Belfast Telegraph

Luke absurdly coy on nature of relationship with Molyneaux - confining himself to nudge, nudge stuff and biblical references followed by false outrage when pushed about what precisely he is saying

By Alex Kane

In an interview with William Crawley on yesterday's Talkback programme Christopher Luke, responding to a question about how intimate was his relationship with Lord Molyneaux, replied: "I wish people would stop putting two and two together and getting five."

Yet Luke was the one who put five into everybody's mind. He was the one who wrote: "I grieve for you… you were very dear to me. Your love for me was wonderful, more wonderful than that of women (2 Samuel 1 v.26)."

He must have known when he wrote it that it would be interpreted in a particular way. He must have known that anyone reading it would have reached a particular conclusion. He must have known that journalists would have focused on one particular issue.

Luke also said in the interview that he believed that there was an effort by people in the UUP and loyal orders to "airbrush Jim out of history". Yet, this strikes me as a curious, indeed very peculiar way, to bring Jim back to everyone's attention.

This is part of an obituary I wrote of Molyneaux last March: "Had it not been for the Troubles it is unlikely that James Molyneaux would ever have been leader of the UUP. He was not an instinctive politician, lacking oratorical and debating skill, and rarely made much of an impact in media interviews.

"He was a naturally reticent and modest person and for many people he seemed to be too 'laid back' in his approach to politics generally and the UUP in particular. Yet that's probably what the party needed in 1979 and why they chose him. That he stayed too long in the job is undeniably true, but it is also true that the sheer charm, understatement and unflappability of the man may often have prevented bad situations from becoming very much worse."

That was the Jim Molyneaux I knew (and I got to know him well when I worked for Enoch Powell, and interviewed him on a number of occasions during his time as party leader), a decent, quiet, unassuming, usually unflappable man.

It was that unflappability that kept the UUP on the right side of the law when certain people were suggesting a tougher response to the 1985 Anglo-Irish Agreement. He was neither a brilliant nor an inspiring leader, but people in the party and organisations with which he was involved remember him with very great affection.

He was a brave man, too. He left school at 15 and helped out on the family farm, before joining the RAF in 1941.

In May 1945 he was one of the first people to see the horrors of Belsen: "The British liberators were staggered and shocked by the inhuman behaviour of some of the former guards, who continued to abuse and torment prisoners nearing death when they assumed we were looking the other way. I confess that on such occasions I may have breached the Geneva Convention to prevent further ill-treatment of helpless victims.

"Their behaviour after we had arrived contradicted the excuse that the SS had forced them to carry out orders. Our new orders to them were 'Stop acting like savages'."

Luke claims to have loved Molyneaux: "There was love between us, but there are different forms of love." But he also admits that he isn't suggesting that Molyneaux was gay. He is absurdly coy on the nature of the relationship, though, confining himself to nudge, nudge stuff and biblical references, followed by faux outrage when pushed about what, precisely, he is saying.

I neither know nor care about the alleged nature of the relationship between Luke and Molyneaux. Yet I can't help feeling that Molyneaux doesn't deserve this. He was an intensely private man.

What is to be gained by this story? Why did Luke choose - and it was his choice, because he made it a story - to be interviewed about his relationship with a man he says he loved?

Does he really think that this is what Molyneaux would have wanted? Could his In Memoriam notice on the first anniversary of Molyneaux's death not just have confined itself to something like, "still much missed by an old friend"?

That Luke grieves was obvious from his interviews with the BBC and Irish News. But sometimes, grief needs to be entirely personal. I think he overstepped the mark with his actions and - although I'm always reluctant to criticise the media - I think this is one of those stories that should have been left alone.

I'm not quite sure what Luke is saying, and nor, I think, is he. That's what concerns me.

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