Former Protestant leader Paisley hospitalized

Story highlights

  • Firebrand Protestant leader made a surprise peace with Catholics after years of conflict
  • Paisley became first minister in Northern Ireland's power-sharing government
  • The 85-year-old Paisley has been in poor health for years
Ian Paisley, the evangelist who made peace in Northern Ireland after leading Protestants against compromise with Roman Catholics for years, has been hospitalized for an unreported condition, his wife said in a statement Monday.
"Baroness Paisley confirms that her husband, Lord Bannside, is currently being treated in the Ulster Hospital," the two-sentence statement said. "She requests that the family's privacy be respected at this difficult time."
Paisley, 85, stepped down in 2008 as a leader of the power-sharing government formed the year before with Sinn Fein, the main pro-Irish party. He also resigned as head of the Democratic Unionist Party at the same time.
Paisley had health problems in the past and received a pacemaker after becoming ill in the House of Lords of the United Kingdom parliament, which he joined as Lord Bannside in 2010.
He made his name as a hard-line pro-British politician during the Northern Ireland conflict and was leader of the Democratic Unionist Party for almost 40 years.
During decades of seemingly irreversible conflict between Northern Ireland's Protestant and Roman Catholic communities, Paisley was considered an uncompromising figure. The unrest in the province killed at least 3,600 people and injured 36,000 over the years.
To the surprise of many, Paisley agreed to share power with his former sworn enemy, Sinn Fein. Paisley was elected Northern Ireland's first minister in 2007, with former IRA commander Martin McGuinness as deputy first minister.
The pair became known as "the Chuckle Brothers" after developing a close working and personal relationship.
When Paisley stepped down, he was succeeded in both his first minister and Democratic Unionist Party leadership roles by his deputy, Peter Robinson.