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DUP’s Ian Paisley has said he had no agenda in paying tribute to Martin McGuinness, after he thanked him for his work in Northern Ireland politics.
The North Antrim MP and son of the late former first Minister Dr Ian Paisley, publicly thanked the former deputy first minister for his contribution to establishing peace and stability in Northern Ireland along with his father in government after Mr McGuinness announced he was quitting Stormont politics.
Speaking to UTV, Mr Paisley said: “I used a very simple phrase, I said thank you, and I acknowledged the fact that if Martin McGuinness hadn’t have cooperated and treated with respect my party and my father the way that he did when we originally did the deal for a government in Northern Ireland then we wouldn’t be in the place we are today.
“And where are we? We are in a stable Northern Ireland. Unfortunately we have this glitch in regards to the devolved settlement but I think it should give us encouragement that the foundation stone is well in place to build on and to get devolution up and running again.”
He said he had no agenda in praising Mr McGuinness.
He added: “There’s absolutely no plan in any of this, this is an honest assessment. I hope that all politicians have the calibre, strength of character and hopefully commitment to be able to be honest about these things.”
“I have no other agenda in any of this. I’m a member of Parliament for this constituency, that’s my agenda and that’s what I’ll continue to do.”
Sinn Féin president Gerry Adams has welcomed the warm tribute.
Sinn Féin’s Martin McGuinness has described his sadness at not standing for re-election at a solidarity rally in the Bogside area of Londonderry.
The Foyle MLA and former deputy First Minister was addressing local people on Thursday night after giving media interviews to confirm that he was retiring from Stormont politics.
“At the end of the day I had to make a decision and I had to be honest with myself, the question I had to ask myself was I physically able or capable of fighting an intensive five or six week election in the current state that I’m in and the answer to that was no,” Mr McGuinness said.
“So the only fair thing to do which I have done today was to make it clear that I won’t unfortunately, even though it breaks my heart, that I won’t have an opportunity to again ask the people of Foyle to support me in what will be a critical election.”
Sinn Féin has declined to re-nominate a deputy first minister in a move set to collapse the powersharing executive in Belfast and trigger a snap election.
Barring a highly unlikely U-turn by the republican party, the institutions will now fall at 5pm on Monday and Northern Ireland Secretary James Brokenshire will be legally obliged to call the election.
The DUP renominated their party leader as First Minister at the start of Assembly business at Parliament Buildings on Monday.
Nominating Ms Foster, Lord Morrow said: “We will decide who the leader of our party is, not someone else in this chamber.
“We don’t dictate to others who should be their leader and no one is going to dictate to us today who the leader of our party.”
However Sinn Féin declined to replace Mr McGuinness.
The Sinn Féin veteran quit over the Democratic Unionists' handling of a botched green energy scheme.
Sinn Féin MLA Michelle O’Neill, said: “If we are to return to this chamber then there must be real meaningful change. There must be respect and equality for all sections of our society.
“These institutions must operate to the highest standard with no place for arrogance or malpractice. It’s now over to the people to have their say.”
Arlene Foster has offered to hold talks with Sinn Féin in a bid to avert an executive collapse.
Sinn Féin’s Martin McGuinness has indicated a willingness to meet Ms Foster to discuss the crisis, but his party has ruled out a substantive negotiation process ahead of an election.
Meanwhile the Irish Foreign Affairs Minister has arrived in Belfast as efforts to find a solution to the political impasse intensify. Charlie Flanagan is holding talks with the Secretary of State James Brokenshire.
Unless the republican party changes tack, Northern Ireland is destined to return to the polls, less than a year after the last Assembly election.
The reversal of a decision Communities Minister Paul Givan to cut an Irish language bursary has been seen by some as a DUP olive branch to Sinn Féin.
While the looming collapse of the ruling executive was triggered by the renewable heat incentive (RHI) affair - a green heating scandal that has left Stormont with a £490million bill - other disputes between the two main parties have been reignited by the furore.
Sinn Féin cited DUP "disrespect" towards the Irish language as one of the main reasons it had walked away.
Speaking to the press on Thursday, the Secretary of State said the high probability was that Northern Ireland is heading towards an election, but that all efforts should be made to see where there is common ground to try and avoid the outcome.
Alliance Party leader Naomi Long also claimed the DUP had approached a party colleague and asked them to join lobbying of Mr Brokenshire to postpone calling a snap election.
Latest ITV News reports
Michelle O’Neill has said that taking over from “political giant” Martin McGuinness is “truly the biggest honour and privilege” of her life.
Michelle O'Neill has been named as Sinn Féin's new northern leader, taking over from Martin McGuinness.