Martin McGuinness

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Posted by sonny 03/02/2009 @ 06:00

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Dissident challenges McGuinness to public debate - Derry Today
Leading dissident republican Gary Donnelly today challenges Sinn Féin's Martin McGuinness to a head-to-head public debate. Writing in today's 'Journal,' the Creggan man says the 32 County Sovereignty Movement - of which he is a leading member - has on...
Steady NW200 Meeting For Martin -
Kirmington's Guy Martin recorded two top six finishes at Saturday's International North West 200 road races but left Northern Ireland disappointed not to have added to his haul of podium places around the 8.9-mile road circuit....
Happy birthday? - U.TV
It was on 8 May 2007 when the good and the great joined Tony Blair and Bertie Ahern as Ian Paisley and Martin McGuinness were sworn in as First and deputy First Minister. Now the Sinn Fein man is the only real political survivor from the big four that...
Birmingham soldier's IRA killers threaten to murder Martin McGuinness - Sunday Mercury
THE Irish terror group who claimed to have murdered Birmingham soldier Mark Quinsey have threatened to kill Sinn Fein MP Martin McGuinness. But the Northern Ireland Deputy First Minister said those who made threats against his life are “imposters”....
McGuinness challenge to top dissident - Derry Today
Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness has challenged leading dissident republican Gary Donnelly to publicly condemn attacks on the homes of Sinn Féin members. He made the comment after a petrol bomb attack on the Bogside home of Sinn Féin MLA Mitchel...
Does threat to McGuinness spell out waning support for Sinn Fein? - Belfast Telegraph
By Ed Curran What is one to make of the threat to the life of Martin McGuinness? Are we underplaying the danger posed by dissident republicans or underestimating the extent of support for their views? I can recall unionist leaders, in the Sixties...
McGuinness undeterred by threats - Irish Central
Northern Ireland's Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness is undeterred by recent death threats made against him by the Real IRA. Despite weekend media reports claiming the Derry-based politician had scrapped his annual holiday in Donegal,...
Lindy McDowell: Why couldn't Martin meet the Queen? - Belfast Telegraph
Martin McGuinness said he would not take part in this week's Hillsborough reception attended by the Queen, Mary McAleese and the Irish Grand Slam rugby team because it was a 'British sponsored event'. Mr McGuinness is Deputy First Minister up at the...
Renewable energy has key role to play in Economy - McGuinness - eGov monitor
Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness MP MLA has told an audience of business leaders that renewable energy has a vital role to play in the local economy. Addressing around 70 attendees at the awards luncheon of the Action Renewables Association,...
McGuinness remarks 'beggar belief' - Derry Today
In view of my letter to the editor of April 24 outlining a Christian path that has always been available to nationalists, it beggars belief that Martin McGuinness can still come out with the completely Anti-christian morality lesson that fronted last...

Martin McGuinness

Martin McGuinness

James Martin Pacelli McGuinness (Irish: Máirtín Mag Aonghusa; born in Derry on 23 May 1950) is an Irish politician and the current deputy First Minister of Northern Ireland.

A Sinn Féin politician and former Provisional Irish Republican Army (IRA) leader, McGuinness is the MP for the Mid Ulster constituency, the seat once held by Bernadette Devlin McAliskey. Like all Sinn Féin MPs, McGuinness practises abstentionism at Westminster. He is also a member of the Northern Ireland Assembly for the same constituency. Following the St Andrews Agreement and the Assembly election in 2007, he became deputy First Minister of Northern Ireland with Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) leader Ian Paisley as First Minister of Northern Ireland on 8 May 2007. He was re-appointed, with Peter Robinson as First Minister, on 5 June 2008. He served as Minister of Education in the Northern Ireland Executive between 1999 and 2002.

McGuinness joined the IRA around 1970 at the age of 20, after the Troubles broke out. By the start of 1972, at the age of 21, he was second-in-command of the IRA in Derry, a position he held at the time of Bloody Sunday.

McGuinness negotiated alongside Gerry Adams with the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, Willie Whitelaw, in 1972. He was convicted by the Republic of Ireland's Special Criminal Court in 1973, after being caught with a car containing 250 lb (113 kg) of explosives and nearly 5,000 rounds of ammunition. He refused to recognize the court, and was sentenced to six months imprisonment. In the court he declared his membership of the Provisional Irish Republican Army without equivocation: 'We have fought against the killing of our people... I am a member of Óglaigh na hÉireann and very, very proud of it'.

After his release, and another conviction in the Republic for IRA membership, he became increasingly prominent in Sinn Féin, the political wing of the Republican Movement. He was in indirect contact with British intelligence during the hunger strikes in the early 1980s, and in the early 1990s. He was elected to a short-lived assembly at Stormont in 1982, and was then banned from entering Great Britain under the Prevention of Terrorism Act.

He became Sinn Féin's chief negotiator in the time leading to the Belfast Agreement. He became MP for Mid Ulster in 1997, and after the Agreement was concluded, was returned as a member of the Assembly, and nominated by his party for a ministerial position in the power-sharing executive, where he became Minister of Education. One of his controversial acts as Minister of Education was his decision to scrap the 11-plus exam, which he himself had failed as a schoolchild. He was re-elected to the Westminster Parliament in 2001, but along with the rest of his party has refused to take his seat there (see abstentionism).

In May 2003, transcripts of telephone calls between McGuinness and British officials including Mo Mowlam, the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, and Jonathan Powell, Tony Blair's Chief of Staff, were published in a biography of McGuinness entitled From Guns to Government. The tapes had been made by MI5 and the authors of the book were arrested under the Official Secrets Act. The conversations showed an easy and friendly relationship between McGuinness and the British. He joked with Powell about Unionist MPs while Mowlam referred to him as "babe" and discussed her difficulties with Blair. In another transcript he praised Bill Clinton to Gerry Adams.

In the weeks following the St Andrews Agreement between Paisley and Adams, the four parties — the DUP, Sinn Féin, the UUP and the SDLP — indicated their choice of ministries in the Executive and nominated members to fill them. The Assembly met on 8 May 2007 and elected Ian Paisley and Martin McGuinness as First Minister and Deputy First Minister. On 12 May the Sinn Féin Ard Chomhairle agreed to take up three places on the Policing Board, and nominated three MLAs to take them.

A claim was made at the Saville Inquiry that McGuinness was responsible for supplying detonators for nail bombs on Bloody Sunday where 14 civil rights marchers were killed by British soldiers in Derry. Paddy Ward claimed he was the leader of the Fianna, the youth wing of the IRA in January 1972. He claimed McGuinness, the second-in-command of the IRA in the city at the time, and another anonymous member gave him bomb parts on the morning of 30 January, the date planned for the civil rights march. He said his organisation intended to attack city-centre premises in Derry on the day when civilians were shot dead by British soldiers. In response McGuinness said the claims were "fantasy", while Gerry O’Hara, a Sinn Féin councillor in Derry stated that he and not Ward was the Fianna leader at the time.

In August 1993, he was the subject of a two part special by the The Cook Report, a Central TV investigative documentary series presented by Roger Cook. It accused him of continuing involvement in IRA activity, of attending an interrogation and of encouraging Frank Hegarty, an informer, to return to Derry from a safe house in England. Hegarty's mother Rose appeared on the programme to tell of telephone calls to McGuinness and of Hegarty's subsequent murder. McGuinness denied her account and denounced the programme saying "I have never been in the IRA. I don't have any sway over the IRA".

In 2005, Michael McDowell, the Irish Tánaiste, claimed McGuinness, along with Gerry Adams and Martin Ferris, were members of the seven-man IRA Army Council. McGuinness denied the claims, saying he was no longer an IRA member.

