Belfast Telegraph

Maginnis quits UUP amid gay row

Ken Maginnis has quit the Ulster Unionists after challenging new leader Mike Nesbitt to stand down in a blazing row over gay marriage.

He resigned disillusioned and disenchanted with a party he served for 50 years, claiming: "There is no room for independent or logical thinking and that does not suit me."

The former Fermanagh and South Tyrone MP fell out with Mr Nesbitt three months after he endorsed the ex-television presenter's leadership of a party which once dominated politics in Northern Ireland but which is now in deep electoral trouble without a representative at Westminster.

Mr Nesbitt offered to restore the party whip just hours before the resignation in an effort to heal the rift with one of the party's most senior and influential members. But he turned it down.

Lord Maginnis said: "If ever there was a hollow gesture in the eleventh hour, that was it."

The peer, 74, from Dungannon, Co Tyrone, announced his resignation after the UUP leadership distanced themselves when he described gay marriage as "unnatural and deviant behaviour".

Lord Maginnis, married with four children, later insisted he stood by his remarks on gay marriage, referring to "unnatural physical acts" by "deviants".

He added: "These are people that seem to take some pride expressing their particular rights. I disagree with those rights and that deviance."

Mr Nesbitt said: "This is not the outcome I have been seeking - quite the opposite, in fact. On behalf of the party and the unionist people more widely, we owe a debt of gratitude to Ken Maginnis.

"He was a fearless advocate of the Unionist cause, serving the community as a teacher, an officer in the Ulster Defence Regiment as well as a public representative during his time in elected politics."

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