Mr Principal Deputy Speaker:
One of the saddest duties from this Chair is to report to the House the passing of former or current colleagues. However, it always serves to remind us that, no matter about the heat of the political disagreements that we have in this House or elsewhere, ultimately, we are all made of the same flesh and bone.
I know that Members will have different views on Ian Paisley's politics and his legacy that they will want to express, but it is not for me to dwell on that from this Chair. However, there is no doubt that the former First Minister was instrumental in us all being in the Chamber today. Indeed, he will have influenced the politics of Members on all sides of the House.
I think that Members will agree that politics has lost a giant personality. The international coverage since his passing acts as proof of that. To opponents or the public, in speeches or in interviews, Ian Paisley may have come across as a strident, foreboding character, but I know that many in the Chamber will also hold valued memories of his warm and personal nature. That came across in his reputation as a champion of all his constituents and, of course, combined with his sense of humour, on the election campaign trail, it made him a force of nature.
It is often the case that some of the most significant and memorable political figures are those who provoke a strong emotional reaction, positive and negative. Ian Paisley did that. He was straight-talking whether you liked what he said or not. Let us remember today that, regardless of his political contribution, he regarded himself first and foremost as a man of faith and family. We express our heartfelt condolences to Baroness Paisley and the entire Paisley family. It is safe to say that Northern politics would not have been the same without Ian Paisley. May he rest in peace.
As is customary, I will now invite party leaders to speak for around five minutes to pay tribute to our late friend and colleague. I will not impose strict time constraints but I encourage Members to be brief and to speak for no more than three minutes in order to give time for as many as possible in the one and a half hours that have been allocated for tributes. When tributes are concluded, Members are invited to join me in signing the book of condolence in the Great Hall. The book of condolence will be available for Members, staff who work in the Building and for users of the Building to sign until 3.00 pm today after which it will be open to the public. The House will now pay its own respects.You can read the full transcript on our website.