Dr Ian Paisley is to step down as leader of the Free Presbyterian Church.

The decision was announced following a meeting of 200 members of the Free Presbyterian Church last night. Dr Ian Paisley has been the leader of the Free Presbyterian Church since it was founded by him 50 years ago.

Ian Paisley founded the fundamentalist Free Presbyterian Church in 1951 and it now has over one hundred congregations throughout Ireland and around the world.

Dr Ian Paisley has been re-elected as leader of the church, every year bar one. Since he went into government with Sinn Féin four months ago, there has been growing concern about his dual role as both First Minister of Northern Ireland and moderator of the church.

Protesters at the annual general meeting called for a separation of the church and politics.

A significant minority in his church do not like the idea of his combining a religious and a political role.

Following the meeting, it was announced that Dr Ian Paisley would step down from his role as moderator of the Free Presbyterians at the end of this year. A new leader will be chosen next January.

An RTÉ News report broadcast on 8 September 2007. The reporter is Brendan Wright.