Belfast Telegraph

Friday 26 December 2014

Editor's Viewpoint: An unbecoming end to a brilliant career

Ken Maginnis is leaving the Ulster Unionist Party, which he has served for 50 years, in what has become quite a personal row with his leader, Mike Nesbitt. It is a row which could so easily have been avoided if Lord Maginnis could only bite his tongue occasionally.

He is opposed to gay marriage, a totally legitimate position for him to hold, but to describe homosexuality as unnatural and deviant and to rail against the legalisation of paedophilia when that is not being contemplated does him no favours.

And it is a sad epitaph to his career with the party. There is no doubt that he was an influential power-broker in Ulster Unionist ranks, having given sterling service to it. He was a man of personal courage, serving in the UDR during the early days of the Troubles. He also has a long history of civic service as a councillor and MP.

Always outspoken, he was never a man to be easily muzzled, often challenging the party line when it was at its most hard-line. He had confidence in the strength of his own arguments on security, the Union and opposition to republicanism, and was willing to engage in televised debates with leading republicans both here and in the US when his party felt such encounters were taboo.

Although he always took a hard line on security issues, he was more broadminded on political matters than many of his colleagues in the 1980s and 90s. He helped to sell the peace process to many doubters in the unionist community and recognised that, whatever his own reservations, compromise was necessary to achieve an end to violence. Perhaps the process ground too slowly for him and especially his party, which was first vilified and then superseded by the DUP for its engagement with republicans.

Lord Maginnis was a product of the troubled times in which he practised politics and his star has waned in recent times along with that of his party. Yet he was never a negative politician and he is owed a considerable debt for helping to bring the province to its current state.

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