Lord Bannside still seriously ill in hospital

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IAN Paisley was believed to remain seriously ill in the Ulster Hospital last night, but the hospital would not even confirm whether he remained in its care.

Under instructions from the Paisley family not to release any details about the high-profile patient, a spokeswoman for the South Eastern Health Trust last night told the News Letter that she could not comment on Dr Paisley’s condition nor whether he remained in hospital.

The stance has been taken, according to Free Presbyterian Moderator the Rev Ron Johnstone, out of consideration for other families suffering similar distress.

During a serious illness almost a decade ago the Paisley family kept a similarly silent response to questions about the health of Dr Paisley, now also known as Lord Bannside.

The DUP leader later said that he had “walked in death’s shadow” during that period but later returned to church and political life with renewed vigour.

While no news of Dr Paisley’s condition – believed to be a serious heart problem – has been confirmed, heart patients’ chances of survival generally increase if they manage to live through the initial onset of illness.

Today Dr Paisley’s weekly News Letter column – in which he usually writes about his faith and comments on political developments – would have appeared if he had been well.

In last week’s column he wrote of how God’s “heart breaks when He sees the colour drained from His creation” and added that God “expects no less from us than the same ingenuity of the little dog – to make the most of all we have been given”.

Free Presbyterians and many other Christians have been praying for Dr Paisley as he lies in intensive care.

On Wednesday members of his Martyrs Memorial Church gathered for their weekly prayer meeting – which until his retirement in December Dr Paisley would have spoken at even when First Minister — to pray for the church’s 85-year-old founder.

On Tuesday, Peter Robinson and Martin McGuinness issued a joint statement urging people to pray for the former DUP leader.

Sinn Fein junior minister and former IRA bomber Martina Anderson defended that statement from the political leaders after a backlash among some republicans.

Ms Anderson responded to complaints on her Facebook page from supporters, some of whom were vicious about Dr Paisley.

The Foyle MLA responded: “I understand people’s views and know what we as a society came through and as someone who did 13.5 years in jail and 10 of those in England, I have more than an idea of what it was like.

“That said, that was then and we are now all involved in building and consolidating the peace and political process.”