Experienced "troubles" journalist Peter Taylor presented further apparent evidence of McGuinness's role in the IRA in his documentary Age of Terror, shown in April 2008. In his documentary, Taylor alleges that McGuinness was the head of the IRA's Northern Command which had advance knowledge of the IRA's 1987 Enniskillen bombing which left 11 civilians dead.

McGuinness married Bernadette Canning in 1974. They have four children, two girls and two boys. He is a fan of Derry City F.C. and the Derry Gaelic football team. His brother Tom used to play Gaelic football for Derry and has among his honours two Ulster Senior Football Championship medals.

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Northern Ireland Assembly

Northern Ireland outline in blue.svg

The Northern Ireland Assembly (Irish: Tionól Thuaisceart Éireann, Ulster Scots: Norlin Airlann Semmlie) is the devolved legislature of Northern Ireland. It has power to legislate in a wide range of areas that are not explicitly reserved to the Parliament of the United Kingdom, and to appoint the Northern Ireland Executive. It sits at Parliament Buildings at Stormont in Belfast.

The latest incarnation of the Assembly was established under the Good Friday Agreement of 1998, an accord aimed at bringing an end to Northern Ireland's violent 30-year Troubles. It is based on the principle of power-sharing under the D'Hondt method to ensure that Northern Ireland's largest political communities, the unionist and nationalist communities both participate in governing the region. The Assembly is a unicameral, democratically elected body comprising 108 members who are known as Members of the Legislative Assembly, or MLAs. Members are elected under the single transferable vote form of proportional representation.

The Assembly has been suspended on several occasions, the longest suspension being from 14 October 2002 until 7 May 2007, a period of over four and a half years. When the Assembly was suspended, its powers reverted to the Northern Ireland Office. Following talks that resulted in the St Andrews Agreement being accepted in November 2006, an election to the Assembly was held on 7 March 2007 and full power was restored to the devolved institutions on 8 May 2007.

From 7 June 1921 until 30 March 1972, the devolved legislature for Northern Ireland was the Parliament of Northern Ireland. That Parliament consistently chose the Ulster Unionist Party to govern the region. The Parliament was suspended on 30 March 1972 and formally abolished in 1973 under the Northern Ireland Constitution Act 1973.

Shortly after this first parliament was abolished, attempts began to restore devolution on a new basis that would see power shared between nationalists and unionists. To this end a new parliament, the Northern Ireland Assembly, was established in 1973. However, this body was brought down by opposition from hard-line unionists and republicans and was abolished in 1974. In 1982 another Northern Ireland Assembly was established at Stormont, initially as a body to scrutinise the actions of the Secretary of State, the British minister with responsibility for Northern Ireland. It received little support from nationalists and was officially dissolved in 1986.

Attempts to secure its operation on a permanent basis have been frustrated by disagreements between the two main unionist parties (the Democratic Unionist Party and the Ulster Unionist Party) and Sinn Féin, the largest nationalist party, which is widely perceived to be the connected to the Provisional Irish Republican Army (IRA). Unionists refused to participate in the Good Friday Agreement's institutions alongside Sinn Féin until they were assured that the IRA had discontinued its activities, decommissioned its arms and disbanded.

The most recent suspension occurred after unionists withdrew from the Northern Ireland Executive after Sinn Féin's offices at Stormont were raided by the police investigating alleged intelligence gathering on behalf of the IRA by members of the party's support staff. The Assembly, already suspended, dissolved on 28 April 2003 as scheduled, but the elections due the following month were postponed by the United Kingdom government and were not held until November that year.

On 8 December 2005, three Belfast men at the centre of the alleged IRA spying incident (dubbed Stormontgate) were acquitted of all charges. The prosecution offered no evidence "in the public interest." Afterwards Denis Donaldson, one of those arrested, said that the "charges should never have been brought" as the police action was "political." On 17 December 2005, Donaldson publicly confirmed that he had been a spy for British intelligence since the early 1980s. Mr Donaldson was killed on 4 April 2006.

Although the Assembly remained suspended from 2002 until 2007, the persons elected to it at the 2003 Assembly election were called together on 15 May 2006 under the Northern Ireland Act 2006 to meet in an assembly to be known as "the Assembly" (or fully "the Assembly established under the Northern Ireland Act 2006") for the purpose of electing a First Minister and Deputy First Minister and choosing the members of an Executive before 25 November 2006 as a preliminary to the restoration of devolved government.

On 23 May 2006 Ian Paisley, leader of the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) refused Sinn Féin's nomination to be First Minister alongside Sinn Féin's chief negotiator, Martin McGuinness, as Deputy First Minister. Eileen Bell was appointed by the Secretary of State Peter Hain to be the Speaker of the Assembly, with Francie Molloy and Jim Wells acting as deputies. The Northern Ireland (St Andrews Agreement) Act 2006 repealed the Northern Ireland Act 2006 and thus disbanded "the Assembly".

The Northern Ireland (St Andrews Agreement) Act 2006 provided for a "Transitional Assembly" (or fully "the Transitional Assembly established under the Northern Ireland (St Andrews Agreement) Act 2006") to take part in preparations for the restoration of devolved government in Northern Ireland. A person who was a member of the Northern Ireland Assembly was also a member of the Transitional Assembly. Eileen Bell was Speaker of the Transitional Assembly and Francie Molloy and Jim Wells continued as deputies. The Transitional Assembly first met on 24 November 2006, when the proceedings were suspended due to a bomb threat by loyalist paramilitary Michael Stone. It was dissolved on 30 January 2007 when the election campaign for the current Northern Ireland Assembly started.

An election to the then-suspended Northern Ireland Assembly was held on 7 March 2007. Secretary of State, Peter Hain signed a restoration order on 25 March 2007 allowing for the restoration of devolution at midnight on the following day. The two largest parties following the election, the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) and Sinn Féin, agreed to enter power-sharing government together, and an administration was eventually established on 8 May with Ian Paisley as First Minister and Martin McGuinness as Deputy First Minister.

Each MLA is free to designate themselves as "nationalist", "unionist" or "other" as they see fit, the only requirement being that no member may change their designation more than once during an Assembly session. The system has been criticised by some, in particular the cross-community Alliance Party, as entrenching sectarian divisions. The Alliance Party of Northern Ireland supports ending the official designation of identity requirement and the taking of important votes on the basis of an ordinary super-majority.

The Assembly has both legislative powers and responsibility for electing the Northern Ireland Executive. The First and Deputy First Ministers were initially elected on a cross-community vote, although this was changed in 2006 and they are now appointed as leaders of the largest and second largest Assembly 'bloc' (understood to mean 'Unionist', 'Nationalist' and 'Other'). However the remaining ministers are not elected but rather chosen by the nominating officers of each party, each party being entitled to a share of ministerial positions roughly proportionate to its share of seats in the Assembly. The Assembly has authority to legislate in a field of competences known as "transferred matters". These matters are not explicitly enumerated in the Northern Ireland Act 1998. Rather they include any competence not explicitly retained by the Parliament at Westminster.

Powers reserved by Westminster are divided into "excepted matters", which it retains indefinitely, and "reserved matters", which may be transferred to the competence of the Northern Ireland Assembly at a future date. An incomplete list of "transferred", "reserved" and "excepted" matters is given below. While the Assembly was in suspension, its legislative powers were exercised by the UK government, which effectively has power to legislate by decree. Laws that would have normally been within the competence of the Assembly were passed by the UK government in the form of Orders-in-Council rather than legislative acts.

Although the British monarch is not formally a component of the Assembly (as is the case at Westminster), all bills passed by the Assembly must receive Royal Assent to become law. This is not a mere formality. If the Secretary of State believes that a bill violates the constitutional limitations on the powers of the Assembly, the Secretary of State will refuse to submit the bill to the monarch for Assent. If submitted by the Secretary of State, the monarch will, by convention, sign a bill into law. Acts of the Northern Ireland Assembly begin with the enacting formula: "Be it enacted by being passed by the Northern Ireland Assembly and assented to by Her Majesty as follows:".

