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James Molyneaux, Baron Molyneaux of Killead

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James Henry Molyneaux, Baron Molyneaux of Killead, KBE, PC (27 August 1920 – 9 March 2015[1]), often known as Jim Molyneaux, was a Northern Irish unionist politician, and leader of the Ulster Unionist Party from 1979 to 1995. He was a leading member and sometime Vice-President of the Conservative Monday Club. An Orangeman,[2] he was also Sovereign Grand Master of the Royal Black Institution from 1971 to 1995.

The Lord Molyneaux of Killead

The Lord Molyneaux of Killead KBE, PC.gif
Leader of the Ulster Unionist Party
In office
7 September 1979 – 8 September 1995
Preceded byHarry West
Succeeded byDavid Trimble
Member of the House of Lords
Lord Temporal
In office
10 June 1997 – 9 March 2015
Life Peerage
Member of Parliament
for Lagan Valley
In office
9 June 1983 – 1 May 1997
Preceded byConstituency created
Succeeded byJeffrey Donaldson
Member of Parliament
for South Antrim
In office
18 June 1970 – 9 June 1983
Preceded byKnox Cunningham
Succeeded byClifford Forsythe
Personal details
James Henry Molyneaux

(1920-08-27)27 August 1920
Killead, present day Northern Ireland
Died9 March 2015(2015-03-09) (aged 94)
Antrim, Northern Ireland
NationalityNorthern Irish
Political partyUlster Unionist Party
ResidenceKillead, County Antrim
Military service
Allegiance United Kingdom
Branch/serviceRoyal Airforce Badge.png Royal Air Force
Years of service1941–1946
RankFlying Officer
Battles/warsWorld War Two

Early lifeEdit

Born in Killead, County Antrim to William Molyneaux and Sarah Gilmore,[3] Molyneaux was educated at nearby Aldergrove School. Although he was raised an Anglican, as a child he briefly attended a local Catholic primary school.[4] When a Catholic church near his home was burnt down by Ulster loyalist arsonists in the late 1990s, Molyneaux helped to raise funds for its rebuilding.[4]

Military serviceEdit

In World War II Molyneaux served in the Royal Air Force between 1941 and 1946. He participated in the liberation of the Belsen concentration camp, and occasionally gave interviews about what he saw there. On 1 April 1947, he was promoted to flying officer.[5][6]

Political careerEdit

During the 1960s and 1970s, Molyneaux served on Antrim County Council, as well as a number of committees concerning local healthcare, and in 1970 was elected UUP Member of Parliament for South Antrim. In October 1974, Molyneaux became leader of the Ulster Unionists in the House of Commons. Between 1982 and 1986 he sat as a UUP member for South Antrim in the failed 1982 Northern Ireland Assembly. Molyneaux was admitted to the Privy Council in 1982. Following boundary changes that divided South Antrim, Molyneaux became member for the new seat of Lagan Valley in 1983. In 1985, Molyneaux resigned his seat, along with his unionist colleagues in the House of Commons, in protest at the Anglo-Irish Agreement. He was re-elected in the subsequent by-election.[7]

Molyneaux was generally regarded as a member of the integrationist tendency within the UUP (favouring direct rule from Westminster with some extension of local government powers, as opposed to the devolutionist preference for a revived Northern Ireland parliament or assembly).[8] This preference was widely attributed to the influence of Enoch Powell. Critics within Molyneaux's party saw Molyneux as a do-nothing leader, unduly deferential towards the Conservative Party (leading him to be taken by surprise by the Anglo-Irish Agreement and overshadowed by Ian Paisley). Molyneaux's defenders would probably argue that his primary concern was party unity, that the UUP was so divided that only a minimalist policy could hold it together.[9]

Throughout the 1980s, Molyneaux was an active member of the Conservative Monday Club. Molyneaux was co-opted onto the Club's Executive Council on 23 June 1983.[10] He later became a Vice-President of the Club. In the October 1985 Conservative Party Conference issue of the Club’s tabloid newspaper, Right Ahead, he contributed a lengthy article entitled "Northern Ireland – Ulster belongs to Britain NOT to the Irish Republic". Molyneaux had been present at the crucial Executive Council meeting of 19 December 1990 which accepted, by 11 votes to 3, the decision to stop employing salaried staff at the Club because of its financial deficit.[11][citation needed] Molyneaux subsequently left the Monday Club in February 1991.[citation needed]

In 1994, the Provisional IRA called a ceasefire, which Molyneaux described as "the most destabilising event since partition"[12] and "the worst thing that has ever happened to us".[13]

In 1995 Molyneaux was challenged for the leadership of the UUP by a 21-year-old student and, although winning easily, saw a strong protest vote against Molyneaux's leadership registered. Following the UUP's poor showing in the 1995 North Down by-election, Molyneaux yielded to renewed pressure to retire as leader. On retiring as UUP leader, Molyneaux was knighted as a Knight Commander of the Order of the British Empire (KBE) in 1996.[14] The following year, after standing down as an MP at the 1997 general election, Molyneaux was created a life peer on 10 June 1997 as Baron Molyneaux of Killead, of Killead in the County of Antrim.[15]

