Belfast Telegraph

Saturday 26 July 2014

Baron Empey of Shandon joins their lordships during marathon debate

Reg Empey

Former Ulster Unionist leader Sir Reg Empey was thrown in at the deep end of Westminster politics last night, taking his seat in the House of Lords as it embarked on another late-night sitting.

Baron Empey of Shandon in the City and County Borough of Belfast joined the Conservative benches as peers geared up for another potential marathon session debating changes to the voting system and cutting the number of MPs.

Earlier this week they sat through the night, only finishing at 2pm the next day.

In a five-minute ceremony the stalwart of Ulster politics, draped in ermine, was formally |introduced to the Upper House, one of a batch of 54 new working peers announced in November.

As he took the oath of allegiance to the Queen he was flanked by his UUP predecessor Lord Trimble, a Tory peer, and Lord Rogan, who sits as an Ulster Unionist member of the Lords.

Lord Empey has called for a more democratic House of Lords and has said he intends to continue working for Northern Ireland in his new role.

Born in east Belfast, he went to Queen's University where he became involved in unionism and was a councillor, the city's lord mayor, MLA and minister, before taking the UUP helm.

During his five-year stint, Lord Empey steered his party into what would be a failed pact with the Conservatives before resigning as party leader soon after the election.

Yesterday he was formally introduced to the House of Lords with Liberal Democrat Monroe Palmer.

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