The Assembly is chaired by the Speaker and three Deputy Speakers. Lord Alderdice served as the first regular Speaker of the Assembly, but retired to serve as part of the current Independent Monitoring Commission that supervises paramilitary ceasefires. The position is currently filled by William Hay. In the Assembly the Speaker and ten other members constitute a quorum. The Assembly Commission is the body corporate of the Assembly. It ensures that the Assembly has the property, staff and services it needs to carry out its work. Legal proceedings taken for or against the Assembly are taken for or against the Commission on behalf of the Assembly. The staff of the Assembly are collectively known as the Assembly Secretariat.

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Sinn Féin

Éamon de Valera, Fourth leader of Sinn Féin (1917–26)

Sinn Féin (IPA: /ˌʃɪnˈfeɪn/, Irish pronunciation: ) is a political party in Ireland. The current party, led by Gerry Adams, was formed following a split in January 1970 and traces its origins back to the original Sinn Féin party formed in 1905. It is a major party of Irish republicanism and its political ideology is left wing. The party has historically been associated with the Provisional IRA. The name is Irish for "ourselves" or "we ourselves", although it is frequently mistranslated as "ourselves alone".

Sinn Féin is currently the second-largest party in the Northern Ireland Assembly, where it has four ministerial posts (including Deputy First Minister) in the power-sharing Northern Ireland Executive, and the fifth-largest party in Dáil Éireann, the lower house of the Oireachtas, the parliament of the Republic of Ireland.

The origins of the term "Sinn Féin", according to the Party's publication, Sinn Féin: A Century of Struggle, published to coincide with its centenary celebrations, can be traced to the Conradh na Gaeilge journal An Claidheamh Soluis. A leading article titled "Sinn Féin, Sinn Féin" appeared on 27 April 1901, and afterwards as "Sinn Féin agus ár gCairde" over the advertising section to encourage readers to buy Irish made goods.

The early Sinn Féin movement was far from being the organised political party it would later become. It was initially a community of like-minded individuals that crystallised around the propaganda campaign of Arthur Griffith, a nationalist printer and typesetter, and William Rooney, a republican office clerk, both of whom were extremely active in Dublin's nationalist clubs at the beginning of the 20th century.

In his account of the movement's early years, the propagandist Aodh de Blácam says that Sinn Féin "was not a party: it was the amorphous propaganda of the Gaelicised young men and women".

Griffith was first and foremost a newspaperman with an impressive network of friends in the Dublin printing industry. His newspapers, the United Irishman and Sinn Féin, and his Sinn Féin Printing & Publishing Company channeled the enormous energy of the self-help generation into an unorthodox political project based on the Austro-Hungarian dual monarchy of 1867 and the theories of the German nationalist economist Friedrich List.

Tapping into the growing self-awareness of an Irish identity which was reflected in movements like the Gaelic Athletic Association, the Gaelic League (Conradh na Gaeilge) and in the founding of the Abbey Theatre, he created a loose federation of nationalist clubs and associations which competed with John Redmond's Irish Parliamentary Party to embody the aspirations of 20th-century nationalists.

The Sinn Féin Party was founded on 28 November 1905, when in the Rotunda, Dublin the first annual Convention of the National Council was held. The meeting began at 11am and among delegates were Arthur Griffith, Edward Martyn, Thomas Martin, John Sweetman, Jenny Wyse-Power, Patrick Pearse, Máire de Buitléir, Patrick McCartan, Oliver St. John Gogarty, Peadar Kearney, Seán T. O'Kelly, Michael O'Hanrahan and William Cosgrave.

In his writings, Griffith declared that the Act of Union of Great Britain and Ireland in 1800 was illegal and that, consequently, the Anglo-Irish dual monarchy which existed under Grattan's Parliament and the so-called Constitution of 1782 was still in effect.

Though Sinn Féin had a high name recognition factor among some voters it attracted minimal support. In August 1909, it had only 581 paid-up members throughout all of Ireland. 211 were in Dublin, while Sligo had only two members, a student and a shopkeeper. By 1915, it was, in the words of one of Griffith's colleagues, "on the rocks", so insolvent financially that it could not pay the rent on its party headquarters in Harcourt Street in Dublin.

Sinn Féin was wrongly blamed by the British for the Easter Rising, with which it had no association apart from a desire of separation stronger than Home Rule — the leaders of the Rising were certainly looking for more than Dual Monarchy. Any group that disagreed with mainstream constitutional politics was branded 'Sinn Féin' by British commentators. The term 'Sinn Féin Rebellion' was also used by the Irish media, the Royal Irish Constabulary (RIC), the Dublin Metropolitan Police (DMP) and even by a few of those involved in the Rising.

Eamon de Valera replaced Griffith as president. On 25 October 1917 the Sinn Féin Ard Fheis for the first time committed the party to the establishment of an Irish Republic. de Valera devised the formula of words in the Constitution, as a concession to Arthur Griffith who argued that, as he saw it, demands should be kept within achievable limits, and therefore favoured a monarchy along Scandinavian lines.

Sinn Féin was boosted by the anger over Maxwell's execution of Rising leaders, the Irish Independent newspaper even before the executions, actually calling for them. The public sympathy did not give Sinn Féin decisive electoral advantage. It fought with the Irish Parliamentary Party under John Redmond, with each side winning by-elections. It was only after the World War I German Spring Offensive, when Britain threatened to impose conscription on Ireland to bring its decimated divisions up to strength, that the ensuing Conscription Crisis swung support decisively behind Sinn Féin. Efforts were made to agree an amicable form of home rule and to negotiate a deal between the Irish Unionist Party (IUP) and the Irish Parliamentary Party, in the 'Irish Convention' arranged by former IUP leader Walter Long in 1917. These were undermined by his cabinet colleague David Lloyd George and were not attended by Sinn Féin.

Sinn Féin won 73 of Ireland's 105 seats, with 47% of the vote, in the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland parliament at the general election in December 1918, twenty-five of the seats it won were uncontested.

In Ulster Unionists won twenty-two seats, Sinn Féin, twenty-six and the Irish Parliamentary Party, six. In Leinster Sinn Féin won twenty-six and Unionists won one. In Connacht Sinn Féin won all thirteen seats. In Munster Sinn Féin won twenty-three seats with the Irish Parliamentary Party winning one. In the Universities the Unionists won three seats to Sinn Féin's one. In the thirty-two counties of Ireland, twenty-four returned only Sinn Féin candidates. In the nine counties of Ulster the Unionists polled a majority in only four.

On 21 January 1919, 27 of the Sinn Féin MPs assembled in Dublin's Mansion House and proclaimed themselves the parliament of Ireland, the First Dáil Éireann. They elected an Aireacht (ministry) headed by a Príomh Aire (prime minister). Though the state was declared to be a republic, no provision was made for a head of state. This was rectified in August 1921 when the Príomh Aire (also known as President of Dáil Éireann was upgraded to President of the Republic, a full head of state.

In the 1920 city council elections, Sinn Féin gained control of ten of the twelve city councils in Ireland. Only Belfast and Derry remained under Unionist and IPP (respectively) control. In the local elections of the same year, they won control of all the county councils except Antrim, Down, Londonderry and Armagh.

Sinn Féin subsequently underwent successive splits (1922, 1926, 1970 and 1986), from which emerged a range of parties, Cumann na nGaedhael, now known as Fine Gael, Fianna Fáil and Official Sinn Féin, later Sinn Féin The Workers Party, later The Workers Party and then Democratic Left, which finally joined the Labour Party after serving in government with them, and Republican Sinn Féin.

