Belfast Telegraph

Thursday 24 July 2014

Fall of Maginnis leaves UUP leader Nesbitt exposed

Ken Maginnis was long admired for his willingness to speak his mind against the prevailing wisdom.

At times, he seemed the best leader the Ulster Unionists never had; his courage allowed him to blaze trails and spot new political opportunities when others were frozen in indecision. Appearing on TV with Sinn Fein - before it was fashionable for unionists to do so - was one instance in which history soon justified him; advocating power-sharing was another.

It is unfortunate that he should have eventually fallen on his sword on an issue which is, at best outdated and at worst plain nutty.

Insisting on the right to publicly link homosexuality to paedophilia and bestiality is unlikely to be seen as visionary, or ground-breaking, by future generations.

When Lord Maginnis wouldn't retract, his leader, Mike Nesbitt, had little choice but to discipline him.

Yet his departure leaves the new leader curiously isolated.

Lord Maginnis was the last of the five 1995 leadership contenders to leave - the winner, David Trimble, is a now a Tory and Willie Ross is in the TUV, while John Taylor and the Rev Martin Smyth have dropped out. The UUP has shaken its moorings. Its conference next month may be its last chance for direction.

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