By any measure, Ian Paisley has been a major figure in the modern history of this island.
His legacy will be analysed for generations by historians. For over half a century, he was central to the politics of Unionism and Northern Ireland. For much of his life, he was an implacable opponent of all forms of Irish nationalism. In recent years however, he recognised the need for an accommodation and a mutual respect between all those who share this island.
The journey he travelled, in many ways, encapsulates the triumph of the peace process and constitutional politics, and the futility of so much of what came before.
After building his reputation on saying No, it took immense political skill for Ian Paisley to shift ground and to bring his supporters with him. Although the DUP had opposed the Good Friday Agreement, Ian Paisley and the DUP gradually began to engage with the peace process and, in particular, the work of restoring devolution and power-sharing.
Over time, Dr. Paisley recognised the benefits and future opportunities peace was bringing to Northern Ireland. He worked very closely with former Taoiseach Bertie Ahern in bringing the Good Friday Agreement to fruition and this was evident when he came to visit the Battle of the Boyne site.
Dr. Paisley did important work in laying new foundations for peace, in securing investment for Northern Ireland and in helping build co-operation and respect between both parts of this island. Once he made up his mind on an issue there was no rowing back. He always had a very strong work ethic and worked tirelessly for his constituents for many decades.
As Minister for Foreign Affairs, I met Dr. Paisley on a number of occasions and I was always struck by his charisma and the strength of his personality. He was always engaging and warm at a personal level and I will always value our conversations.
In any objective analysis of Ian Paisley, due consideration will be given to his work for peace and a new dispensation on this island. I want to pass on my sympathies to his wife Eileen, his children and grandchildren at this sad time.
Ar dheis Dé go raibh a anam.