Following the conclusion in December 1921 of the Anglo-Irish Treaty negotiations between representatives of the British Government and de Valera's republican government and the narrow approval of the Treaty by Dáil Éireann, a state called the Irish Free State was established. Northern Ireland, set up as part of the Government of Ireland Act 1920 along with Southern Ireland, opted out as the Treaty allowed.

The reasons for the split were various, though the IRA did not split in the North and pro- and anti-treaty republicans looked to pro-treaty Michael Collins for leadership and weapons. One of the principal reason for the split is usually described as the question of the Oath of Allegiance to the Irish Free State, which members of the new Dáil would be required to take. It explicitly recognised that the Irish Free State would be part of the British Commonwealth and many republicans found that unacceptable. The pro-treaty forces argued that the treaty gave "freedom to achieve freedom". In the elections of June 1922 in the southern twenty-six counties de Valera and the anti-treaty Sinn Féin secured 35% of the popular vote. The anti-treaty element of the IRA had formed an Executive that did not consider itself subordinate to the new parliament.

A bitter Irish Civil War (June 1922 – April 1923) erupted between the supporters of the Treaty and its opponents. De Valera resigned as President of the Republic and sided with the anti-treatyites. The pro-treaty "Free Staters", who amounted to a majority of Sinn Féin TDs, set up the Irish Free State. The pro-treaty Sinn Féin TDs changed the name of the party to Cumann na nGaedhael, subsequently merging with the National Centre Party and the Army Comrades Association or The Blueshirts in 1933 to form Fine Gael.

Having temporarily suspended armed action in the Free State, the movement split again with the departure (March 1926) of its leader Éamon de Valera, after having lost a motion to abandon abstention if the statement of "Fidelity to the King" were abolished. He subsequently founded Fianna Fáil with fellow advocates of participation in constitutional politics, and entered the Irish parliament (Dáil Éireann) the following year, forming a government in 1932.

In the 1960s the party moved to the left, adopting a 'stagist' approach similar to orthodox Communist analysis. The party came under the influence of a generation of intellectuals who were associated with the Communist Party of Great Britain's Connolly Association and sought a decisive break from the confessional politics of the past. The new generation of leaders sought to engage Ulster's Protestant workers in an anti-imperialist popular front.

There were two splits in the Republican Movement in the period 1969 to 1970. One in December 1969 in the IRA, and the other in Sinn Fein in January 1970.

The stated reason for the split in the IRA was ‘partition parliaments’ however the division was the product of discussions in the 1960s over the merits of political involvement as opposed to a purely military strategy. The split when it finally did come in the December 1969, arose over the playing down of the role of the IRA and its inability in defending the Nationalist population in Northern Ireland. One section of the Army Council wanted to go down a purely political (Marxist) road, and abandon armed struggle. IRA had been dabbed on the walls over the north and was used to disparage the IRA, by writing beside it, “I Ran Away.” Those in favour of a purely military strategy accused the leadership of rigging the Army convention, held in December and the vote on abandoning the policy of abstentionism and abandoning the Nationalists.

In January 1970 at a reconvening of the Army council, the two motions in December were overturned. It was then decided to set up a provisional Army Council because it was intended to reconvene in six months in order to regularise the IRA, when the term provisional would be abandoned. The split in the Republican Movement was completed on 11 January 1970, when at the Sinn Fein Ard Fheis the proposal to drop abstention was put before the members. The policy of abandoning abstentionism had to be passed by a two-thirds majority to change the Party’s constitution. Again there were allegations of malpractice and pro-Goulding supporters casting votes though they were not entitled to. In addition, the Leadership had also refused delegate status (voting rights) to a number of Sinn Fein Cummann (branch) particularly in the north were they knew them to be opposed. When the vote was taken the result was 153 to 104 in favour. The leadership had failed to achieve the two thirds majority. The Leadership then attempted to propose a motion in support of the (Goulding) IRA Army Council. This motion would only have required a simple majority. As the (Goulding) IRA Army Council had already agreed to drop abstentionism, this was seen by members as an attempt to subvert the Parties Constitution, and refused to vote and withdrew from the meeting. Pre-empting this move they had booked a hall in 44 Parnell square, were they established a “caretaker executive” of Sinn Fein. One section of the Party was referred to as Sinn Fein (Gardiner Place) and the other as Sinn Fein (Kevin Street), this came from the location of the opposing offices.

Despite the dropping of the word 'Provisional' at an Army convention in September 1970, and becoming the dominant group, they are still known 'to the mild irritation of senior members' as Provisionals, Provos or Provies. People began to flock to join the “Provos” as they were called and in an effort to reassert its authority the Goulding section began to call its self “Official IRA” and “Official Sinn Fein,” but to no avail. Within two years the “Provos” had secured control of the Republican Movement.

By 1972 the Officials both North and South, were according to Brian Feeney “a discredited rump, themselves regarded as a faction by what was now the main body of the movement.” It was from 1970 that the derisory term “Stickie” or “Stick” for the Officials was coined.

A number of publications began to appear such as the “Barricade Bulletin” in Derry, Sinn Fein members distributed bulletins with titles such as “Phoenix” and “Vindicator” and the new republican paper “Republican News” which was sold door to door.

Sinn Fein began to organise housing associations, community associations and tenant associations across both the North and the South, building a stronger developing network. It was at this time that the plight of the prisoners began to become an issue. The deteriorating conditions in the prison was an issue which people could support regardless of weather the supported Sinn Fein or the armed struggle of the IRA. This lead to the establishment of the National H-Block / Armagh Committee making it as broad an appeal as possible.

Events however would move control from Sinn Fein to the prisoners. By 1980 some of the prisoners had been “on the blanket” protest for four years and the “dirty protest” for two. In the autumn of 1980 the prisoners took the decision to go on hunger strike which was greeted by some within the Republican Movement with consternation. The IRA Army Council was no longer in complete control, and would never fully recover control as the plight of the prisoners would now drive the whole movement.

The first hunger strike would end by December 1980 with recriminations between both the British government and the IRA. The prisoners felt that they had been tricked, and resolved to go on hunger strike again. The Officer Commanding of IRA prisoners, Bobby Sands stood down as OC having decided he would lead the hunger strike. He began his hunger strike on 1 March 1981, which was the fifth anniversary of the removal of Special Category Status.

On the 6 March the Member of Parliament for Fermanagh-South Tyrone, Frank Maguire died. It was decided to put Bobby Sands forward as a candidate. Sands was elected with 30, 492 votes, 51%. This result would change everything according to Feeney, the election result he said made it impossible for the British government to convincingly argue that Sands and his fellow hunger strikers were mere criminals. Sands died on 5 May 1981, with over 100,000 people walking behind his coffin, which included dignitaries from Europe and further afield, the Iranian ambassador along with representatives of the Catholic church and the SDLP. Sands death caused another by-election and Sands election agent Owen Carron went forward, both hold the seat and increasing the vote achieved by Sands. According to Feeney, many republicans suddenly wanted to fight every election.

Sinn Féin is the largest group in the Republican wing of Irish nationalism and is closely associated with the IRA, with the Irish Government alleging that senior members of Sinn Féin have held posts on the IRA Army Council. However the SF leadership has denied these claims.

A republican document of the early 1980s states, "Both Sinn Féin and the IRA play different but converging roles in the war of national liberation. The Irish Republican Army wages an armed campaign... Sinn Féin maintains the propaganda war and is the public and political voice of the movement".

The current British Government stated in 2005 that "we had always said all the way through we believed that Sinn Féin and the IRA were inextricably linked and that had obvious implications at leadership level".

