Former Northern Ireland First Minister and former leader of the Democratic Unionist Party Ian Paisley will not seek re-election in the upcoming general election.

The 83 year-old first won his seat in North Antrim in 1970.

Paisley's son, Ian Jr., is expected to run for his father’s seat.

Paisley announced his retirement from politics in the Ballymena Guardian.

“I would want to pay tribute to the fantastic role my father has played as a member of Parliament for the last 40 years." said Ian Paisley jnr.

The hardline Traditional Unionist Voice party member Jim Allister will give Ian Paisley Jr. a run for his money in the general election.

Ian Paisley is vividly remembered for his fiery Unionist rhetoric during the Troubles, and his hatred for Catholicism and the Irish Republic.

Paisley formed the Free Presbyterian Church in 1951 and in the early 1970s was credited with masterminding the fall of the Sunningdale agreement and the subsequent power sharing government.

During the Troubles, Paisley widely encouraged sectarianism in public talks and in television interviews, and many nationalists joined the IRA as a direct result of Paisley's actions.

Paisley formed a more moderate Unionist view after the Good Friday Agreement and became the First Minister of Northern Ireland's power sharing executive in 2007.

Many hardline Unionists accused Paisley of betraying Ulster when he joined Sinn Fein's Deputy First Minister Martin Mc Guinness in government.

He stood down in 2008 and was replaced by Peter Robinson.

“I have no doubt the people of North Antrim will again support the DUP at the next election,” said Paisley.

Paisley also said he had "no regrets" about power sharing with Sinn Fein.

"After a period of tough negotiations it was my view that, provided our conditions were met, the overwhelming majority of the people of Northern Ireland wanted me to do the deal, it was as simple as that,” he said.

Paisley expressed his disappointment at the formation of the Traditional Unionist Voice and Allister's departure from the DUP.

“I am sad that some people walked away but I believe I showed the leadership required to get the best possible deal in the circumstances.”



Reverend Ian Paisley, who led the DUP for 37 years