09/12/14 10:42 EST

Leaders from across Northern Ireland's political divides, and from London and Dublin, have been paying tribute to former First Minister Ian Paisley - who has passed away at the age of 88.

Known as Lord Bannside since being made a life peer in 2010, the founder of the Free Presbyterian Church and the former DUP leader died on Friday morning.

It comes after a number of health scares in recent years.

Confirming the news, his wife Eileen Paisley 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."

The family also confirmed that the funeral and burial will both be private and attended only by immediate family.

However, a public memorial service will be scheduled for later in the year and announced in due course.

"As a family, we appreciate that there will be an expectation by those who admired him to express their gratitude for his life and their sorrow at his passing," Mrs Paisley added.

Politicians have been remembering a man who, once hugely divisive, made history when he first entered into a power-sharing government alongside Sinn Féin back in 2007.

NI First Minister and DUP leader Peter Robinson said words seemed "inadequate" in the face of the passing of a man who had "left an indelible mark" on all who knew him.

"As a young person in the late 1960s, I was drawn towards politics by the strength of Ian's message and by his charisma," he said.

"A long and glorious period of Ulster history has now closed and already the province seems a little less colourful."

"Ian has taken his place in history alongside the greats of unionism, making our heritage even richer. To have known him and stood alongside him for so many years has been one of the greatest privileges of my life."

Mr Robinson added: "As a leader of men, a friend of the people, a servant of the state and a voice for the truth Ian Paisley excelled and shone."

"Ulster will never see the like of him again: a giant of a human being, a true Ulsterman with an immeasurable love for the province and its people."

"At this sad time, the prayers of everyone in the DUP and far beyond the confines of our party are with Baroness Paisley, her children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren."

Despite his past cries of "Never, never, never", Rev Paisley was to form a solid working relationship with Sinn Féin's Martin McGuinness towards the end of his political life - and even an unlikely friendship.

The deputy First Minister has expressed "deep regret and sadness" at the news.

"Over a number of decades, we were political opponents and held very different views on many, many issues," Mr McGuinness said.

"But the one thing we were absolutely united on was the principle that our people were better able to govern themselves than any British government."

He added: "I want to send my sincere sympathy to his wife Eileen, his children, and extended family."

Sinn Féin president and Louth TD Gerry Adams said he believed Rev Paisley's commitment to the peace process had been "genuine".

He added: "From that point, he always treated me with respect, with good humour - he was very decent and was always willing to discuss and to try to sort out problems."

UK Prime Minister David Cameron offered condolences to the Paisley family on behalf of the whole Westminster Government.

"His decision to take his party into government with Sinn Féin in 2007 required great courage and leadership, for which everyone in these islands should be grateful," the Conservative leader said.

"I saw him most in the House of Commons where his great oratory stood out. He had a deserved reputation as one of the most hard working and effective MPs."

"Ian Paisley will be remembered by many as the 'Big Man' of Northern Ireland politics. He will be greatly missed."

Leader of the Opposition Ed Miliband said that Ian Paisley's move towards power-sharing had been "the ultimate act of political courage and reconciliation".

He added: "His willingness to work positively with Martin McGuinness was a key element in ensuring continued peace and stability in Northern Ireland."

"My thoughts are with Ian Paisley Jr and the rest of the Paisley family at this very sad time."

Northern Ireland Secretary of State Theresa Villiers said: "My sincere condolences go to Baroness Paisley and the Paisley family. Ian Paisley was a beloved husband and revered father. His passing will leave an irreplaceable gap in their lives."

She added: "From his election in 1970 through his elevation to the Lords in 2010, Ian Paisley was a formidable Parliamentarian. Parliament has lost one of it great characters."

Taoiseach Enda Kenny also paid tribute to Rev Paisley, saying: "I know that he treasured the peace and friendship that he had lived to see, and helped to build, between our traditions."

Irish Foreign Affairs Minister Charlie Flanagan added: "I recall especially that historic occasion when Dr Paisley and his wife Eileen took part in the opening of the Battle of the Boyne heritage site."

"That day represented what many had worked so long to achieve, cooperation between North and South with recognition of our shared history and heritage."

Irish President Michael D Higgins said: "Irrespective of one's political perspective, Dr Paisley was undoubtedly a man of immense influence on the contemporary history of this island."

"His embracing of the change necessary to achieve a discourse that might lead to peace was of immense significance, as was his commitment to building relationships in support of that peace."

Former Irish president Mary McAleese and her husband Martin also expressed their condolences.

