James Molyneaux, Baron Molyneaux of Killead

Matter of the Day – in the Northern Ireland Assembly at 12:00 pm on 9th March 2015.

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Photo of Mitchel McLaughlin Mitchel McLaughlin Speaker 12:00 pm, 9th March 2015

Order. Mr Mike Nesbitt has been given leave to make a statement on the death of James Molyneaux, Baron Molyneaux of Killead, which fulfils the criteria set out in Standing Order 24(3)(b). If other Members wish to be called, they should rise in their place and continue to do so. All Members called will have up to three minutes to speak on the subject.

Photo of Mike Nesbitt Mike Nesbitt UUP

It is with huge sadness that I rise to pay tribute to Jim Molyneaux, James Henry Molyneaux, latterly Baron Molyneaux of Killead. Born in August 1920, Jim Molyneaux grew up in time to join the armed forces and serve in the Second World War. Famously, he was to be one of the first Allied troops to enter and liberate the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp, witnessing at first hand one of the worst examples in history of man's capacity for inhumanity to fellow man. I have no doubt that the experience cemented the values that were to guide his adult life, not least as a politician.

Let me place on record his formidable record as an elected representative. He was an Antrim Borough councillor from 1964 to 1973, the MP for South Antrim from 1970 to 1983 and then MP for Lagan Valley from 1983 to 1997. He was also an Assembly Member for South Antrim between 1982 and 1986, and he led the Ulster Unionist Party from 1979 to 1995. These statistics alone confirm that the Ulster Unionist Party has today lost one of its greatest, but there is so much more to say. His 16 years as leader followed a 16-year period when Ulster Unionism had no fewer than four leaders — Terence O'Neill, James Chichester-Clark, Brian Faulkner and then Harry West — so he brought much-needed stability to Ulster Unionism. That stability extended beyond the party. Unionism and Northern Ireland also needed calm, assured leadership in the face of the ongoing terrorist campaign, and, in 1985, the political threat that was the Anglo-Irish Agreement, a challenge of seismic proportions within unionism.

As a man regarded as more of an integrationist than one in favour of devolution, it would be hard to overestimate how painful it was for Jim Molyneaux to discover that he had been betrayed by the then Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher and her advisers when she signed the agreement in Hillsborough with Taoiseach Garret FitzGerald. Jim Molyneaux fought back with dignity. In his own words, he was not attracted to high-wire acts or media sound bites. Working closely with the DUP in the aftermath of the agreement, Ian Paisley may have been the dominant media presence, but Jim Molyneaux was tireless behind the scenes. He was a man of immense political guile, playing the game of political chess, focused on strategic outcomes.

The sight of Lord Molyneaux as Ulster Unionist leader wearing his medals as he laid the wreath on behalf of the party at the cenotaph every Remembrance Sunday in London was a powerful image that epitomised the ideals of dignity and service, which he embodied. His service record is outstanding, militarily and politically. He stood down as unionist leader on his 75th birthday. The following year, he stood down as an elected representative, his values strong and intact. On behalf of the party, I give thanks for a long life well lived in the dedicated service of his people.

Photo of Arlene Foster Arlene Foster DUP

I feel very privileged today to pay tribute to a man for whom I have the utmost admiration — James H Molyneaux, the Baron Molyneaux of Killead, KBE, PC. Many of us knew that Jim's time was short on this earth, but, still, when the news came this morning, it came as a very heavy blow to those of us who knew and loved him. It is fitting that his death came on Commonwealth Day because he spent so much of his time upholding the values of the Commonwealth.

The first memories that I have of Jim are back at the time of the Anglo-Irish Agreement — the great betrayal — when I was just 15. I was a young unionist and enjoyed very much being in his company because he was very good company. He was interesting and was interested in you as an individual as well. He was interesting because of his life story, his wartime service, his UK national view of politics and because of those very famous anecdotes that he used to tell.

He was a great encourager to me personally when he was leader of the UUP and, indeed, later when he was Baron Molyneaux of Killead. He could see the shortcomings of the Belfast Agreement when others could not. He was a superb grassroots campaigner; when canvassing with Jim, it was always a struggle to keep up. He always managed to survive a day of canvassing sustained only by a packet of Polo mints.

Most of all, today, I mourn his passing because he was a friend who gave advice when he was asked and a friend who often made me laugh. He had a mischievous, dry sense of humour, and I consider it a great honour to have known Jim Molyneaux personally . He was a gentleman; he was a leader of utmost integrity. He was a man who genuinely cared about Northern Ireland and its place in the United Kingdom, and he was a fabulous parliamentarian. I pass on my deepest sympathy and prayerful support to his sister-in-law Agnes and to his two nephews and niece.

