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DUP’s McCrea is ‘humbled and honoured’ to receive a peerage

By Suzanne Breen

Former DUP MP and Free Presbyterian minister, the Rev William McCrea, has been appointed to the House of Lords.

Mr McCrea was nominated by Prime Minister Theresa May to become his party's fourth peer in the upper chamber.

He said he was "honoured and humbled" and hoped to use his position to raise issues such as special educational needs.

The 69-year-old lost his South Antrim Westminster seat three years ago. As a gospel singer and DUP politician, he once symbolised his party's Free Presbyterian wing.

Mr McCrea said he wanted to be a voice for those being sidelined in Northern Ireland.

"In the Seventies and Eighties that was working class unionists, but today there are still injustices. There are parts of society who feel ignored," he said.

"Adult learning facilities for people with special needs have incredible need for improvement. I look forward to joining my colleagues in the House of Lords, where I will be playing a full role in campaigning for change on key issues."

DUP leader Arlene Foster said: "On behalf of our party, I warmly congratulate William.

"He has an incredible record of public service, with 37 years at district council, 12 years in the Northern Ireland Assembly and 25 years as an MP.

"William has always been a huge support and encouragement to me, before and since I became leader of the party."

DUP chairman Lord Morrow said: "Whether as a councillor, MP or MLA, William was an advocate for those who were voiceless.

"He was a tireless campaigner and dedicated public servant. I know he will bring this commitment to the House of Lords. The upper chamber plays a critical role in scrutinising legislation. This elevation will enable William to advance those areas of public policy which have always been close to his heart."

Mr McCrea was MP for Mid Ulster from 1983 until 1997, when he lost his seat to Sinn Fein's Martin McGuinness.

He was returned as South Antrim MP in a by-election in 2000, but he failed to retain the seat at the general election the following year.

In the 2005 general election he regained the seat and held it for 10 years until he was defeated by Ulster Unionist Danny Kinahan.

Mr McCrea was heavily criticised when he appeared on a platform at a rally in 1996 in Portadown in support of LVF leader Billy Wright, whose life was under threat from the UVF.

State papers released in 2014 showed that in 1986 Mr McCrea had urged the British government to launch air strikes on republican areas on both sides of the border.

He wanted "Libyan-type strikes" against Dundalk, Drogheda, Crossmaglen and Carrickmore.

Mr McCrea's Magherafelt home was raked with gunfire in 1994. No-one was injured.

Mr McCrea has three daughters and two sons with his wife Anne.

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