James Molyneaux, Baron Molyneaux of Killead

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The Right Honourable
The Lord Molyneaux of Killead
Member of the House of Lords
Assumed office
10 June 1997
Preceded by Peerage created
Leader of the Ulster Unionist Party
In office
7 September 1979 – 8 September 1995
Preceded by Harry West
Succeeded by David Trimble
Member of Parliament
for Lagan Valley
In office
9 June 1983 – 1 May 1997
Preceded by Constituency created
Succeeded by Jeffrey Donaldson
Member of Parliament
for South Antrim
In office
18 June 1970 – 9 June 1983
Preceded by Knox Cunningham
Succeeded by Clifford Forsythe
Personal details
Born (1920-08-27) 27 August 1920 (age 94)
Killead, Ireland
Nationality British
Political party Ulster Unionist Party
Spouse(s) Never married
Children None
Residence Killead, County Antrim
Religion Anglican
Military service
Allegiance  United Kingdom
Service/branch Royal Airforce Badge.png Royal Air Force
Years of service 1941-1946
Rank Flying Officer
Battles/wars World War Two
For other people named James Molyneux, see James Molyneux (disambiguation).

James Henry Molyneaux, Baron Molyneaux of Killead, KBE, PC (born 27 August 1920) is a Northern Irish Unionist politician and was leader of the Ulster Unionist Party from 1979 to 1995. He was a leading member and sometime Vice-President of the Conservative Monday Club. An Orangeman,[1] he was also Sovereign Grand Master of the Royal Black Institution from 1971 to 1995.

Early life[edit]

Born in Killead, County Antrim, Molyneaux was educated at nearby Aldergrove School. As a child he briefly attended a local Catholic primary school, and is alleged to have expressed the view that the Catholic Church made a mistake in abandoning the Tridentine Rite. When a Catholic church near his home was burnt down by loyalist arsonists in the late 1990s, Molyneaux helped to raise funds for its rebuilding.

Military service[edit]

Molyneaux served in the Royal Air Force between 1941 and 1946. He participated in the liberation of the Belsen concentration camp, and has occasionally given interviews about what he saw there. On 1 April 1947, he was promoted to flying officer.[2]

Political career[edit]

During the 1960s and 1970s, Molyneaux served on Antrim County Council as well as a number of committees concerning local healthcare, and in 1970 was elected Ulster Unionist Member of Parliament for South Antrim. In October 1974, Molyneaux became leader of the Ulster Unionists in the House of Commons, and between 1982 and 1986 he sat as an Ulster Unionist member for South Antrim in the failed Northern Ireland Assembly. He was admitted to the Privy Council in 1982. Following boundary changes that divided South Antrim, he became member for the new seat of Lagan Valley in 1983. In 1985, he resigned his seat along with his Unionist colleagues in the House of Commons in protest at the Anglo-Irish Agreement, and was re-elected in the subsequent by-election.

Molyneaux was generally regarded as a member of the integrationist tendency within Ulster Unionism (favouring direct rule from Westminster with some extension of local government powers, as opposed to the devolutionist preference for a revived Northern Ireland parliament or assembly).[3] This preference was widely attributed to the influence of Enoch Powell. Critics within his party saw Molyneux as a do-nothing leader, unduly deferential towards the Conservative Party (leading him to be taken by surprise by the 1985 Anglo-Irish Agreement and overshadowed by Ian Paisley). Molyneaux's defenders would argue that his primary concern was party unity, that the UUP was so divided that only a minimalist policy could hold it together, and that the correctness of this perception was shown by the party's disintegration under David Trimble.

Throughout the 1980s he was an active member of the Conservative Monday Club and was listed in a Club circular as one of its members standing for parliament in the General Election on 9th June 1983, for Lagan Valley, Northern Ireland. He was co-opted onto the Club's Executive Council on 23rd June 1983.[4] He later became a Vice-President. In the October 1985 Conservative Party Conference issue of the Club’s tabloid newspaper, Right Ahead, he contributed a lengthy article entitled "Northern Ireland - Ulster belongs to Britain NOT to the Irish Republic". He had been present at the crucial Executive Council meeting of 19 December 1990 which accepted, 11 votes to 3, the decision to stop employing salaried staff at the Club because of the financial deficit. He subsequently left the Monday Club in February 1991 following the disinformation campaign of that first quarter of 1991.

In 1995 he was challenged for the leadership of the Ulster Unionists by a 21 year old student and, although winning easily, saw a strong protest vote against his leadership registered. Following the Ulster Unionists' poor showing in the 1995 North Down by-election, Molyneaux yielded to renewed pressure to retire as leader. On retiring as Ulster Unionist leader he was knighted as a Knight Commander of the Order of the British Empire (KBE) in 1996.[5] The following year, after standing down as an MP at the 1997 General Election, he was created a life peer on 10 June 1997 as Baron Molyneaux of Killead, of Killead in the County of Antrim.[6]

On several occasions in his retirement he was publicly critical of his successor as leader, David Trimble, and fiercely opposed the Good Friday Agreement. In 2003 Molyneaux supported half the Ulster Unionist MPs - David Burnside, Jeffrey Donaldson and Martin Smyth - when they resigned the party whip in protest against the leadership of Trimble and the continuing support for the Agreement. In the 2005 general election Molyneaux caused a storm when he and Smyth endorsed the Democratic Unionist Party candidate Jimmy Spratt over the Ulster Unionist Party candidate Michael McGimpsey in South Belfast, the seat Smyth was retiring from. Molyneaux also endorsed Donaldson, his successor as MP for Lagan Valley, even though Donaldson had now defected to the DUP. However he also endorsed some Ulster Unionists, most notably Burnside in South Antrim. In the election Donaldson held his seat for his new party by a large majority whilst Spratt outpolled McGimpsey (though losing to the SDLP candidate Alasdair McDonnell on a split vote) and many asserted that Molyneaux and Smyth's endorsements had contributed to the UUP's disastrous showing. However Burnside lost his seat.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ http://www.sneps.net/OO/photos.htm Eric Kaufmann's Orange Order Page - Photos, retrieved 19 November 2007.
  2. ^ The London Gazette: (Supplement) no. 38147. pp. 5923–5932. 12 December 1947. Retrieved 2012-12-16.
  3. ^ Patterson, H. (2012) 'Unionism After Good Friday and St Andrews' in The Political Quarterly, Vol. 83, No.2 (London:Wiley-Blackwell)
  4. ^ Monday News October 1983, p.3.
  5. ^ The London Gazette: (Supplement) no. 54255. p. 8. 30 December 1995.
  6. ^ The London Gazette: no. 54811. p. 7123. 19 June 1997.

External links[edit]

Parliament of the United Kingdom
Preceded by
Sir Knox Cunningham
Member of Parliament for South Antrim
Succeeded by
Clifford Forsythe
New constituency Member of Parliament for Lagan Valley
Succeeded by
Jeffrey Donaldson
Political offices
Preceded by
Harry West
Leader of the Ulster Unionist Party
Succeeded by
David Trimble
Non-profit organization positions
Preceded by
Sir Norman Stronge
Sovereign Grand Master of the Royal Black Preceptory
Succeeded by
William Logan