UUP has lost one of its great­est states present leader Nes­bitt

The Herald - - POLITICS -

TRIB­UTES have been paid to for­mer Ul­ster Union­ist Party (UUP) leader Lord Molyneaux who has died at the age of 94.

The cur­rent leader Mike Nes­bitt hailed James Molyneaux for bring­ing sta­bil­ity to his party and coun­try dur­ing bloody and tur­bu­lent years in North­ern Ire­land. Mr Molyneaux led the party from 1979 to 1995.

Mr Nes­bitt said the UUP had lost “one of its great­est. Lord Molyneaux led the party dur­ing some of North­ern Ire­land’s most bloody and tur­bu­lent years, pro­vid­ing lead­er­ship not only to the Ul­ster Union­ist Party dur­ing that time, but also to the coun­try,” he said.

“He led for 16 years, a re­mark­able feat given the party had no fewer than four dif­fer­ent lead­ers in the 16 years prior to him tak­ing over. The sta­bil­ity he of­fered was crit­i­cal, as was his un­bend­ing pas­sion for se­cur- ing North­ern Ire­land’s place within the Union. This was par­tic­u­larly key dur­ing the af­ter­math of the An­glo-Ir­ish Agree­ment, a chal­lenge of seis­mic pro­por­tions within union­ism.”

Mr Nes­bitt said Lord Molyneaux’s ex­pe­ri­ence in Ber­gen Belsen con­cen­tra­tion camp stayed with him for the rest of his life. “I be­lieve that ex­pe­ri­ence crys­tallised the val­ues that guided his po­lit­i­cal life,” he said.

“He was no show­man, but a man of im­mense guile, play­ing the game of po­lit­i­cal chess, ig­nor­ing the cheap head­lines to fo­cus on strate­gic out­comes.”

Born: Au­gust 27 1920 Died: March 9 2015

THE for­mer Ul­ster Union­ist Party leader Lord Molyneaux of Kil­lead, who has died at the age of 94, led the Ul­ster Union­ist Party (UUP) for 16 years and is re­garded as a man who brought sta­bil­ity to his party and North­ern Ire­land pol­i­tics.

Born James Molyneaux, a farmer’s son, in County Antrim on Au­gust 27, 1920, he served with the RAF in the Sec­ond World War, where he was among the first Bri­tish servicemen to en­ter the lib­er­ated Ber­gen Belsen con­cen­tra­tion camp in 1945.

He also took part in the D-Day land­ings of 1944.

Mr Molyneaux was a mem­ber of Protes­tant Or­ange Or­der and an Angli­can, but he had briefly at­tended a Catholic school as a child.

Dur­ing his po­lit­i­cal ca­reer, in which Mr Molyneaux led the party from 1979 to 1995, he was re­garded as a mem­ber of the in­te­gra­tionist ten­dency within the Ul­ster Union­ism move­ment.

This favoured di­rect rule from Lon­don, with some ex­ten­sion of lo­cal gov­ern­ment pow­ers, as op­posed to a re­vived North­ern Ire­land par­lia­ment or as­sem­bly.

Mr Molyneaux, who never mar­ried, was seen in po­lit­i­cal cir­cles as a cold and se­cre­tive man who did not al­ways make his in­ten­tions clear. How­ever, he was a nat­u­ral leader of a move­ment that con­tained a wide range of dif­fer­ent views on the fu­ture of North­ern Ire­land.

He signed up to the Ul­ster Union­ists al­most by ac­ci­dent, af­ter he came across a party meet­ing when he was help­ing a friend re­pair a heat­ing sys­tem.

In 1970, Mr Molyneaux stood and won South Antrim for the Ul­ster Union­ist Party, be­com­ing the party’s leader at West­min­ster four years later.

He was the party’s rep­re­sen­ta­tive for the area in the failed North­ern Ire­land As­sem­bly be­tween 1982 and 1986 and be­came a Privy Coun­cil­lor in 1982.

In 1983, bound­ary changes saw his seat be­come La­gan Val­ley.

Two years later he re­signed it along with his Ul­ster Union­ist Com­mons col­leagues in protest at the An­glo-Ir­ish Agree­ment. He was re-elected at the sub­se­quent by-elec­tion.

He was heav­ily in­flu­enced by for­mer Tory min­is­ter Enoch Pow­ell.