On several occasions in his retirement, Molyneaux was publicly critical of his successor, David Trimble. He fiercely opposed the Good Friday Agreement, and in 2003 supported three Ulster Unionist MPs (David Burnside, Jeffrey Donaldson and Martin Smyth) when they resigned the party whip in protest against Trimble's leadership and the party's support for the Agreement. In the 2005 general election, Molyneaux caused a storm when he and Smyth endorsed the Democratic Unionist Party candidate Jimmy Spratt over the UUP candidate Michael McGimpsey in Smyth's former constituency of South Belfast.[16] Molyneaux also endorsed Donaldson, his own successor as MP for Lagan Valley, even after Donaldson had defected to the DUP, as well as anti-Trimble UUP candidates such as Burnside. In the election, Donaldson held Lagan Valley by a large majority, while Spratt outpolled McGimpsey (although losing to the SDLP candidate Alasdair McDonnell on a split vote); many claimed that Molyneaux and Smyth's endorsements had contributed to the UUP's disastrous showing. However, Burnside lost his seat.[17]


Molyneaux died at the age of 94 in Antrim, Northern Ireland on 9 March 2015, Commonwealth Day.[18][19][20]

In March 2016 right-wing activist Christopher Luke claimed that he had had a long-term relationship with Molyneaux until the latter's death.[21][22] Molyneaux's relatives questioned the veracity of Luke's claims.[23] Luke died at the age of 50 in December 2017.[24]


Coat of arms of James Molyneaux, Baron Molyneaux of Killead
A wolf statant Or holding in the dexter forepaw a flax flower Azure slipped and leaved Or.
Gyronny of eight Or and Azure a cross moline between four alder leaves slipped inwards all counterchanged.
On either side a heraldic tyger reguardant Argent gorged with a plain collar attached thereto a chain reflexed over the back Or.
In Hoc Signo Vinces [25]

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ "(later Lord) James Henry Molyneaux K.B.E." Retrieved 11 March 2015.
  2. ^ Eric Kaufmann's Orange Order Page – Photos, retrieved 19 November 2007.
  3. ^ Burke's Peerage 2003, Volume 2, p.2730
  4. ^ a b "James Molyneaux: Political fighter and committed churchman who was a stabilising force for the Ulster Unionists". Belfast Telegraph. Retrieved 10 March 2015.
  5. ^ "No. 38147". The London Gazette (Supplement). 12 December 1947. pp. 5923–5932.
  6. ^ West, Thomas Baron de (19 December 2014). Handbuch des britischen Adels 2015. ISBN 9783734743795.
  7. ^ "House of Lords List of Members". Retrieved 11 March 2015.
  8. ^ Patterson, H. (2012) 'Unionism After Good Friday and St Andrews' in The Political Quarterly, Vol. 83, No.2 (London:Wiley-Blackwell)
  9. ^ "Obituary of Lord Molyneaux by Alex Kane". NewsLetter. Retrieved 11 March 2015.
  10. ^ Monday News October 1983, p.3.
  11. ^ "Dag Hammarskjöld Library Research". UN EM. Retrieved 11 March 2015.
  12. ^
  13. ^ "IRA ceasefire anniversary: How the events unfolded 20 years ago".
  14. ^ "No. 54255". The London Gazette (Supplement). 30 December 1995. p. 8.
  15. ^ "No. 54811". The London Gazette. 19 June 1997. p. 7123.
  16. ^ "PressReader". The Herald. Retrieved 11 March 2015.
  17. ^ "Official Report: Monday 09 March 2015". Retrieved 11 March 2015.
  18. ^ "James Molyneaux: Former UUP leader dies". BBC. BBC Online. 9 March 2015. Retrieved 9 March 2015.
  19. ^ "James Molyneaux: Former UUP leader dies age 94". Belfast Telegraph. 9 March 2015. Retrieved 9 March 2015.
  20. ^ "TheyWorkForYou". Retrieved 12 March 2015.
  21. ^ Former UUP leader James Molyneaux's ‘close companion' tells of 30-year relationship
  22. ^ Lord Molyneaux's 'close companion' tells of 'very loving relationship'
  23. ^ Jim Molyneaux family dismayed at 'close relationship' claims made by Christopher Luke
  24. ^ Lord Molyneaux `close companion' Christopher Luke dies in England
  25. ^ Debrett's Peerage. 2000.

External linksEdit

Parliament of the United Kingdom
Preceded by
Sir Knox Cunningham
MP for South Antrim
Succeeded by
Clifford Forsythe
New constituency MP for Lagan Valley
Succeeded by
Jeffrey Donaldson
Northern Ireland Assembly (1982)
New assembly MPA for South Antrim
Assembly abolished
Political offices
Preceded by
Harry West
Leader of the Ulster Unionist Party
Succeeded by
David Trimble
Non-profit organization positions
Preceded by
Sir Norman Stronge
Sovereign Grand Master of the Royal Black Preceptory
Succeeded by
William Logan