Tributes have been flooding in for former Lagan valley MP and Ulster Unionist Party leader, Jim Molyneaux.
Lord Molyneaux passed away at the age of 94 on Monday (March 9).
Tributes were led by current Ulster Unionist leader Mike Nesbitt, who said: “The Ulster Unionist Party has today lost one of its greatest. Lord Molyneaux led the Party during some of Northern Ireland’s most bloody and turbulent years, providing leadership not only to the Ulster Unionist Party during that time, but also to the country.
“He led for 16 years, a remarkable feat, given the Party had no fewer than four different leaders in the 16 years prior to him taking over. The stability he offered was critical, as was his unbending passion for securing Northern Ireland’s place within the Union. This was particularly key during the aftermath of the Anglo Irish Agreement, a challenge of seismic proportions within Unionism.
“He had a history of serving his country before he took up public office, joining the Royal Air Force during the Second World War. A venture that would see him take part in the liberation of Belsen Concentration Camp, something which stayed with him forever. I believe that experience crystallised the values that guided his political life. He was no showman, but a man of immense guile, playing the game of political chess, ignoring the cheap headlines to focus on strategic outcomes.
“The sight of Lord Molyneaux as Ulster Unionist Party Leader wearing his medals as he laid the wreath on behalf of the Party at the Cenotaph in London every Remembrance Sunday was a powerful image which epitomised the ideals of dignity and service which he embodied.
“On behalf of the Party, I give thanks for a long life, well lived, in dedicated service to the people.”
Freeman of Lisburn and former Ulster Unionist Councillor, Ivan Davis, remembered Lord Molyneaux as a man ofunfailing courtesy.
“With his simple commonsense style, he knew and understood people,” said Mr Davis.
“His service to the nation in wartime and then in public life represented the very best anyone can offer. I well remember my deselection in 2002, him writing to me to say how gratefyl he was for my personal support to him over all the years, which made him appreciate my loyalty.”
The Mayor of Lisburn, Councillor Andrew Ewing said: “Lord Molyneaux was a true gentleman and was deeply devoted to his Country and the wellbeing of others.
“He will be remembered as a hardworking Member of Parliament for Lagan Valley and was held in the highest esteem by all..the national flag will be flown at half mast at Lisburn City Council as a mark of respect”
Lagan Valley MLA Paul Givan paid tribute to Lord Molyneaux in the Assembly. “I did not know Lord Molyneaux; I never met him.
“However, as a Member for Lagan Valley, I feel as if I got to know him very well from his constituents. Every time that I am out on the doors, people bring up to me Jim Molyneaux and his work ethic in serving the people. He was a very faithful constituency Member of Parliament.
“Lord Molyneaux served during the darkest days of the Troubles. I put on record my thanks to him. Today, my generation and the generation to follow have a legacy that is inherited from him whereby Northern Ireland, despite the most serious threat from terrorists, remains and will continue to remain part of the United Kingdom. I thank Lord Molyneaux for his stand during that time.”
Former UUP councillors David Archer Senior and David Archer Jnr expressed their sadness.
Mr Archer Snr credited Mr Molyneaux with both his and his son’s entry into politics. He added: “Jim Molyneaux served the people of Lisburn and Lagan Valley with distinction. Not only did he manage to lead the the party through difficult times, he also succeeded in keeping a strong and vibrant constituency association going.”