Op­po­nents within the Ul­ster Union­ists said he de­ferred far too much to the Con­ser­va­tives, but his sup­port­ers sug­gested this en­sured party unity in a di­vided group.

He held the Ul­ster Union­ists to­gether un­der his lead­er­ship and struck up a part­ner­ship with the Rev­erend Ian Pais­ley against the An­glo-Ir­ish Agree­ment and Sinn Fein’s ar­rival as a po­lit­i­cal force in elec­tions.

He be­came a peer in 1997, the year he stood down as MP. Two years ear­lier he had been re­placed by David Trim­ble. He had been knighted in 1996.

In re­tire­ment, Mr Molyneaux was crit­i­cal of Mr Trim­ble and was a bit­ter op­po­nent of the Good Fri­day Agree­ment.

In 2003, Mr Molyneaux sup­ported half the Ul­ster Union­ist MPs when they re­signed the party whip in protest against the lead­er­ship of Trim­ble and the con­tin­u­ing sup­port for the agree­ment.

He caused con­tro­versy at the 2005 Gen­eral Elec­tion when he pub­licly backed Demo­cratic Union­ist Party can­di­date Jimmy Spratt over the Ul­ster Union­ist Party can­di­date Michael McGimpsey in South Belfast.

How­ever, his wartime ex­pe­ri­ences haunted Mr Molyneaux for the rest of his life.

The young air­man had sup­ported the Bri­tish 2nd Army’s re­lief ef­forts at the lib­er­ated Ber­gen-Belsen con­cen­tra­tion camp in Ger­many on April 16, 1945.

“The first shock was the barbed wire elec­tric fence,” the for­mer Ul­ster Union­ist leader said in an in­ter­view 10 years ago.

“This fence was about eight to 10 feet back from the road­way and there was a hedge in be­tween.

“It was elec­tri­fied to keep peo­ple in­side – stan­dard prac­tice for con­cen­tra­tion camps.

“The sight was ab­so­lutely dread­ful be­cause there in front of us were hun­dreds of poor skele­tons of the de­ceased cling­ing on to the fence.

“We later found out they had de­lib­er­ately thrown them­selves up against it, they were so far gone.

“They de­cided to put an end to it them­selves and grabbed the elec­tri­fied fence, which killed them im­me­di­ately.”

The camp had been lib­er­ated the pre­vi­ous day by Bri­tish sol­diers.

Such was the scale of the hu­man­i­tar­ian dis­as­ter fac­ing them that or­ders were is­sued for all avail­able nearby ser­vice per­son­nel to join the re­lief ef­fort.

“We were stopped by mil­i­tary po­lice at the en­trance and were handed a lit­tle roll of ad­he­sive tape,” he told the Belfast News Let­ter in Jan­uary 2005.

“The guard asked us to use the tape to neu­tralise the horn of our ve­hi­cle and not to sound it be­cause, he told us, many of the peo­ple were in such a state that any noise would kill them.”

Ber­gen-Belsen was not of­fi­cially an ex­ter­mi­na­tion camp, un­like Auschwitz, but while there were no gas cham­bers or other ap­pa­ra­tus of geno­cide, it was still a death camp in all but name.

In the three months prior to lib­er­a­tion, an es­ti­mated 600 died ev­ery day due to dis­ease and mal­nu­tri­tion.

When the Bri­tish Army ar­rived, 10,000 corpses lay un­buried. Around 40,000 in­mates were still alive, but 13,000 of those would die in the days af­ter lib­er­a­tion.

“It was sim­ply dread­ful,” said Lord Molyneaux. “The huts were crowded with about four times the amount of peo­ple they were built for.

“Just be­fore lib­er­a­tion the rea­son­ably fit pris­on­ers had been com­pelled by the SS to take out the dead bod­ies which had been there for days and wheel them away on hand carts and put them into a pit

“But there were still piles there when we ar­rived.”

He added: “It’s one thing see­ing bat­tle­field ca­su­al­ties – it’s an­other thing wit­ness­ing hu­man be­ings who have been starved and tor­tured to death.”

Anne Frank and her sis­ter Mar­got were among the thou­sands who died in Ber­gen-Belsen.

LORD MOLYNEAUX: Led party from 1979 to 1995.

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