Former first minister and DUP leader Ian Paisley has died
The former Democratic Unionist Party leader Dr Ian Paisley has died, aged 88.
His family said they are "heartbroken", while his successor as DUP leader and Northern Ireland First Minister Peter Robinson said he was a "towering figure".
Sinn Fein's Martin McGuinness also expressed his deep regret and said he had lost a friend.
A firebrand Protestant preacher turned politician, Dr Paisely led opposition to compromise with the IRA for decades later became a peacemaker when he entered government with Sinn Fein at Stormont following a landmark deal.
Dr Paisley's family said they are 'heartbroken'He had been ill for some time, and was hospitalised in 2012 with a heart problem.
In a statement announcing his death, his wife Eileen said: "My beloved husband, Ian, entered his eternal rest this morning.
"Although ours is the grand hope of reunion, naturally as a family we are heartbroken.
"We loved him and he adored us, and our earthly lives are forever changed."
The funeral will be private but a memorial service is planned later in the year.
Mr Robinson told Sky News: "Ian Paisley was a towering figure, not just within unionism, but Northern Ireland politics as a whole.
Dr Paisley at Westminster in 1970"He was in many ways Mr Northern Ireland."
Mr McGuinness, Northern Ireland's Deputy First Minister, said: "In the brief period that we worked together in the Office of the First and Deputy First Minister I developed a close working relationship with him which developed into a friendship, which despite our many differences lasted beyond his term in office."
Prime Minister David Cameron said: "Ian Paisley was one of the most forceful and instantly recognisable characters in British politics for nearly half a century.
"Of course, Ian Paisley was a controversial figure for large parts of his career.
"Yet the contribution he made in his later years to political stability in Northern Ireland was huge."
Dr Paisley with Hillary Clinton and Martin McGuinness in 2007
Former Labour prime minister Tony Blair said: "Ian was a man of deep convictions. The convictions never changed. But his appreciation of the possibilities of peace, gradually and with much soul searching, did. He began as the militant. He ended as the peacemaker."
Irish Prime Minister Enda Kenny said: "Dr Paisley was by any measure a major figure in the history of these islands.
"While he was of course a divisive figure, his greatest legacy will be one of peace."
In his tribute, former Northern Ireland secretary Peter Hain said: "Ian Paisley was the Big Man of Northern Ireland politics.
"The historic 2007 peace settlement bringing bitter lifetime enemies to govern jointly could never have happened without him."
Dr Paisley led opposition to any accommodation with republicans for decades and his fiery rhetoric was legendary.
He opposed successive political deals including the Anglo Irish and Good Friday Agreements but agreed to power-sharing with Sinn Fein in 2007 following that party's acceptance of the new police force.
The former North Antrim MP stepped down as leader of the DUP and as first minister in 2008.
He retired from the European Parliament in 2009, Parliament in 2010 and the Northern Ireland Assembly in 2011.