Photo of Raymond McCartney Raymond McCartney Sinn Féin

Go raibh maith agat, a Cheann Comhairle. On behalf of Sinn Féin, I want to extend our sympathies to the family and friends of Jim Molyneaux, Lord Killead, who died this morning. At 94 years of age, he lived a long and fulfilling life both politically and personally. Jim Molyneaux was undoubtedly a significant figure in unionism, having led the Ulster Unionist Party for almost two decades. The focus will be on his contribution as a political figure, and his loss to his family and friends can often take second place, so I want his family and friends to know that they are very much in our thoughts today and in the coming days.

To his colleagues in the Ulster Unionist Party, and from Mike Nesbitt's contribution, it is easy to appreciate the high esteem and fondness in which he is held, and we extend our sympathy to your party at your sense of loss of a valued colleague.

Whereas his political views were different from mine, I have no doubt that Jim Molyneaux would agree that he lived out the last years of his life in a more peaceful and stable place than would have been his experience in his active political life. He served as a constituency MP for some 27 years and enjoyed the obvious support and confidence of his constituents. Today, as we hear of his passing, we hope he finds restful peace. Agus mar sin, go ndéana trócaire ar a anam.

Photo of Pat Ramsey Pat Ramsey Social Democratic and Labour Party

On behalf of the SDLP, I want to extend our sadness and sympathy on the passing of Baron Molyneaux of Killead. I want to offer our sincere sympathy and condolences to the family and many friends of James Molyneaux.

To say that James Molyneaux has had a distinguished career would be accurate. For many years he was a household name and a key player in Northern Irish politics. I have listened to other Members talk with love, passion and emotion in their voice on the loss and the passing of someone who spent 27 years as an MP, elected initially to South Antrim and then to Lagan Valley. He was first elected as an MP in the 1970s, and, only four years later, he became the leader of the Ulster Unionist Party in Northern Ireland and in the House of Commons.

James Molyneaux had a formidable career. In 1979 he became the leader of the UUP, a position he held for 16 years; he was probably one of the longest serving leaders of the Ulster Unionist Party. He led the Party, as many leaders have done in Northern Ireland, through many difficult, traumatic and awful experiences. He helped his own party, guiding it through many difficult and trying times for the party as well.

Finally, on behalf of the SDLP, I offer thoughts, prayers and sympathy to his immediate family, the community he represented, his friends and his unionist colleagues who have worked alongside him for many years.

Photo of David Ford David Ford Alliance

It gives me pleasure, though a degree of sadness, to add tributes to Lord Molyneaux on behalf of the Alliance Party, although it is hard to remember to call him Lord because locally he was always Jim. He was an assiduous worker in the constituency, previously as a councillor and then, for many years, as Member of Parliament for South Antrim — the largest constituency in the UK — before he took on Lagan Valley following the reform of boundaries.

He certainly had an unusual experience as a leader of unionism, starting off in his early days being educated in St James' Catholic School, where, ironically, he struck up a lifelong friendship with the late councillor Bobby Burns, father of our former colleague, Thomas. It showed something of the reach he had that, as a unionist, even at that stage he appreciated the differences in this society.

As Mike Nesbitt mentioned, there is also no doubt, from some of his radio interviews, that his experience as a young RAF man at the liberation of Belsen must have touched him enormously and given him a commitment and drive to public service. He was, as others have said, the leader of his party for 16 years — something that few of us in this Chamber can appreciate exactly how it amounts to — and he certainly had a significant impact over some of the most turbulent years in this region, as he carried through that role of leadership.

Arlene Foster said that she remembered campaigning with Jim Molyneaux. I can also remember campaigns in which Jim Molyneaux was involved. The only difference was that, three times in a row in the 1970s, my efforts were to reduce the largest majority in the UK by one. That is a measure of the respect and the support that he had in the constituency. He was always a perfect gentleman — he treated others with respect; he had a personal reputation and, whether or not people agreed with him politically, he was Jim — and people saw that in him.

He was, in latter years, a constituent of mine, as a councillor and then as an MLA, but I think he will also be remembered locally by how he served his constituents, how he cared for the people of South Antrim and then Lagan Valley, and how he went out of his way to do what he thought best for all of them. Even in latter years, after he had retired, he would have been out and about for some time at the Antrim show and other public events, wanting to see what was going on in the locality.

On behalf of my party, I wish to express sympathy to his sister-in-law Agnes and to the other members of the family circle at Aldergrove and beyond.

