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'A unique talent'... tributes flood in as DUP founder and lawyer Desmond Boal dies aged 85

By Amanda Ferguson

Published 24/04/2015

Tributes have been paid to formidable Northern Ireland lawyer Desmond Boal QC following his death yesterday aged 85.

The accomplished criminal barrister and former Unionist MP established the DUP with Ian Paisley in 1971.

However, Mr Boal quit the party after three years and later became estranged from the late former First Minster when he agreed to share power with Sinn Fein in 2007.

In an television interview with Baroness Eileen Paisley, she described Mr Boal visiting their home in east Belfast to return books he had received from her husband. She said Mr Boal informed the Paisleys that this "isn't a friendly visit". DUP chairman Lord Morrow said the party was "deeply saddened" by news of Mr Boal's passing and extended sympathies to his family.

"He had an unparalleled ability in the criminal courts and his formidable reputation in the courtroom will long survive his passing," he said.

"My first memory of Desmond was meeting him in his role as chairman of the Democratic Unionist Party and it was under his chairmanship that I joined the DUP.

"As a founding member, we send our sincere sympathies to his family circle at this difficult time." Traditional Unionist Voice leader Jim Allister QC said his friend "was a unique talent in both politics and law" and described him as a "vocal opponent of republicanism and an articulate champion of the union".

"Desmond's talent at the criminal bar was unsurpassed," Mr Allister said.

"Brilliant in cross-examination and unrivalled in the skills of advocacy, I as a young barrister learned much from watching him in action.

"It was a privilege to have known him for these last several decades." Mr Allister also described the lawyer as "a confidant of many people and gave very wise counsel".

"Although a man of strong convictions he was a friend of many people with a diverse outlook on life," he added.

"A man with a strong sense of integrity, he expected the same standard of consistency in others which he demonstrated himself. I count it a great privilege to have had him as a friend.

"My thoughts and prayers are with his family and particularly his widow at this sad time.

"I hope that they will know the presence of the Father of Mercies and the God of all comfort as they mourn the loss of a loved one."

Ulster Unionist leader Mike Nesbitt said Mr Boal would be remembered as "a man of intellect and commitment, whether you agreed with his vision or not".

"I acknowledge Mr Boal will be more remembered as a founding member of the DUP and his closeness, then falling out with Ian Paisley, but his political career began as a Unionist MP at the old Stormont Parliament, where he represented Shankill for 11 years, between 1960 and 1971," he said.

"It was perhaps a sign of what was to come regarding his relationship with the DUP, that he fell out with successive Unionist prime ministers, from Lord Brookeborough, through Terence O'Neill and James Chichester Clark, to Brian Faulkner.

"Whether it was in politics or the law, Desmond Boal was a hard man to miss.

"Even driving to work in the courts in Belfast, you always knew if he was on the road, with his rather cheeky 'FIB' number plate."

Belfast Telegraph

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