"Dr Paisley will be remembered by many people in Northern Ireland as a controversial figure, a political giant and spiritual leader," they said.

"In more recent years, when he felt the time was right, he became an influential man of peace."

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 peace-maker."

"He could be an uncompromising, even intransigent opponent. But he was also someone who loved Northern Ireland and its people. He led them but he also followed them."

"When they said to him peace was thinkable, he made it possible."

Scotland's First Minister Alex Salmond said: "Ian Paisley was a major figure in the politics of these islands who I first got to know at Westminster as a warm, personable fellow MP - despite the obvious differences in our political outlook."

"He and I became First Ministers in the same month and it was a matter of considerable pride that my first speech outside Scotland in that role was at the Assembly in Belfast."

MLAs will make their tributes to Ian Paisley in the Assembly on Monday, led by Speaker William Hay.

"Personally, I knew Ian Paisley as a family friend long before my own political career," he said.

"And what I will remember most was his unique way of connecting with and showing a personal interest in people. It will be a privilege to preside over tributes to him in the Assembly on Monday."

Assembly business will be suspended afterwards and MLAs will sign a book of condolence in the Great Hall which will then be opened to members of the public.

Ulster Unionist Party leader Mike Nesbitt said: "There will be plenty of time to reflect on Ian Paisley's impact on the shaping of the modern Northern Ireland and its relations with our nearest neighbours, but today is a time to give the Paisley household space to mourn."

"My sympathies to Baroness Paisley and the family."

SDLP leader Alasdair McDonnell offered his condolences to the family.

"Ian Paisley was a man of great contradictions," he said.

"I could never and would never agree with his politics, but he was a committed constituency representative and public servant. History will undoubtedly judge him for his role in the troubles and the pain that was caused by his rhetoric."

"We must however acknowledge that, despite his opposition to the Good Friday Agreement, in later years he committed himself to making power sharing work."

Alliance leader David Ford added his sympathies, noting that Rev Paisley was "one of the biggest names in Northern Ireland and British politics".

He said: "Ian Paisley was a dedicated political representative who served the people of North Antrim for over four decades."

"His passing marks the end of the era - Northern Ireland politics will not be the same following his death. Although many of us opposed his actions for many years, he played a key role in getting the Northern Ireland Assembly back on track in 2007 and I commended him for his work and effort in achieving this."

UKIP NI leader David McNarry said: "My heart goes out to Baroness Paisley and her family at this very sad time. 'The Doc' or the 'Big Man', as he was affectionately known, treated me as a gentleman would and I am deeply saddened by this news of his death."

PUP leader Billy Hutchinson said: "On behalf of the Progressive Unionist Party, I would like to offer our deepest sympathy to the family of Ian Paisley - his wife, children and wider family circle. They are in our thoughts and prayers."

Green Party NI leader Steven Agnew said of Rev Paisley: "This is a time for personal loss rather than political dissection and therefore I simply want to extend my deepest condolences and best wishes to his wife, his children and his grandchildren who he was very close to and who will miss him most."

Religious leaders have also paid tribute to Rev Paisley.

Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby said: "He was a passionate advocate for his community, a parliamentarian who made his presence felt in our national life and a man of deep faith."

Archbishop of Armagh and Primate of All Ireland, The Most Rev Dr Richard Clarke, said: "On behalf of the Church of Ireland, I wish to convey my sympathy to Baroness Paisley and the Paisley family on the death of the Rev Ian Paisley, and assure them of our prayers at this time."

"The legacy for which he will be most generously remembered will be his work in more recent years in progressing partnership government in the Executive of the Northern Ireland Assembly."

Presbyterian Moderator Right Rev Dr Michael Barry said Rev Paisley would be "warmly remembered".

He added: "On behalf of the Presbyterian Church in Ireland, I extend our deepest sympathies to his wife Baroness Paisley, his children and grandchildren and the wider family circle, and assure them of our prayers at this difficult time."

President of the Methodist Church in Ireland, Rev Peter Murray, added: "Rev Dr Ian Paisley was a preacher and politician who moved on the world stage, but retained his roots in home soil."

"In recent years, his willingness to take substantial steps towards building a strong working relationship with political opponents helped to build a peace process which we hope will prove to be a lasting legacy to future generations."

Orange Order Grand Master Edward Stevenson said: "On behalf of the Grand Orange Lodge of Ireland, I would like to offer the deepest condolences of the entire Institution to the Paisley family at this sad time."

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