Photo of Jim Allister Jim Allister Traditional Unionist Voice

I readily join in the tributes to Lord Molyneaux.

He has been described variously as a true gentleman, and so he was. He was quiet and unassuming too, both about his military career and his political career. He was a giant on our political scene who moved through it in that quiet, unassuming way that characterised him. Above all, he was a unionist through and through. There was no hint of Ulster nationalism about Jim Molyneaux. He was a wholly committed believer in all the values and all the parts of the United Kingdom.

I knew him somewhat and have had many conversations about him with the president of my party, Willie Ross, who held him in very high esteem. I have heard many accounts and stories of his steadfastness. If there is perhaps one word that sums up Jim Molyneaux, it is "steadfast". He was not easily blown off course. He stuck to his vision and his view of things and, in that, deserves the respect of us all. Although we have not seen and heard of him latterly, Ulster politics will now be the poorer for the passing of Lord Molyneaux. I salute his memory and express condolences to his family and his party upon their loss.

Photo of Basil McCrea Basil McCrea NI21 12:15 pm, 9th March 2015

I knew him of course, but, to me, he was always Jim Molyneaux. The last time I spoke to him was at Westminster, where he courteously took the time to talk to me. It was a few years ago. The thing about Jim was that he always had time for people, no matter what you thought or where you were coming from, and, in my experience in the constituency, I do not think I ever heard anybody say anything bad about him. He was always our Jim and a great man. People talked about his majority. It was indeed a wonderful thing to behold.

It is sad when people must pass away, particularly people of his generation. Being involved in the war gave you a certain base for your thinking about the future. We are at the stage now where those who were actively involved have passed away. His biggest contribution was behind the scenes, and people have talked about him working tirelessly in the background. It is not easy to hold together the unionist community or even the Ulster Unionist Party. His great talent was that he was able to bring all strands of unionism together in such a way that, frankly, you were sometimes not quite sure how he did it, but he did it indeed. That is a great tribute. We are in a different place now. I offer my condolences to his family and, in his memory, offer thanks for his service to Northern Ireland.

Photo of Danny Kennedy Danny Kennedy UUP

I join others in paying tribute to the life of James Henry Molyneaux, Baron Molyneaux of Killead, and I am deeply saddened at his passing. I well recall the encouragement and advice he gave me in my early days as a young political representative serving in local government. He had a very distinguished war record. He served this nation in war and gave very strong and determined leadership in the most difficult period of our country's history. He was a loyal Ulsterman but also a man who knew how important it was for Northern Ireland to contribute to the life of our nation at Westminster and, indeed, the affairs of our Commonwealth.

He also had a very wry sense of humour and, as leader of the Ulster Unionist Party, had a highly developed level of tolerance.

When he set his mind to something that he believed was in the best interests of unionism and of Northern Ireland, he displayed a steely determination. He was enormously hard-working as a constituency Member and a very popular party leader and Member of Parliament. The Ulster Unionist Party will genuinely grieve at the passing of Lord Molyneaux. I know that my Assembly colleague, Sam Gardiner, was with him in recent hours. The entire party will receive the news of his passing with great sorrow.

Lord Molyneaux was for a period the sovereign grand master of the Royal Black Institution. To see him on parade at Scarva on 13 July offered an insight into him, as he conversed and engaged with the people who attended, and still attend, that huge demonstration. He was very much on their level and was very warmly received. He will be greatly mourned as party leader. He was a one-party man: it was always only the Ulster Unionist Party for Jim Molyneaux. He was a highly regarded leader of our party, and his legacy is the values that he represented and passed on.

Photo of William Humphrey William Humphrey DUP

I am deeply saddened at the loss of a great Ulsterman and true friend, Jim Molyneaux.

Jim Molyneaux was a man of integrity and honour, a true Christian and a great friend and encourager. He was awarded a knighthood by Her Majesty in 1996, and the following year became Baron Molyneaux of Killead. That was fitting, because Jim Molyneaux, as someone who had high regard for the royal family, was in every sense a Queen's man. He was sovereign grand master of the Royal Black Institution for 27 years and a deputy grand master of the Grand Orange Lodge of Ireland, of which he was also a trustee. He was most at home in the Diamond lodge at Aldergrove. He was a great Orangeman and a true inspiration to any young Orangeman.

He joined the RAF at the age of 21 and served this nation for five years during World War II. He was one of the first soldiers to arrive at Belsen, and I remember him telling me about the smell and the sights that met him when he arrived there, which were to remain with him for the rest of his life, a life that sadly ended this morning, when he was called home at 7:30 am.

