Prayers and messages of support for Ian Paisley

Ian Paisley
Ian Paisley

FORMER First Minister Ian Paisley remained in intensive care for a fourth night at the Ulster Hospital last night surrounded by his wife and family.

Details of the former First Minister’s condition were not released, in line with the family’s request for privacy issued earlier this week.

Dr Paisley, 85, was rushed to hospital on Sunday with suspected heart failure. It is understood that he remains in a serious condition.

Speaking to the News Letter last night, the Rev Ron Johnstone, Moderator of the Free Presbyterian Church – which Dr Paisley founded – said the family were overwhelmed by the messages of support from both sides of the community and around the world.

“I don’t think Ian Jnr will mind me saying that he had received over 400 text messages from people concerned for his father,” said the minister.

“Other members of the family have also received hundreds of messages – too many to respond to.

“I have also taken calls from people in Singapore, Australia, Kenya, Spain, Canada and America, who are all concerned about Dr Paisley.

“I think that shows how much people around the world think of him, and I know there has been a great number of prayer services held here in Northern Ireland for him as well.”

Mr Johnstone said the Paisley family did not want to deflect from the suffering of other patients in the hospital.

“Of course they are aware of the spotlight, but they do not want to be issuing updates when there are other people who are also going through very difficult times in the intensive care unit,” he said.

“I visited the hospital this morning and I spoke to the family. They are in good spirits and thankful for all the prayers and support.”

On Tuesday, the First and Deputy First Ministers called on the public to pray for the former DUP leader.

Both Peter Robinson and Martin McGuinness have been in contact with the Paisley family.

Dr Paisley – who after entering the House of Lords became Lord Bannside – was MP for North Antrim for almost 40 years.

There had been concerns several years ago about Dr Paisley’s health, when he lost weight and looked gaunt.

But those who were present for his farewell sermon at the Martyrs Memorial Church in Belfast last month remarked on how well he appeared for his age.

After withdrawing from church and public life, Dr Paisley was planning to write his autobiography.

Close friend and colleague the Rev David McIlveen told the News Letter: “Over many years he has been a great strength for many other people in this type of situation and now it is our turn to do the same for him.”