The first politician I met in the flesh was the Rev. Dr. Ian Paisley. It was in downtown Bangor in the lead up to the 1986 By Election following the mass resignation of the Unionists. He was shaking hands and got to me in the crowd and asked "Can Jim (Kilfedder) count on your vote?", I actually replied firmly "Even if I were old enough my answer would be no, because I disagree with you over rejecting all links with the Republic."
My late Grandmother I've learnt had a similar experience and response with him on her doorstep in Londonderry. I've also since written to him on a number of occasions as one of my MEPs disagreeing with him.
Now we learn that the man most associated with the words 'No' and 'Never' in Northern Irish politics has finally decided to step down from Westminister. Yet who has learned that never doesn't always mean never when he set up the current historic power sharing executive. In 2005 his 25,156 votes in North Antrim gave him a majority of nearly 18,000 for Westminster.
The 83 year old has been an MP for most of my life first being elected in 1970 before forming the Democratic Unionist Party the following year. From 1979-2005 he also served as one of Northern Ireland's three MEPs, his most infamous intervention in Brussels was shouting out calling Pope John Paul II "The Anti-Christ" as the Pope addressed the Parliament. He also often held a triple mandate being returned top of the list for North Antrim in any devolved Assembly, Forum, Parliament elections over that period.
He stepped down as the first leader of the DUP in 2008 and as Moderator of the Free Presbyterian Church, which he also founded in 2007.
Jim Allister the leader of Traditional Unionist Voice who had succeeded Paisley to the DUP's Euro seat was to challenge in North Antrim and it is expected now that the name Ian Paisley may carry on for the DUP in the area with his son standing in the big man's place.