He was interested in gardening, motorcycling, military history and the Royal British Legion. He was a great encourager of young people, as Arlene said. Indeed, Arlene, Peter and I all benefited from his encouragement and, at times, cajoling, as chair of the Young Unionist Council. Although small in stature, Jim Molyneaux was a political colossus. When I was a young member of the Ulster Unionist Party in North Belfast, Jim Molyneaux encouraged me in a way that others simply did not bother to. He encouraged many of us on these Benches to give leadership when we were members of the Young Unionist Council, and I will never, ever forget that.

I regarded Jim as a personal friend, a political mentor, a true unionist and an outstanding Ulsterman. I shadowed him for three days at Westminster, and I could not believe that someone of his age was so energetic: he was constantly working for Northern Ireland and the unionist cause. Although he was, as we have heard, a quiet man of Ulster politics, he was a man with a great sense of humour. He was a great leader and a superb party manager, with absolutely outstanding personal skills. He campaigned for me in 2007 for the Assembly election in North Belfast, and I will never forget his encouragement.

When I was deputy lord mayor of this city, I hosted a reception for his ninetieth birthday in the Lord Mayor's parlour. He was joined on that occasion by the former Archbishop of Armagh, because Jim was a great and committed Christian, a member of the Church Ireland and a lay reader in his parish of Killead. I, along with many of my colleagues, am deeply saddened at the loss of a true friend. Jim was an inspiration to me, as he was an inspiration and guide to people in the unionist community and, indeed, across Northern Ireland. His loss today is as absolute as it is sudden and tragic. I extend my sympathies to Agnes, Stephen, Ian and Janice, his nephews and nieces. Today, the community in Northern Ireland is weaker and sadder for the loss of James Henry Molyneaux.

Photo of Lord Maurice Morrow Lord Maurice Morrow DUP

I, too, would like to be associated with the remarks that have been made about Baron Molyneaux of Killead. He was certainly a man of integrity and principle. You would not have to be long in his company to realise that. He had a very good wry sense of humour, which I appreciate in people, too; I do not know why. You would not be long in his company to discover that he was that type of person.

I was honoured to have him as one of my co-sponsors when I was elevated to the House of Lords in June 2006. I got to know him much better when I went over to the Lords and was often in his company, which I always found good company. He was a principled man and a man of integrity, as I stated. I have no doubt that this country will be the poorer because of his passing. Due to his age and health, he was not to the forefront like he used to be, but his influence somehow always seemed to be there, even in the House of Lords, where others would enquire about how he was doing. He was a man who was not out of people's minds, although he was not able to be in attendance.

He was certainly someone who led the Ulster Unionist Party during the worst excesses of the Troubles in Northern Ireland. He was a man who was steadfast and sure in everything he did. He was unflinching, and he was undoubtedly and unflinchingly a unionist in every sense of the word. He had no truck with anything that would be deemed to weaken the Union or to depart from it. He was steadfast in that.

No doubt the Ulster Unionists will miss him the most as he was their former leader, but I think that unionism in general, and Northern Ireland in general, will miss him because of the man who he was. I extend my sympathy and prayers to the Molyneaux family today. I wish them everything that is right in the days ahead.

Photo of Paul Givan Paul Givan DUP

As an elected representative for Lagan Valley, I put on record a tribute to Lord Molyneaux. I did not know Lord Molyneaux; I never met him. However, as a Member for Lagan Valley, I feel as if I got to know him very well from his constituents. Every time that I am out on the doors, people bring up to me Jim Molyneaux and his work ethic in serving the people. He was a very faithful constituency Member of Parliament. My colleague Jeffrey Donaldson mourns his passing most keenly. Jeffrey continued Lord Molyneaux's legacy in the Houses of Parliament when he took over as the MP for the Lagan Valley constituency in 1997.

Lord Molyneaux served during the darkest days of the Troubles. I put on record my thanks to him. Today, my generation and the generation to follow have a legacy that is inherited from him whereby Northern Ireland, despite the most serious threat from terrorists, remains and will continue to remain part of the United Kingdom. I thank Lord Molyneaux for his stand during that time.

Photo of Danny Kinahan Danny Kinahan UUP

I will be very brief. I am very lucky to have followed Lord Molyneaux in South Antrim, where he was known as a phenomenally hard worker. Others mentioned how much of a gentleman he was, as well as his great integrity, and how he really cared for Northern Ireland, especially Crumlin, and all his constituents. Like others who canvassed with him, I know how difficult it was to keep up with him. Everybody knew him and spoke to him. I echo what others have said. We all owe him a great sense of gratitude.