The robbery of £26.5 million from the Northern Bank in Belfast in December 2004 further scuppered chances of a deal. Because of the timing of the robbery it is considered that the plans for the robbery must have been laid whilst Sinn Féin was engaged in talks about a possible peace settlement. This undermined confidence within the unionist community about the sincerity of republicans towards reaching agreement. In the aftermath of the row over the robbery, a further controversy erupted when, on RTÉ's Questions and Answers programme, the chairman of Sinn Féin, Mitchel McLaughlin, insisted that the IRA's controversial killing of a mother of ten young children, Jean McConville, in the early 1970s though "wrong", was not a crime, as it had taken place in the context of the political conflict. Politicians from the Republic, along with the Irish media strongly attacked McLaughlin's comments.

On 10 February 2005, the government-appointed Independent Monitoring Commission reported that it firmly supported the Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) and Garda assessments that the IRA was responsible for the Northern Bank robbery and that certain senior members of Sinn Féin were also senior members of the IRA and would have had knowledge of and given approval to the carrying out of the robbery. Sinn Féin have argued that the IMC is not independent and the inclusion of former Alliance Party Leader John Alderdice and a British security head was proof of this. It recommended further financial sanctions against Sinn Féin members of the Northern Ireland Assembly. The British government responded by saying it would ask MPs to vote to withdraw the parliamentary allowances of the four Sinn Féin MPs elected in 2001.

Gerry Adams responded to the IMC report by challenging the Irish Government to have him arrested for IRA membership, a "crime" in both jurisdictions, and conspiracy.

On 20 February 2005, Irish Minister for Justice Michael McDowell publicly accused three of the Sinn Féin leadership, Gerry Adams, Martin McGuinness and Martin Ferris (TD for Kerry North) of being on the seven-man IRA Army Council. Gerry Adams denied this at an address in Strabane and Martin McGuinness denied the allegations in a TV interview on RTÉ.

On 27 February 2005, a demonstration against the murder of Robert McCartney on 30 January 2005 was held in East Belfast. Alex Maskey, a former Sinn Féin Mayor of Belfast, was told by relatives of McCartney to "stop making stupid comments" to the press following Gerry McKay's demand that Maskey "hand over the 12" IRA members involved. The McCartney family, though formerly Sinn Féin voters themselves, urged witnesses to the crime to contact the PSNI. Three IRA men were expelled from the organisation, and a man was charged with McCartney's murder.

Irish Taoiseach Bertie Ahern subsequently called Sinn Féin and the IRA "both sides of the same coin". The ostracism of Sinn Féin was shown in February 2005 when Dáil Éireann passed a motion condemning the party's alleged involvement in illegal activity. US President George W. Bush and Senator Edward Kennedy refused to meet Gerry Adams while meeting the family of Robert McCartney.

On 10 March 2005, the British House of Commons in London passed without significant opposition a motion placed by the British Government to withdraw the allowances of the four Sinn Féin MPs for one year in response to the Northern Bank Robbery. This measure cost the party approximately £400,000. However, the debate prior to the vote mainly surrounded the more recent events connected with the murder of Robert McCartney. Conservatives and Unionists put down amendments to have the Sinn Féin MPs evicted from their offices at the House of Commons but these were defeated by 358-170 and 357-171 votes respectively.

In March 2005, Mitchell Reiss, the United States special envoy to Northern Ireland, condemned the party's links to the IRA, saying "it is hard to understand how a European country in the year 2005 can have a private army associated with a political party".

Sinn Féin is organised throughout Ireland, and membership is open to all Irish residents over the age of 16. The party is organised hierarchically into cumainn (branches), comhairle ceantair (district executives), cúigí (regional executives). At national level, the Coiste Seasta (Standing Committee) oversees the day-to-day running of Sinn Féin. It is an eight-member body nominated by the Sinn Féin Ard Chomhairle and also includes the chairperson of each cúige. The Sinn Féin Ard Chomhairle (National Executive) meets at least once a month. It directs the overall implementation of Sinn Féin policy and activities of the party.

The Ard Chomhairle also oversees the operation of various departments of Sinn Féin, viz Administration, Finance, National Organiser, Campaigns, Ógra Shinn Féin, Women's Forum, Culture, Publicity and International Affairs. It is made up of the following: Officer Board and nine other members, all of whom are elected by delegates to the Ard Fheis, fifteen representing the five Cúige regions (three delegates each). The Ard Chomhairle can co-opt eight members for specific posts and additional members can be co-opted, if necessary, to ensure that at least thirty per cent of Ard Chomhairle members are women.

The ard fheis (national delegate conference) is the ultimate policy-making body of the party where delegates - directly elected by members of cumainn - can decide on and implement policy. It is held at least once a year but a special Ard Fheis can be called by the Ard Chomhairle or the membership under special circumstances.

In the 1982 Assembly elections, Sinn Féin won five seats with 64,191 votes (10.1%). The party narrowly missed winning additional seats in Belfast North and Fermanagh and South Tyrone. In the 1983 Westminster elections eight months later saw an increase in Sinn Féin support with the party breaking the hundred thousand vote barrier for the first time by polling 102,701 votes (13.4%). Gerry Adams won the Belfast West constituency with Danny Morrison only 78 votes short of victory in Mid Ulster.

The 1984 European elections proved to be a disappointment with Sinn Féin's candidate Danny Morrison polling 91,476 (13.3%) and falling well behind the SDLP candidate John Hume.

By the beginning of 1985 Sinn Féin had won their first representation on local councils due to three by-election wins in Omagh (Seamus Kerr, May 1983) and Belfast (Alex Maskey in June 1983 and Sean McKnight in early 1984). Three sitting councillors also defected to Sinn Féin in Dungannon, Fermanagh and Derry (the last defecting from the SDLP). Sinn Féin succeeded in winning 59 seats in the 1985 local government elections, however the results continued to show a decline from the peak of 1983 as the party won 75,686 votes (11.8%). The party failed to gain any seats in the 1986 by-elections caused by the resignation of Unionist MPs in protest at the Anglo-Irish Agreement, partly this was due to an electoral pact between Unionist candidates, however the SF vote fell in the four constituencies they contested.

In the 1987 election Gerry Adams held his Belfast West seat but the party elsewhere failed to make breakthroughs and overall polled 83,389 votes (11.4%). The same year saw the party contest the Dáil election in the Republic of Ireland, however they failed to win any seats and polled less than 2%.

The 1989 local government elections came in the aftermath of a number of IRA attacks most notably the Remembrance Day bombing and saw a drop in support for SF. Defending 58 seats (the 59 won in 1985 plus two 1987 by-election gains in West Belfast minus three councillors who had defected to Republican Sinn Féin in 1986) the party lost 15 seats. In the aftermath of the election Mitchell McLaughlin admitted that recent IRA activity had affected the Sinn Féin vote.

The nadir for SF in this period came in 1992, with Gerry Adams losing his Belfast West seat to the SDLP and the SF vote falling in the other constituencies that they had contested relative to 1987.

Multi-party negotiations began in 1994, without Sinn Féin. The Provisional IRA declared a ceasefire in the autumn of 1994. The Conservative government had asked that the IRA decommission all of their weapons before Sinn Féin be admitted to the talks, but the Labour government of Tony Blair let them in on the basis of the ceasefire.

When Sinn Féin and the DUP became the largest parties, it was clear that no deal could be made without the support of both parties. They nearly reached a deal in November 2004, but the DUP had a requirement for visible evidence that decommissioning had been carried out.

The talks led to the Good Friday Agreement of 10 April 1998 (officially known as the Belfast Agreement), which set up an inclusive devolved government in the North, and altered the Southern government's constitutional claim to the whole island in Articles 2 and 3 of the Constitution of Ireland. The party has been fully committed to constitutional politics since the Good Friday Agreement, although the unionist demand that the IRA decommission all of its arms led to repeated suspensions of the Assembly.

