James Molyneaux, Baron Molyneaux of Killead

James Henry Molyneaux, Baron Molyneaux of Killead, KBE, PC (born August 27, 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. He was also Sovereign Grand Master of the Royal Black Institution from 1971 to 1995.

Born in Killead, County Antrim, Molyneaux was educated at nearby Aldergrove School before serving in the Royal Air Force between 1941 and 1946. During the 1960s and 1970s, he 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.

Throughout the 1980s he was an active MP member and Vice-President of the Conservative Monday Club. In the Club's newspaper, "Right Ahead", the October 1985 Conservative Party Conference issue, Molyneaux contributed a lengthy article entitled "Northern Ireland - Ulster belongs to Britain NOT to the Irish Republic".

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 KBE in 1996. The following year, after standing down as an MP at the 1997 General Election, he was created a life peer as Baron Molyneaux of Killead, of Killead in the County of Antrim.

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.

ee also

* List of Northern Ireland Members of the House of Lords
* List of Northern Ireland members of the Privy Council

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