Sinn Fein has joined the hundreds of tributes being paid to Rev Dr Ian Paisley.
In a statement to the Times local Sinn Féin MLA Daithí McKay said the ‘divisive political figure’ was ‘one of the reasons he got involved in politics’.
He continued: “Ian Paisley was a very divisive political figure in the area of North Antrim and many nationalists and republicans in this area still remember well his opposition to civil rights and in particular his involvement in the Ulster Workers Strike and Ulster Resistance in the 1970s and 1980s. I grew up in Rasharkin with stories of how he came into the area to foster division long before the conflict broke out.
“He was certainly one of the reasons I got involved in politics as I was resolutely opposed to the politics he presented and the fear that was instilled in many Catholic communities across North Antrim at that time.
“In the last ten years however his politics were more about resolution than division and he contributed to unionism working in partnership with nationalists and republicans. We both served the North Antrim constituency from 2007-11 and I have to say he was nothing but courteous in any engagements we had and always humorous.
“There will of course be mixed views about the legacy of Ian Paisley that will be debated in the months and years ahead. After spending much of his life at a man of opposition he did make a very important contribution to the peace we now have and the building of mutual respect in the north. That needs to be recognised as well.
“I would like to pass my sincere condolences to Eileen, his children and his wider family.