The party expelled Denis Donaldson, a party official, in December 2005, with him stating publicly that he had been in the employ of the British government as an agent since the 1980s. Mr Donaldson told reporters that the British security agencies who employed him were behind the collapse of the Assembly and set up Sinn Féin to take the blame for it, a claim disputed by the British Government. Donaldson was found fatally shot in his home in County Donegal on 4 April 2006, and a murder inquiry was launched. As of June 2008, nobody has been charged with his murder.

On 2 September 2006, Martin McGuinness publicly stated that Sinn Féin would refuse to participate in a shadow assembly at Stormont, asserting that his party would only take part in negotiations that were aimed at restoring a power-sharing government within Northern Ireland. This development follows a decision on the part of members of Sinn Féin to refrain from participating in debates since the Assembly's recall this past May. The relevant parties to these talks have been given a deadline of 24 November 2006 in order to decide upon whether or not they will ultimately form the executive.

On 28 January 2007, a Sinn Féin Ard Fheis was held and its delegates voted overwhelmingly to support the PSNI. This ended an 86 year boycott of policing in Northern Ireland. This decision means that Sinn Féin members will sit on Policing Boards and District Policing Partnerships. The decision has received welcome although, some opposition has been evident from people such as former IRA prisoner Gerry McGeough, who stood in the 2007 Assembly Elections against Sinn Féin in the assembly constituency of Fermanagh and South Tyrone.

The party overtook its nationalist rival, the Social Democratic and Labour Party as the largest nationalist party in the 2001 Westminster General Election and Local Election, winning four Westminster seats to the SDLP's three. The party however continues to subscribe to an abstentionist policy towards seats in the Westminster British parliament, as taking the seats they won would require them to swear allegiance to the British monarchy and recognise British jurisdiction over Northern Ireland. The party won five TDs in the 2002 Republic general election, an increase of four.

It went on to increase its share of the nationalist vote in the 2003 and 2007 Assembly elections, with Martin McGuinness, previously Minister for Education, taking the post of Deputy First Minister in the Northern Ireland Power-Sharing Executive Committee in which the party also received three ministries.

In 2007 one Sinn Féin departmental minister, Conor Murphy of the Department for Regional Development, allegedly requested that civil servants in the department refer to Northern Ireland as "here" or "the north" and that staff were also to refer to Derry in place of Londonderry and to refer to the Republic of Ireland as "all Ireland".

A vast majority of their policies are intended to be implemented on an 'all-Ireland' basis which further emphasises their central aim of creating a united Ireland.

Sinn Féin usually refers to itself as a democratic socialist or left-wing party and aligns itself with the European United Left–Nordic Green Left. The party pledges support for minority rights, migrants' rights, and eradicating poverty, although it is not in favour of the extension of legalized abortion (British 1967 Act) to Northern Ireland. Though Sinn Féin state they are also opposed to the attitudes in society, which "pressurise women" to have abortions, and "criminalise" women who make this decision. Sinn Féin do recognize however that in cases of incest, rape, sexual abuse, or when a woman's life and health are at risk or in danger, that the final decision must rest with the woman.

Sinn Féin urged a "No" vote in the referendum held in Ireland on 12 June 2008 on the Lisbon Treaty.

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Ian Paisley

Ian Paisley

Ian Richard Kyle Paisley (born 6 April 1926), styled The Rt Hon. The Revd Ian Paisley and also known as Dr Ian Paisley, was the First Minister of Northern Ireland until his resignation on 5 June 2008. Paisley is a veteran politician and Protestant church leader in Northern Ireland. As the then leader of the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP), the largest single grouping in the 2007 elections to the Northern Ireland Assembly, he was elected First Minister with Sinn Féin's Martin McGuinness as deputy First Minister on 8 May 2007.

In addition to co-founding and leading the DUP (from 1971 to 2008), he is a founding member and immediate past Moderator of the Free Presbyterian Church of Ulster. Paisley has been a UK Member of Parliament for the constituency of North Antrim since 1970, and is a member of the Northern Ireland Assembly for the same constituency.

In 2005, Paisley's political party became the largest Unionist party in Northern Ireland, displacing his long-term rivals, the Ulster Unionists (UUP), who had dominated Unionist politics in Northern Ireland since the partition of Ireland. Paisley is also an author, lecturer and speaker.

On 4 March 2008 he announced that he would step down as First Minister and leader of the DUP after the US-Northern Ireland Investment Conference in May 2008.. Peter Robinson duly took over as DUP leader on 31 May 2008, and replaced Paisley as First Minister on 5 June 2008.

Ian Paisley was born in Armagh, County Armagh and brought up in the town of Ballymena, County Antrim, where his father James Kyle Paisley was an Independent Baptist pastor. The senior Paisley had served in the Ulster Volunteers under Edward Carson. His Scottish mother Isabella Paisley was instrumental in his evangelical conversion at the age of six.

He married Eileen Paisley on 13 October 1956. They have five children, three daughters Sharon, Rhonda and Cherith and twin sons, Kyle and Ian. Three of their children have followed their father into politics or religion: Kyle, into the church; Ian is a DUP assemblyman; and daughter Rhonda a retired DUP councillor and artist. He has a brother, Harold, who currently preaches the Gospel in the United States and Canada.

Following rumours, it was confirmed in July 2004 that Paisley had been undergoing tests for an undisclosed illness and in 2005 Ian Paisley, Jr. confirmed that his father had been gravely ill. Ian Paisley confirmed in 2006 that he had made a full recovery.

During his time working on the farm, the young Paisley felt that he received a vocation to enter the Christian ministry. He undertook theological training at the Barry School of Evangelism (eventually renamed the South Wales Bible College which was later replaced by the Evangelical Theological College of Wales), and later, for a year, at the Reformed Presbyterian Theological Hall in Belfast.

In 1946 he was ordained at a ceremony in the independent Ravenhill Evangelical Mission Church on the Ravenhill Road, Belfast. Four ministers from four different denominations performed various roles in the service but some have questioned whether they had ecclesiastical authority from their churches to participate.

Paisley eventually set up his own newspaper in February 1966, the Protestant Telegraph, a strongly anti-Catholicism paper, as a mechanism for further spreading his message. He has authored numerous books and pamphlets on religious and political subjects including a commentary on the Epistle to the Romans.

Paisley's use of the title 'Dr' derived initially from a 1954 qualification from the (outlawed ) American Pioneer Theological Seminary in Rockville, Illinois. Later this was somewhat legitimised by an honorary Doctor of Divinity degree awarded by Bob Jones University, a fundamentalist Christian college in Greenville, South Carolina that was unaccredited at the time. Bob Jones, Jr. was a close personal friend and, with Paisley, a leader in evangelical Christianity. Paisley continues to maintain a friendly relationship with the institution and has often spoken at the University's annual Bible Conference.

He preaches against homosexuality and supports laws criminalising its practice. Intertwining his religious and political views, "Save Ulster from Sodomy" was a campaign launched by Paisley in 1977, in opposition to the Campaign for Homosexual Law Reform (Northern Ireland), established in 1974. Paisley's campaign sought to prevent the extension to Northern Ireland of the Sexual Offences Act 1967 which had decriminalised homosexual acts between males over 21 years of age in England and Wales. The campaign failed when legislation was passed in 1982 as a result of the previous year's ruling by the European Court of Human Rights in the case of Dudgeon v. United Kingdom.

In 1994, warning of dire consequences in encouraging the average Briton to gamble instead of earning a living, Paisley bitterly opposed the creation of the state-run National Lottery, resulting in the DUP becoming the only major British political party to campaign against it.

