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Return to career in commerce beckons for Basil McCrea

By Staff Reporter

Published 15/03/2016

Basil McCrea and John McCallister at NI21’s launch at The Mac in 2013
Basil McCrea and John McCallister at NI21’s launch at The Mac in 2013

Basil McCrea gave up a globetrotting career in business to enter politics and now it looks like he may return to the world of commerce.

The 56-year-old was born in Omagh, raised in Donegal and educated in north Belfast, at Belfast Royal Academy.

"Most of my school friends wanted to leave Northern Ireland and many have never returned," he said. "It was what you did in the '70s and '80s."

Mr McCrea studied chemical engineering at Birmingham University and also has a first class honours degree in advanced computer science. He spent 10 years working as a production manager for the confectionery giant Mars at its Slough factory and then became a "hi-tech entrepreneur", travelling the world with a number of start-up companies in the telecommunications sector.

He returned to Northern Ireland in 2000 and joined the Ulster Unionist Party, fighting the 2005 Westminster election in the Lagan Valley constituency. He came second and was smitten with the political bug. A former Lisburn City councillor, he was elected to the Assembly in 2007 and re-elected in 2011.

Firmly on the liberal wing of the UUP, Mr McCrea stood for party leader against Tom Elliott in 2010, losing by 643 votes to 296. He is undoubtedly one of Northern Ireland's best-known politicians and is a former chair of the Employment and Learning Committee, a post he lost when he resigned from the UUP in February 2013 after challenging the party's decision to enter a "unionist unity" pact with the DUP. He was also a member of the Policing Board.

Last year, amid the long-running investigation by the Assembly Standards Commissioner into allegations of misconduct by Mr McCrea, the MLA was diagnosed with type 2 diabetes and embarked on a strict diet and exercise regime.

He has a long-term partner, Jill, and has grown-up children and grandchildren.

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