Ken Maginnis, the former British Army militiaman and Ulster Unionist Party heavyweight, has fired what may well prove to be a fatal parting shot at his party leader, one-time television news presenter Mike Nesbitt. From the Guardian newspaper:
“One of the Ulster Unionists’ most seasoned veterans has resigned from the party he served for 50 years in protest at being punished for speaking out against homosexuality.
Lord Maginnis confirmed on Tuesday he was leaving the party just two months after losing the party’s whip at Westminster.
The UUP peer was disciplined over remarks made on the Stephen Nolan radio show in which he claimed homosexuality was “unnatural and deviant”. His comments were condemned by the party leader, Mike Nesbitt, who has sought to modernise the UUP and move it towards the liberal, centre ground in Northern Ireland.
Maginnis’s departure, however, is a blow to the party given the respect he commands, particularly within the UUP’s rural Ulster base.
Reacting to the news of the former MP’s resignation, 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 [ASF: A notorious British Army militia unit in Ireland] as well as a public representative during his time in elected politics.””
In terms of his views on same-sex relationships Ken Maginnis could not be accused of being unrepresentative of the political classes in his community as a whole. Most politicians from the British Unionist minority in the north-east of Ireland vociferously oppose “homosexuality”, largely based upon their adherence to a form of Protestant fundamentalist Christianity imported from Britain in the 17th and 18th centuries which has remained influential ever since. Both Maginnis’ UUP and the rival Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) regularly engage in anti-gay actions and statements, as highlighted in this report from the Mid-Ulster Mail:
“Stephen Donnan, an independent activist who campaigns for the rights of those in the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) community, said he was “disgusted but not surprised” at remarks made by both Ulster Unionist and DUP councillors at a discussion on marriage equality last Tuesday night.
He also expressed his disbelief at “leaflets” left on the seats of Nationalist councillors ahead of the meeting that cited, among other reasons, that some of those in the LGBT community may have been abused by “homosexuals” as children.
The leaflet added that “those caught up in the web” of homosexuality and lesbianism “long to be free”.
Among the controversial remarks made by representatives at last week’s meeting, DUP chair Councillor Paul McLean described same-sex marriage as an “abomination”.
UUP Councillor Jackie Crawford, who also voted against the Sinn Féin tabled motion, said following the meeting: “I’m not against gays, it’s a pity for them.
“It’s a pity they have that disease and they can’t help it. It’s the same as you being born with a disability. They can’t help what they are.”
Magherafelt Council passed the Sinn Féin tabled motion supporting equal marriage rights on a 10-5 party vote.”
With Mike Nesbitt’s own party members turning on him with alarming regularity, not to mention openly scoffing at official party policies and his “new direction”, his political future seems to be that of death by a thousands cuts – big and small.