Jim Molyneaux family dismayed at 'close relationship' claims made by Christopher Luke
The family of former Ulster Unionist Party leader Lord Molyneaux are said to be dismayed and upset at claims by an English Right-wing activist about his relationship with the war hero peer who died last year.
Christopher Luke, who is gay, this week placed a memorial notice for Lord Molyneaux in the Belfast Telegraph which said: "I grieve for you... you were very dear to me. Your love for me was wonderful, more wonderful than that of women. I love you more today than I did yesterday, but less than I will tomorrow, my dear Jim, your eternal protege, Chrissie."
The family's anguish was added to by the fact that the notice was placed on the first anniversary of Mr Molyneaux's death.
Last night senior unionist sources cast doubt on claims by Mr Luke about his relationship with Lord Molyneaux, with one of his closest political friends saying he had never even seen the two men together.
The Belfast Telegraph can also reveal that Mr Luke (48) was expelled from the Orange Order following what he at first described as a "personality clash", but later admitted was sparked by his publication of the home address of former UUP leader David Trimble.
It is also understood that Mr Luke has a sideline as the author of gay corporal punishment fiction, and writes under the name 'Clansman Chris'.
Mr Luke did not deny the claim, saying only that it was "a private matter". But an associate of his said: "Christopher is something of an attention-seeker and after the story broke in a newspaper he spoke on radio of brotherly love."
Lord Molyneaux's shocked family only learned that Mr Luke had gone public about his claims of a 30-year relationship with the lifelong bachelor from media reports.
A source close to the family said: We're very disappointed he was on the airwaves.
"A few cursory enquiries by the broadcasters might have negated the need for this."
Speaking to the Belfast Telegraph last night after a round of media interviews, Mr Luke, who lives in Tunbridge Wells, Kent, said he had no regrets about going public about his claimed links to Lord Molyneaux.
"Even when dear Jim was alive I would refer to him as my much-loved mentor and close companion, so I have no regrets about saying what I have," he added.
"Jim Molyneaux gave outstanding service to the United Kingdom in general and Northern Ireland in particular.
"I cannot begin to put into words my admiration and respect for all that he did."
He described the coverage of his links to Lord Molyneaux as "a bombshell" for the late peer's family. "They knew how close I was to Jim. In fact, I would often call upon them before visiting Jim at the Massereene Nursing Home."
Asked about why he left the Orange Order, Mr Luke cited "personal reasons". Pressed on the matter, he said there had been "personality clashes" with other members of the Grand Orange Lodge of England.
Pressed further, he admitted he had been expelled for printing David Trimble's home address in a newsletter he published.
DUP MP Jeffrey Donaldson, who was a friend of Lord Molyneaux for many years, told the Belfast Telegraph last night: "Jim Molyneaux was an upstanding, decent and honest man, and in all my time of knowing him there was nothing that suggested any kind of relationship with Christopher Luke, though he would have known of Christopher because he is prolific in writing letters to MPs about Northern Ireland.
"I'm also aware from my contacts within the Orange Order that Christopher Luke's membership of the institution was ended some time ago in a less than amicable way. He is certainly someone who would not be highly regarded amongst members of the Orange Institution in England.
"Many people that knew Lord Molyneaux well will be disappointed that his good name is being undermined in this way. He had a long and distinguished career and served both the nation as a war hero and the community as a leader.
"When he was an MP and later a peer, I would have been at hundreds of meetings with Lord Molyneaux in London and Northern Ireland and I do not ever recall seeing Lord Molyneaux and Christopher Luke together."
Ulster Unionist councillor Jeffrey Dudgeon - a lifelong campaigner for gay rights - said that Mr Luke had told him the same story about three or four years ago.
Mr Dudgeon added that while he doubted there was a romantic or sexual relationship between the two men, this was a tale of love and affection.
The councillor went on to say that men who came out as gay later in life sometimes say or do things they later regret in the relief at finally being openly gay.
"People when they come out can behave like that, they can be proud and enthusiastic and some older men can even behave like teenagers," Mr Dudgeon told this newspaper.
Lord Molyneaux never publicly indicated he was gay during his lifetime.
"Each person has their own decision to make when they operate in life," Mr Dudgeon added.
"Lord Molyneaux was a quiet man in life. It is important that people's reputations are defended and protected, but in death it is for historians to consider all aspects of their life, personal life as well."