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Ian Paisley, Protestant firebrand-turned-peacemaker in Northern Ireland, dies aged 88

  • FILE - In this April 20, 1999 file photo former Democratic Unionist Party leader Ian Paisley laughs as he poses for a photo with school children. Paisley the fiery Protestant leader has died in Northern Ireland aged 88  his wife Eileen said Friday Sept. 12, 2014. (AP Photo/PA, Paul Faith) UNITED KINGDOM OUT

    FILE - In this April 20, 1999 file photo former Democratic Unionist Party leader Ian Paisley laughs as he poses for a photo with school children. Paisley the fiery Protestant leader has died in Northern Ireland aged 88 his wife Eileen said Friday Sept. 12, 2014. (AP Photo/PA, Paul Faith) UNITED KINGDOM OUT  (The Associated Press)

  • FILE - In this Dec. 12, 2004 file photo, former Democratic Unionist Party leader Ian Paisley speaks at a rally. Paisley the fiery Protestant leader has died in Northern Ireland aged 88  his wife Eileen said Friday Sept. 12, 2014. (AP Photo/PA, Cathal McNaughton) UNITED KINGDOM OUT

    FILE - In this Dec. 12, 2004 file photo, former Democratic Unionist Party leader Ian Paisley speaks at a rally. Paisley the fiery Protestant leader has died in Northern Ireland aged 88 his wife Eileen said Friday Sept. 12, 2014. (AP Photo/PA, Cathal McNaughton) UNITED KINGDOM OUT  (The Associated Press)

  • FILE - In this May 8, 2007 file photo former Democratic Unionist Party leader  Ian Paisley, left, and Martin McGuinness laugh during a photo call in Belfast, Northern Ireland. Paisley the fiery Protestant leader has died in Northern Ireland aged 88  his wife Eileen said Friday Sept. 12, 2014. (AP Photo/PA, Paul Faith) UNITED KINGDOM OUT

    FILE - In this May 8, 2007 file photo former Democratic Unionist Party leader Ian Paisley, left, and Martin McGuinness laugh during a photo call in Belfast, Northern Ireland. Paisley the fiery Protestant leader has died in Northern Ireland aged 88 his wife Eileen said Friday Sept. 12, 2014. (AP Photo/PA, Paul Faith) UNITED KINGDOM OUT  (The Associated Press)

Ian Paisley, the Protestant firebrand who devoted his life to thwarting compromise in Northern Ireland but became a pivotal peacemaker in his twilight years, has died. He was 88.

His wife Eileen announced his death on Friday.

Paisley was Northern Ireland's most divisive politician for four decades. The bombastic evangelist spurred Protestant clashes with 1960s Catholic civil rights marchers, demanded the defeat of the Irish Republican Army, and denounced the Good Friday peace accord of 1998.

But after the IRA disarmed, Paisley in 2007 stunned the world by forming a unity government alongside a former IRA commander as the Good Friday pact intended. He retired after putting Catholic-Protestant cooperation on solid ground.