Ian Paisley jnr thanks Martin McGuinness for 'saving lives'

Ian Paisley jnr was speaking on BBC's The View 
Ian Paisley jnr was speaking on BBC's The View  Ian Paisley jnr was speaking on BBC's The View 

DUP MP Ian Paisley jnr has paid a warm tribute to Sinn Féin's Martin McGuinness and thanked him for his service as deputy first minister.

Mr Paisley's remarks on BBC's The View last night surprised many as he said the former IRA leader's "remarkable journey not only saved lives but made the lives of countless people better."

Mr McGuinness forged a close working relationship with Mr Paisley's father, former DUP leader Ian Paisley, when they were Stormont's first and deputy first ministers.

The pair, once sworn enemies, were dubbed 'the chuckle brothers' at one stage due to their harmonious relationship. 

Mr Paisley said: "I can say thank you - honestly and humbly and recognise the remarkable journey Martin McGuinness went on has not only saved lives, but has made the lives of countless people in Northern Ireland better because of the partnership government we worked on and put together."

"I wish him well in his retirement and hope he has time to get over his health issues and enjoy retirement time with his wife and family."

Mr McGuinness confirmed last night he will not stand in the forthcoming Assembly election. He resigned as deputy first minister in a row over the botched Renewable Heat Incentive scheme, triggering an election on 2 March.

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During the interview, Mr Paisley praised Mr McGuinness' contribution to the peace process.

"I think it is important to reflect on the fact that we would not be where we are in Northern Ireland in terms of having stability, peace and opportunity to rebuild our country," he said. 

"I am going to acknowledge the fact perhaps if we got back to the same sort of foundation work of building a proper relationship and recognising what that relationship actually means then we can get out of the mess that we are currently in."

Sitting next to Sinn Fein MLA Conor Murphy, Mr Paisley said: "I do not believe it is necessary for Ian Paisley or for any unionist to qualify every comment with that fact: A, I am a protestant so I think something different to the Catholic beside me. And B, I am a unionist and loyalist and think something different to the nationalist or republican beside me.

"Can we please get over that - the people have got over that.

"As politicians we have to more honest or these crisis that we are in today will become a feature of Northern Ireland political life.

"The chuckle brothers as it was derided at the time - people look back on that relationship now and say that if it was something we had today - those issues would not be as difficult to deal with, they would still be there.

"This is not about gushing, I am being realistic."

Responding to Mr Paisley's remarks, Conor Murphy said he was not surprised given Mr McGuinness's close relationship with the Paisley family.

He said Ian Paisley and Martin McGuinness "were derided for the friendship they had, but people would like to see a few chuckles around Stormont today".

Mr Paisley also spoke of politicians' responsibility to resolved the current crisis.

He said: "It would be very easy to beat the drum ... dead easy to say 'great stuff, another one is off the scene, we'll deal with the next one'.

"Does that really help? It doesn't help out there. It won't put our country back together again.

"We actually have responsibilities as political leaders to put this back together again and the sooner more of us are honest about this the better."

Last night former DUP leader and first minister Peter Robinson also paid tribute to Martin McGuinness.

In a statement to Press Association he said: "Martin will discover, as I have, that there is much to rejoice in having more time with family, and less stress with the removal of the responsibilities of office.

"I pray that he overcomes his health challenges and has the time to do the simple things I know he loves - spending time with his grandchildren, fishing and watching football."