DUBLIN, Ireland - Ian Paisley, the divisive Protestant firebrand who devoted his life to thwarting compromise with Catholics in Northern Ireland only to become a pivotal peacemaker in his twilight years, died Friday in Belfast, his wife said. He was 88. Paisley was Northern Ireland's most polarizing politician throughout the worst years of its civil strife, during which the evangelist's blistering oratory was often blamed for fueling four decades of bloodshed that claimed 3,700 lives. Yet at the zenith of his peace-wrecking powers, Paisley in 2007 stunned the world by delivering the province's first stable unity government between its British Protestants and its Irish Catholics. "Dr. No," as he was widely known, finally said yes — and his powerful U-turn cemented a peace process that he had done so much to frustrate.
Paisley's widow, Eileen, expressed hope of meeting him again in heaven. "Although ours is the grand hope of reunion, naturally as a family we are heartbroken," she said in a statement. His funeral and burial will be private but a public memorial service will be scheduled later.