Ahern should be president, says Paisley

Bertie Ahern deserves to be the next President of Ireland, Ian Paisley declared today.

The North's First Minister said the outgoing Taoiseach has the popularity to win the public vote.

The Democratic Unionist leader, who also retires next month, said although Mr Ahern may seek a position in Europe after his resignation, he thinks he will return to Irish soil in the future.

"I think that probably he will be a candidate for the Presidency, that's what I would think, and I would think that with his popularity he will have no bother getting there," said Mr Paisley.

"He may go to Europe. There's two years and I'm sure he's not going to hang around because he'll need to keep his name well before the people, but I think that after all he has done he deserves to be the president of the country, if he so desires it."

Mr Paisley will officially open the Battle of the Boyne site in Co Louth with Mr Ahern this morning, before the Taoiseach tenders his resignation to President Mary McAleese.

The 82-year-old North Antrim MP said he started something when he met Mr Ahern at the historical site almost a year ago, and he wanted to see it complete.

"It was nice to know that one of the last acts we did when we were in office, he as Taoiseach and me as First Minister, is we met at the Boyne and cut the tape," he said.

Mr Paisley said that his relationship with Mr Ahern was very hearty and open.

"There are many things that we disagree about but there are many things we agree about," he continued.

"We agree… that we both are entitled to live here and we want to make it the best possible place for all religions and all people.

"And we'd like everybody to look back and say, well we didn't agree with Paisley but… he wanted us to live and let live and I think that's the best testimony I can have.

"And I would think the Taoiseach would have no objection to that at all."

Mr Paisley told RTÉ radio that he hoped Ireland remains at peace.

"I hope we can build such an understanding between the different people on this island that there will be never a going back to the old bad ways," he continued.

"We don't want to see the blood of anybody staining the ground in Ireland.

"We want to see people living in hope and happy and with the liberty to say what they mean and mean what they say and still let the other man live and mean what he says."

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