a major factor in bringing Northern Ireland through to the peaceful and stable society we are now enjoying.'