THERE will be no state funeral for former DUP leader Ian Paisley who died today aged 88.
Plans had been drawn up five years ago to give the former Free Presbyterian Moderator the full trappings of a state funeral as he was once First Minister of Northern Ireland.
It was to have been on a scale similar to that of George Best when he died in November 2005
But the family have decided on a strictly private family service followed by a memorial service later this year.
It is understood the former North Antrim MP had been left deeply hurt at the way he was removed from high office both as First Minister and Moderator of the Free Presbyterian church he founded.
“By holding a private family service it means the likes of Peter Robinson and Nigel Dodds can’t attend,” said a DUP source.
“Dr Paisley believed they had knifed him in the back and were ultimately behind moves to remove from as First Minister and also as DUP leader.”
Announcing the news, Baroness Eileen Paisley said her husband died on Friday morning and the family was heartbroken.
Mr Paisley ended up leading a power-sharing executive at Stormont to sit in public office with one of his sworn enemies – former IRA chief of staff Martin McGuinness.
In her statement, Baroness Paisley said: “Although ours is the grand hope of reunion, naturally as a family, we are heartbroken.
“We loved him and he adored us and our earthly lives are forever changed.”
Prime Minister David Cameron said Mr Paisley was “one of the most forceful and instantly recognisable characters in British politics for nearly half a century”.
He said he was a controversial politician but his contribution in his later years to stability in Northern Ireland was “huge”.
“In particular, his decision to take his party into government with Sinn Féin in 2007 required great courage and leadership, for which everyone in these islands should be grateful,” Mr Cameron said.
“Ian Paisley will be remembered by many as the ‘Big Man’ of Northern Ireland politics. He will be greatly missed.”
Labour leader Ed Miliband said Mr Paisley was “a towering figure in Northern Ireland politics for decades”.
“His decision to take the DUP into a power-sharing partnership with Sinn Féin was the ultimate act of political courage and reconciliation,”he said.
First Minister and DUP leader Peter Robinson said that during the height of the Troubles, the “sure and certain ring” of Ian Paisley’s voice had a “special resonance” with the people of Northern Ireland.
“I don’t think that there’s anyone who has had more influence in Northern Ireland over the years,” Mr Robinson said.
“Even those who thought the least of his politics thought the most of him as a person.”
He said those who knew Ian Paisley knew his priority was his faith – above all else in life.
“In terms of Ian Paisley’s political contribution, I think there are many people who look at his early days in the context of the more stable and peaceful society that we have today.
“The Ian Paisley of those days was an Ian Paisley that was keeping together a unionist community that felt it was under fire, that it had no friends to help it constitutionally, that its representatives were being picked off, there was genocide along the border,” he said.