Dr Ian Paisley, the former Democratic Unionist Party leader and founder, died today at the age of 88.

Paisley was a fierce and vocal Protestant preacher and politician throughout his life, becoming an MP in 1970 and founded the DUP the same year. He was noted for his opposition to many political agreements in Northern Ireland's troubled history, including the Sunningdale Agreement, the Anglo-Irish Agreement and the Good Friday Agreement, and, although elected, refused his seat on the Northern Ireland Assembly due to his anti-power sharing stance.

He later reversed his opinion and sat as First Minister from 2007 to 2008 and resigned as an MP in 2010.

Paisley was admitted to intensive care after suffering a suspected heart attack in 2012, and was said to have been ill for some time recently.

His wife Eileen Paisley released the following statement this afternoon:

'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. According to Ian’s wishes his funeral will be private and attended only by the immediate family, as will be his burial.

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. To that end we will in due course publish details of a public memorial service which, will be scheduled later in the year. There will be no further comment or statements made by me or the family at this time'

Fellow politicians have shared their sympathies on Twitter, with notable opponent Martin McGuinness expressing sadness at his death.