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Molyneaux, James

Molyneaux, James (b. 1920). Ulster Unionist leader. Born in Co. Antrim, Molyneaux served in the Royal Air Force before election as an Ulster Unionist for Antrim South in 1970. Four years later, he succeeded Brian Faulkner and Harry West (who lost his seat) as leader of the party and held the post for a remarkable 21 years. Deeply suspicious of the Anglo-Irish agreement of 1985, he pursued an integrationist policy, retorting to cries of ‘Brits Out!’ that ‘We are the Brits.’ Brief of speech and a committee man by nature, he was in striking contrast to Ian Paisley, whose more intransigent Democratic Unionist Party made inroads into the UU position. But Molyneaux was one of a long line of Ulster politicians to rely too much on the steadfastness of British governments. It was ominous in 1993 when Albert Reynolds, the Irish taoiseach and John Major issued the Downing Street Declaration, which announced that the British government had ‘no selfish, strategic or economic interest in Northern Ireland’—widely understood in Orange circles as a coded message that it would pull out as soon as it could. This was followed in February 1995 by a Framework Document, signed by Major and Reynolds's successor, John Bruton, which envisaged cross-border institutions. Molyneaux's position was totally undermined and two months after losing a crucial by-election in Down North in June, he resigned and took a life peerage. The experience of David Trimble, his successor, was not dissimilar.

J. A. Cannon

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