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Late MP Sir Robert a moderate and role model: Nesbitt


Published 17/08/2016

Sir Robin Chichester-Clark with his second wife, Caroline
Sir Robin Chichester-Clark with his second wife, Caroline

Tributes have been paid to former Ulster Unionist Sir Robert Chichester-Clark, who was MP for Londonderry for almost 20 years.

The 88-year-old, who died earlier this month, was the last Ulster Unionist to be a government minister in Westminster before he left politics in 1974.

Ulster Unionist Party leader, Mike Nesbitt MLA, described him as a "role model".

"He abhorred extremism and was not afraid to say so, no matter what the source happened to be, and stood firm while under fire from militant nationalists and unionists alike," he said.

"I am confident history will shine a kindly light on his life, which was defined by public service and informed by a spirit of civic duty."

He was described as a political moderate and during his time as MP for Londonderry, he supported the efforts of the Stormont governments of Captain Terence O'Neill during the 1960s, and of his own brother, Major James Chichester-Clark, to address the demands of nationalist civil rights campaigners through gradual reform.

But when the Troubles flared in 1969, he found himself under attack by both sides of the political divide, particularly from hardliners in his own party, and later recognised that fellow moderates at Stormont had lost control. However, he continued to argue that "only the work of moderate people on both sides can maintain the hopes of those who yearn to see the scars of history vanish."

Years earlier, in 1966, he was suspended briefly from the Orange Order after he had attended a Requiem Mass for Colonel Conolly McCausland, a distinguished Irish Guards officer and Catholic convert.

Known as Robin, he was born into a well-known Northern Ireland political family. Both his grandfather and his father, Captain James Chichester-Clark, had represented Londonderry at Westminster.

His maternal grandmother, Dame Dehra Parker, had been elected to the first Ulster Parliament in 1921, sat there for 35 years and became Stormont's minister for health.

His brother James (the late Lord Moyola) was a member of the Northern Ireland Parliament from 1960 before becoming prime minister.

Robin was educated at the Royal Naval College, Dartmouth, and Magdalene College, Cambridge, where he read History and Law.

After working briefly as a journalist, he became public relations officer for Glyndebourne Opera and then worked for two years for Oxford University Press.

His last role was as Minister of State for Employment, which he accepted in April 1972 before stepping down in 1974.

On leaving parliament, he worked as a management consultant and became a director on various company boards. From 1988 he was chairman of the Restoration of Appearance and Function Trust. He was a trustee of the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra Development Trust from 1993 to 1995.

He had three children with his former wife Jane Goddard, before he married Caroline Bull in 1974, with whom he had two sons.

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