Nobody could call Reverend Ian Paisley a yes man. For more than 50 years the word 'no' has been the cornerstone of the 79-year-old firebrand preacher-turned-politician's defence of British rule and Protestant values in Northern Ireland. As leader and founder of the Democratic Unionist Party, the reverend said no to the granting of civil rights to Northern Ireland's nationalist community in the 1960s; no to closer ties with the Republic of Ireland in the 1970s and 1980s; no to the ground-breaking 1998 Good Friday Agreement that ended decades of sectarian violence; no to negotiations with Sinn Fein, the IRA's political wing; and no even to line dancing, the seemingly harmless 1990s fad that he decried as being sinful - 'with its sexual gestures and touching, [it] is an incitement to lust'. It therefore came as no surprise that when leaders in London, Dublin and Washington this week said yes, they were satisfied the IRA's last gun had finally been decommissioned and the way was open for a lasting peace in Northern Ireland, Mr Paisley said no. To most observers, it seemed the hardline unionists finally had what they wanted: the gun had been taken out of politics and the last obstacle to restoring a devolved government in Belfast made up of the DUP and Sinn Fein had been removed. But the decommissioning process, begun seven years ago under the respected Canadian former general John de Chastelain, was the 'falsehood of the century', Mr Paisley said, adding that he had no intention of forming a government with Sinn Fein. Two clergymen - one Protestant, the other Catholic - who, with Mr de Chastelain, witnessed the final act that marked the end of 36 years of violence were 'clearly under the control of the general' and were 'appointees of the IRA'. There were IRA splinter groups, he said, that were 'prepared to carry on the butchery and violence'. 'Instead of openness there was the cunning tactics of a cover-up, the complete failure of General de Chastelain to deal with the vital numbers of decommissioning,' Mr Paisley said after Monday's announcement. 'We do not know how many guns, the amounts of ammunition [and] explosives, nor were we told how the decommissioning was carried out.' The booming rhetoric was typical of the gifted orator whose uncompromising views were forged by an austere Protestant upbringing. The son of a Baptist minister, Ian Kyle Paisley was born in 1926 north of Belfast in Lurgan, County Armagh. Educated in the nearby town of Ballymena, he progressed to Bible college before being ordained to the Baptist ministry by his father in 1946. He went on to form the Free Presbyterian Church, which he still leads. Married with three children, one of whom - Ian Paisley Jnr - is also a senior DUP figure, the reverend has never been one to mince words. Religion and politics have always been intertwined for a man once dubbed 'the bigot of all bigots' by the former British foreign secretary Lord Carrington. Mr Paisley insists he bears no grudge against Catholics, but denounces the Vatican, views the largely Catholic Irish Republic with deep suspicion, refers to the Pope as the 'anti-Christ' and once claimed the shortage of jobs and housing for the Catholic majority in Northern Ireland was due to their breeding like rabbits and multiplying like vermin. Mr Paisley's detractors say he is a malignant force whose rabble-rousing speeches have blocked countless efforts to deliver peace in the province. But supporters among the minority loyalist community see him as a bulwark against encroaching Irish nationalist and Catholic interests and a constant reminder to London of their determination to keep Ulster within the United Kingdom. Since its inception, the DUP has had consistent electoral success at local, provincial, national and European levels. Mr Paisley has sat in Westminster as MP for North Antrim since 1970 and held a seat in the European Parliament from 1979 until last year with one of the highest percentages of the popular vote anywhere in Europe. His support ebbed, however, when the DUP walked out of talks that led to the 1998 Good Friday Agreement and, ultimately, the arms decommissioning. The DUP's misreading of the public sentiment at the time was exposed by a Northern Ireland referendum that came out strongly in favour of the accord. Mr Paisley's position was further weakened when, in a move seen as vital to the peace initiative, convicted loyalist terrorists criticised the reverend's intransigence and backed the agreement from their jail cells. David Trimble, the leader of the moderate Ulster Unionist Party and one of the architects of the Good Friday Agreement, emerged as the champion of the Protestant cause, winning the Nobel Peace Prize and consigning Mr Paisley to the shadows. But the agreement soon foundered on the IRA's refusal to give up its weapons, and the DUP was able to regain lost ground as voters lost faith in the peace process and looked to Mr Paisley and his blunt diplomacy for a solution. The DUP is now effectively Northern Ireland's ruling party, albeit with no devolved government to run, and Mr Paisley, age and health permitting, is first minister (leader) in waiting. For that to happen an awkward power-sharing alliance has to be struck with Sinn Fein and its leader, Mr Paisley's arch-rival Gerry Adams. That, in turn, requires Mr Paisley to be convinced the last IRA bullet is beyond use. For now, the reverend is sticking to his guns.