Paisley tells "parable of change" on visit to southern Ireland

Northern Ireland's First Minister Dr Ian Paisley basked in the success of the peace process during a two-day visit to Cobh, southern Ireland, at the weekend in a bid to promote cross-border links. ( dpa )

His visit came in the run-up to the centenary of the sinking of the Titanic in 2012. Cobh, formerly known as the Queenstown, was the last port of call for the ship, which set sail from Southampton, southern England on April 10, calling at Cherbourg, France and then Queenstown.

The RMS Titanic was built at Belfast's Harland and Wolff shipyards, and departed Cobh for its fatal voyage on April 12, 1912 only to sink three days later in the icy waters of the North Atlantic.

Paisley's visit was not without controversy and came at the invitation to address the Cobh & Harbour Chamber on its 50th anniversary. It was one of many invitations received and he intended to pay more visits, he added.

A group of around 60 demonstrators held banners aloft outside the venue reading, "End British Occupation" and "No collaboration with British administration in Ireland," and slammed invited guests as "traitors" and "scumbags."

But their presence did little to dampen the mood of the 82-year- old.

Paisley had earlier noted that the peace process was proving so positive that the chief constable of the Police Service of Northern Ireland, Hugh Orde, had met Sinn Fein leader Gerry Adams in his constituency to discuss policing issues.

Paisley said he expected his successor as first minister, Peter Robinson, would get on well with Irish prime minister designate Brian Cowen. Both politicians are due to take over their new posts next month.

Speaking to reporters, he said: "I wouldn't have given it up if I didn't think things were going in the right direction. I got the ship into the water, found it was waterproof and it is sailing in the right direction."

As part of a rejuvenation process, Belfast is currently witnessing the construction of the Titanic Quarter in an area previously owned by Harland and Wolff shipyards and known until recently as Queen's Island.

It has been earmarked for development to include businesses, apartments, a riverside entertainment district, a museum and a major Titanic-themed attraction.

Belfast and Cork are set to lead the way in a series of events commemorating the tragedy, in which more than 1,500 people lost their lives.

As Paisley noted in his address: "We are going down the valley one by one with our faces toward the setting of the sun. He who pays no attention to this parable of unshakeable truth is making a plaything of his life in this present world and his inheritance in the world to come."

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