Paisley promotes a form of Biblical literalism, which he describes as "Bible Protestantism". The website of Paisley's public relations arm, the European Institute of Protestant Studies (, describes the Institute's purpose as to "expound the Bible, expose the Papacy, and to promote, defend and maintain Bible Protestantism in Europe and further afield." Paisley's website describes a number of doctrinal areas in which he believes that the "Roman church" (which he termed Popery) has deviated from the Bible and thus from true Christianity. These include the doctrine of transubstantiation, which Paisley claims on his website has given rise to "revolting superstitions and idolatrous abuses", the veneration of saints and the Virgin Mary (excessive and not Biblically supported, in Paisley's view), and the institution of the Papacy, which Paisley believes has no biblical foundation.

Paisley continued to denounce the Catholic Church and the Pope after the incident. In a television interview for The Unquiet Man, a 2001 documentary on Paisley's life, he expressed his pride at being the only person to have the courage to denounce the Pope. After the death of Pope John Paul II in 2005, Paisley expressed sympathy for Catholics stating "We can understand how Roman Catholics feel at the death of the Pope and we would want in no way to interfere with their expression of sorrow and grief at this time." This was in contrast to Paisley's reaction to the death of Pope John XXIII in June 1963, when Paisley organised protests against the lowering of flags in public buildings after the death of the Pope .

He and his organisation have publicly spoken out against what he views to be blasphemy in popular culture, including criticism of the stage productions Jesus Christ Superstar and Jerry Springer: The Opera, as well as being strongly pro-life. Some of these views are in agreement with many Catholics, regardless of their theological differences, which has led to united opposition to abortion in Northern Ireland, but not to a consensus on gay issues.

Though often at political odds with the Republic of Ireland, he has some religious followers in the Republic. It was specifically in his religious capacity that he first agreed to meet the Taoiseach, Bertie Ahern. Paisley revised this stance in September 2004, when he agreed to meet Ahern in his political capacity as leader of the Democratic Unionist Party. Known for a sense of humour, at an early meeting with Ahern at the Irish embassy in London, Paisley requested breakfast and asked for boiled eggs; when Ahern asked him why he had wanted boiled eggs, Paisley quipped "it would be hard for you to poison them", much to Ahern's amusement.

Paisley, an ardent teetotaller all his life, has sometimes asked journalists and nationalist politicians "let me smell your breath" when they asked him tough questions, insinuating that they had taken on board some alcohol, or "devil's buttermilk" as he often puts it.

From the majority unionist community, Paisley was among those invited in 1956 to a special meeting at the Ulster Unionist Party's offices in Glengall Street, Belfast. Many Loyalists who were to become major figures in the 1960s and 1970 also attended, and the meeting's declared purpose was to organise the defence of Protestant areas against anticipated Irish Republican Army (IRA) activity, as the old Ulster Protestant Association had done after partition in 1920. The new body decided to call itself Ulster Protestant Action (UPA), and the first year of its existence was taken up with the discussion of vigilante patrols, street barricades, and drawing up lists of IRA suspects in both Belfast and in rural areas.

Even though no IRA threat materialised in Belfast, and despite it becoming clear that the IRA's activities during the Border Campaign were to be limited to the border areas, Ulster Protestant Action remained in being (the UPA was to later become the Protestant Unionist Party in 1966). Factory and workplace branches were formed under the UPA, including one by Paisley in Belfast's Ravenhill area under his direct control. The concern of the UPA increasingly came to focus on the defence of 'Bible Protestantism' and Protestant interests where jobs and housing were concerned. As Paisley came to dominate Ulster Protestant Action, he received his first convictions for public order offences. In June 1959, a major riot occurred on the Shankill Road in Belfast following a rally at which he had spoken.

The majority of Paisley's political career was characterised by vehement opposition to accommodation of the aspirations and policies of the minority nationalist community in Northern Ireland. This first came to general public attention in the 1960s when he campaigned against Prime Minister of Northern Ireland Terence O'Neill's rapprochement with the Republic of Ireland and his meetings with Taoiseach of the Republic, Seán Lemass, a veteran of Easter 1916 and the anti-Treaty IRA. He opposed efforts by O'Neill to deliver civil rights to the nationalists, which included the abolition of gerrymandering of local electoral areas for the election of urban and county councils. In 1964 his demand that the police remove an Irish Tricolour from Sinn Féin's Belfast offices led to two days of rioting, after this was followed through (see Flags and Emblems Act – the public display of any symbol which could cause a breach of the peace was illegal until Westminster repealed the Flags Act in 1987). Paisley's approach led him in turn to oppose O'Neill's successors as Prime Minister, Major James Chichester-Clark (later called Lord Moyola) and Brian Faulkner.

In 1969, he was jailed along with Ronald Bunting for organising an illegal counter-demonstration against a Northern Ireland Civil Rights Association march in Armagh. He was released during a general amnesty for people convicted of political offenses.

In the 1970 UK general election Paisley was elected the member of Parliament (MP) for the North Antrim constituency which he has retained since then and is now the longest serving MP from Northern Ireland. The following year, 1971 Paisley and Desmond Boal established the most successful and longest lasting of his political movements, the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) which replaced his Protestant Unionist Party. It soon won seats at local council, provincial, national and European level; Paisley was elected one of Northern Ireland's three Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) at the first elections to the Brussels and Strasbourg-based European Parliament in 1979, holding a rare, triple mandate, as an MEP, an MP, and a Member of the Legislative Assembly (MLA). On his first day he attempted to interrupt the then President of the European Council Jack Lynch, Taoiseach of Ireland, but was shouted down by fellow MEPs.

Paisley easily retained his seat in every European election until he stood down in 2004, receiving the highest popular vote of any British MEP (although as Northern Ireland uses a different electoral system to Great Britain for European elections, the figures are not strictly comparable).

The DUP has been elected to each of the Northern Ireland conventions and assemblies set up since the party's creation. For a long time it was the principal challenger to the major unionist party, the Ulster Unionist Party (known for a time in the 1970s and 1980s as the Official Unionist Party (OUP) to distinguish it from the then multitude of other unionist parties, some set up by deposed former leaders).

In the 2003 Northern Ireland Assembly elections, the DUP overtook the UUP to become the largest party in Northern Ireland, achieving thirty seats to the UUP's twenty-seven, and in the 2005 UK General Election, achieving almost twice their vote share and taking nine seats to the UUP's one (successfully unseating then UUP leader David Trimble) and becoming the fourth largest party in the British House of Commons.

Paisley opposed the 1972 suspension by the British government of Edward Heath of the Northern Ireland parliament and government (known metonymically by the term Stormont due to the location of Parliament Buildings on the Stormont estate). He opposed the Sunningdale Agreement which sought to rework relationships between Northern Ireland, the Republic of Ireland and the United Kingdom, and which provided for a power-sharing executive (government) involving both communities in Northern Ireland, and a controversial all-island Council of Ireland linking Northern Ireland and the Republic on a legal but not constitutional level. Sunningdale collapsed following the Ulster Workers' Council Strike, which cut water and electricity supplies to many homes, and the failure of the British Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, Merlyn Rees and the British Prime Minister, Harold Wilson, to defend the power-sharing executive. Supporters of Paisley played an important role in orchestrating the strike. In January 1974, he (Paisley) was subdued and thrown out of the Stormont Assembly by members of the RUC.

In April 1977, Paisley famously declared he would retire from politics if a forthcoming United Unionist Action Council general strike was unsuccessful. The strike failed, but Paisley did not keep the promise.

In December 1981 the United States State Department revoked his visa, citing his "divisive rhetoric".

