Ian Richard Kyle Paisley is a Protestant preacher and larger-than-life politician from Northern Ireland. He is most famous for his opposition to the Catholic Church and to the political unification of Ireland. The son of an independent Baptist minister, he began preaching as a teenager and in 1946 was ordained by his father. Paisley founded the Free Presbyterian Church of Ulster in 1951 and began his career as an elected official in 1970. He has been a member of the UK Parliament since 1970 (representing North Antrim) and was a member of the European Parliament from 1979-2004. As his church grew, so did Paisley's influence in Northern Ireland politics. He co-founded the Democratic Unionist Party in 1971 and has since helped it become the region's largest political party. Paisley is a polarizing political figure: his anti-Catholic rhetoric and determination to keep Northern Ireland in the UK have made him a hero in Protestant Ulster, but critics say he has fueled the long sectarian squabble that claimed more than 3,500 lives. As a religious figure he is the Moderator of the Free Presbyterian Church of Ulster, with an international network of churches and associations with fundamentalist Christians in Europe and the United States. Paisley's attention-grabbing hijinks over the years have included many arrests for political demonstrations and, most famously, his expulsion by force from the European Parliament in 1988 for calling Pope John Paul II
"the Antichrist." After decades of resisting compromise with Irish nationalists, Paisley assumed the position of first minister of Northern Ireland in May of 2007 as part of an agreement to share power with his longtime foes in the Sinn Féin party.