In the 1980s Paisley, like all the major Unionist leaders, opposed the Anglo-Irish Agreement (1985), signed by British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher and Irish Taoiseach (Prime Minister) Dr. Garret FitzGerald. The Agreement provided for an Irish input into the governing of Northern Ireland, through an Anglo-Irish Secretariat based at Maryfield, outside Belfast and meetings of the Anglo-Irish Conference, co-chaired by the Republic's Minister for Foreign Affairs and Britain's Secretary of State for Northern Ireland. The Unionists objected due to the fact that the Agreement was imposed on the people with no referendum, and to the notion of a foreign government "interfering" in the affairs of a part of the United Kingdom. Sinn Féin also objected.

A rally of protesters, estimated between 100,000 and 200,000 people (depending on which source), met in front of Belfast City Hall after a campaign dubbed after its slogan "Ulster Says No". The rally, which was addressed by Paisley and then UUP leader James Molyneaux, passed off peacefully but was ignored by the government. On 9 December 1986, Paisley was once again ejected from the European Parliament for continually interrupting a speech by Mrs Thatcher.

In 1985, he and the rest of the Unionist MPs resigned from Parliament at Westminster in protest at the Anglo-Irish Agreement and were, all but one (Jim Nicholson, who lost his seat to the Social Democratic and Labour Party's Seamus Mallon), returned in the resulting by-elections.

Paisley is a former member of the Orange Institution. He addresses the annual gathering of the Independent Orange Order every Twelfth of July.

In 1995, he played a part in the Drumcree conflict over marching at Drumcree, County Armagh between the Orange Order and local residents of the Garvaghy Road. The march passed off after the decision was made by the Royal Ulster Constabulary (RUC) to allow it and Paisley ended the march hand in hand with David Trimble who appeared to perform a "Victory Jig". This "Victory Jig" was seen by some as an act of triumphalism.

Paisley's DUP was initially involved in the negotiations under former United States Senator George J. Mitchell that led to the Belfast Agreement of 1998. However the party withdrew in protest when Sinn Féin, a republican party with links to the Provisional Irish Republican Army, was allowed to participate after its ceasefire. Paisley and his party opposed the Agreement in the referendum that followed its signing, and which saw it approved by over 70% of the voters in Northern Ireland and by over 90% of voters in the Republic of Ireland.

Although Paisley often stresses his loyalty to the Crown, he accused Queen Elizabeth of being Tony Blair's "parrot" when she voiced approval of the Agreement. The claim is reflective of the current custom in the United Kingdom of the Monarch reflecting the position of the government, never publicly contradicting official government policy.

As part of the deal, the Republic altered the controversial Articles 2 and 3 of the Constitution of Ireland, which had originally claimed its government's de jure right to govern the whole island of Ireland, including Northern Ireland.

The DUP fought the resulting election to the Northern Ireland Assembly, to which Paisley was elected, while keeping his seats in the Westminster and European parliaments. The DUP took two seats in the multi-party power-sharing executive (Paisley, like the leaders of the Social Democratic and Labour Party and Sinn Féin chose not to become a minister) but those DUP members serving as ministers (Peter Robinson and Nigel Dodds) refused to attend meetings of the Executive Committee (cabinet) in protest at Sinn Féin's participation.

Having spent most of his career, as he himself jokingly admitted once, saying 'No', Paisley assumed the chairmanship of the Agriculture committee of the Northern Ireland Assembly created by the Belfast Agreement, where he was praised (even by Sinn Féin members with whom he worked) as an effective, coordinating chairman. The Minister for Agriculture, Nationalist SDLP's Bríd Rodgers, remarked that she and Paisley had a "workmanlike" relationship.

After a number of stop/starts the Executive and Assembly created by the 1998 Belfast Agreement were ultimately suspended in October 2002 amid unionist unhappiness on the nature of Provisional IRA disarmament and the alleged discovery of a Republican spy network operating in Stormont.

During fresh elections in 2003 Paisley and the DUP campaigned on the need for re-negotiation of the Belfast Agreement and emerged from the elections as the leading party entitled to the position of First Minister with Sinn Féin entitled to the Deputy First minister position. Progress could now only be achieved with Paisleys agreement. He refused to accept Sinn Féin in Government without further progress, and the British Government maintained the suspensions of the institutions.

Paisley and the DUP entered negotiations with the Governments and the other parties on the steps required and the changes needed to the Belfast Agreement. The December 2004 Comprehensive Agreement upheld the principles of the Belfast Agreement but foundered on the DUP demand for photographic evidence of IRA decommissioning. Following IRA disarmament in September 2005, the Governments set deadlines for the DUP and Sinn Féin to agree on a new Executive, with the alternative being direct rule from London.

Sinn Féin did endorse the PSNI, and in the subsequent election Paisley and the DUP received an increased share of the vote and increased their assembly seats from 30 to 36. On Monday 26 March 2007, the date of the British Government deadline for devolution or dissolution, Paisley led a DUP delegation to a meeting with a Sinn Féin delegation led by Gerry Adams which agreed on a DUP proposal that the executive would be established on 8 May. Later in April, Paisley met in Dublin with Taoiseach Bertie Ahern and publicly shook his hand, something Paisley had refused to do until there was peace in Northern Ireland.

At the age of 78 he retired from his European Parliament seat at the 2004 elections and was succeeded by Jim Allister.

Following his January 2008 retirement as a religious leader and pressure from party insiders, on 4 March 2008 Ian Paisley announced that he will stand down as DUP leader and First Minister of Northern Ireland in May 2008. On 17 April, Peter Robinson was elected unopposed as his successor.

Ian was awarded the 2008 'Oldie of The Year Award' from The Oldie Magazine for his contribution to the Northern Ireland peace process.

From the 1960s, one of his main rivals was civil rights leader and co-founder of the nationalist SDLP, John Hume.

Though their parties are often at loggerheads, Hume and Paisley worked jointly on behalf of Northern Ireland in the European Parliament and on occasion worked jointly in the House of Commons. Indeed the complexity of their relationship was demonstrated when it was discovered that Hume had visited Paisley's home to dine with Ian and his wife, Eileen, on Boxing Day (26 December) one year in the 1990s.

His critics see his work in the European Parliament and in Stormont of late and argue that he could have been, had he so wished, one of the greatest builders of a new inclusive Northern Ireland. To his supporters, Paisley is seen as a passionate defender of the union between Northern Ireland and Great Britain. They argue that he stood up for unionists who were under attack from nationalists from the Republic of Ireland and from British governments willing to give away "unionist rights" and ignore unionist fears to placate nationalists and the Provisional Irish Republican Army. To some, he is seen as the wrecker whose extremism almost destroyed Northern Ireland (see Richard Quinn (victim of The Troubles). To others, Ian Paisley is the great defender, the protector who saved Northern Ireland from "Rome Rule" and "Dublin rule".

To his opponents however, including some unionists, Paisley is seen as a demagogue, a crude rabble-rouser who spent his political career saying 'no' and being passed by; "no" to O'Neill's reform, "no" to contacts with the Republic, "no" to Sunningdale, "no" to the convention, "no" to James Prior's rolling devolution, "no" to the Anglo-Irish Agreement, "no" to the Belfast Agreement. By them he is seen as a uniquely destructive influence whose extremism lost potential friends and helped alienate people outside Northern Ireland sympathetic to unionism. Paisley has never accepted any culpability for any violence, despite his many fiery speeches, which often presented the political conflict in stark Biblical terms as a millenarian battle between good and evil (see Historicism).

In September 2005, he was criticised for stoking unionist violence in Belfast over the 75-metre diversion of a provocative Orange Order march along a thoroughfare serving as a boundary between nationalist and unionist communities. Quoted by The Guardian newspaper, he called the diversion "the spark which kindles a fire there could be no putting out". Widespread loyalist riots followed, producing, among other results, what Northern Ireland secretary Peter Hain called "serious attempts to kill police in some instances".

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Source : Wikipedia