Molyneaux, James Henry (1920–2015), Ulster Unionist Party (UUP) leader, was born in Killead, near Crumlin, Co. Antrim, on 27 August 1920, eldest son of William Molyneaux, farmer, and his wife Sarah (née Gilmore). He had at least one brother and one sister. For generations the family farmed a 90-acre holding, half of which was acquired by the government in 1917 to construct an air training school which developed into Aldergrove Airport (later Belfast International). The Molyneauxs then took up poultry production.
EARLY LIFE AND EDUCATION
Molyneaux attended a catholic primary school close to his home, where no attempt was made to proselytise the handful of protestant pupils. Molyneaux nonetheless later opposed non-denominational education as atheistic (Irish Times, 21 Oct. 1976). He did not have the visceral hatred for catholicism as a religion associated with Ian Paisley (qv) and recalled youthful memories of catholics performing domestic tasks and tending farm animals for Orange neighbours attending July ceremonies. Critics suggested that this ‘live and let live’ ethos implied catholic subjection. Later, as unionist leader, Molyneaux maintained that the pro-union ‘greater number’ in Northern Ireland included many catholics, though he made only token efforts to recruit them. In the late 1990s, when a local catholic church was burned by loyalists, Molyneaux organised repair funds and was photographed with the parish priest.
A member of the Church of Ireland with ‘high church’ tastes, Molyneaux sang tenor for eighty years in the choir of St Catherine’s parish church, Killead – located on the Aldergrove airbase – where he was also baptised and confirmed. A special chair in the choir was commissioned for him and became a memorial after his death.
SECOND WORLD WAR
Molyneaux left school aged fifteen to work on the family farm. His father and grandfather were Orangemen; under their influence Molyneaux followed foreign affairs in the Times (London) and Daily Telegraph, admiring Anthony Eden’s opposition to appeasement. Aldergrove airbase had long fascinated Molyneaux; after school he sat on a fence to watch training flights. He helped out around the airbase after the outbreak of war and joined the Royal Air Force (RAF) after the Belfast Blitz of April–May 1941, serving as groundcrew at airfields in Aberdeen, Grantham and down the east coast of England before becoming a commando and non-commissioned officer (NCO) (this mechanical experience may explain his later passion for watching car-racing in Co. Antrim). He was among the first troops ashore in the June 1944 Normandy landings, in a nine-man advance party marking landing strips for Allied aircraft at Beny-sur-mer. His unit worked its way across Northern France and the Low Countries (participating in the attempt to cross the Rhine at Arnhem) engaging primarily in logistics.
In April 1945 Molyneaux entered Belsen concentration camp three days after its liberation. He had lifelong nightmares about the camp, recalling skeletal remains hanging from the electric fence and guards who tormented inmates even after surrender. He assisted a dying Polish priest-inmate saying mass on an impromptu altar; since Molyneaux knew the Latin responses he acted as server. Molyneaux later spoke of a sense of mission derived from the memory of wartime comrades, many from Northern Ireland, who died for Britain. He compared the feelings of UUP councillors sharing chambers with Sinn Féin representatives to his own memory of working with Nazis hastily ‘rehabilitated’ to administer occupied Germany.
ORANGE AND UNIONIST ACTIVISM
Molyneaux turned down a peacetime commission and on demobilisation in 1946 returned to the poultry farm and joined an uncle’s printing and photography business (eventually becoming proprietor). He followed his father and grandfather into Ballynadrenta Orange Lodge (No. 1057) in Crumlin, progressing to the associated Royal Arch Purple and Royal Black Preceptory (RBP) (Antrim District No. 3). He was recruited to the UUP while fixing the heating system in a hall where the women’s Diamond branch was meeting when it decided to become mixed-sex and recruit a chairman. By 1970 Molyneaux was a deputy grand master of the Orange Order and RBP county grand master for Antrim. Molyneaux was sovereign grand master of the RBP (1971–98) and was one of the three most influential 1960s and 1970s Orange activists (with Rev. Martin Smyth and Rev. John Brown, county grand master for Antrim). He was also sovereign grand master of the Imperial Orange Council of the World (1991–4). Molyneaux had few leisure interests (though he was a member of Ballynure Angling Club, an opera fan and watched car racing). His social life revolved around Orange and UUP functions and the Crumlin branch of the Royal British Legion.
As chairman of the Diamond branch, divisional secretary for the South Antrim Westminster constituency and sub-agent at elections in the 1940s and 1950s, Molyneaux befriended the Unionist Westminster MP for South Antrim, Sir Knox Cunningham (qv), becoming his election agent in 1964 after opposing an unsuccessful attempt to deselect him. Molyneaux was appointed justice of the peace in 1957 (he resigned in 1987 in protest against the Anglo–Irish agreement) and served on Antrim County Council (1964–73). In the 1960s Molyneaux, like Cunningham, was an UUP hardliner, disapproving of Terence O’Neill’s (qv) distance from rank-and-file and of joint meetings of Stormont and Dublin civil servants. When Molyneaux was suggested as a Stormont or Westminster candidate, Paisley’s Protestant Unionist Party (PUP) endorsed him, while some liberal unionists refused to canvas for him. Molyneaux was nominated for the Westminster seat at the 1970 election after Cunningham retired. He retained strong connections with the Cunningham family; Josias Cunningham (qv) was a key adviser. Despite the intervention of the reformist independent unionist Tom Caldwell (1921–2002), Molyneaux was returned. Throughout his career Molyneaux held the safest UUP seat, registering some of the largest majorities in the UK.
Molyneaux gravitated to the right wing of the Conservative Party, supporting capital punishment, opposing sanctions against the white minority regime in Rhodesia (Zimbabwe), and opposing British membership of the European Economic Community (EEC). Molyneaux consistently opposed European integration throughout his career, influenced by affection for the Commonwealth, some family members having emigrated to Australia. He joined the hard-right Monday Club (becoming a vice-president before resigning in 1991) and befriended fellow war veteran Enoch Powell (1912–98), who had been removed from the Conservative front bench for denouncing non-white immigration. Under Powell’s guidance, Molyneaux developed extensive knowledge of parliamentary procedure and an emotional attachment to Westminster. Molyneaux resigned the Conservative whip after the prorogation of Stormont in 1972, though he maintained links with the Conservative party (he was still a member of its Finance and General Purposes Committee in 1976). He became UUP chief whip.
In 1971 Molyneaux allegedly advocated a Rhodesian-style unilateral declaration of independence at meetings in his constituency. In 1972 Molyneaux reviewed an Ulster Defence Association (UDA) ‘honour guard’ during a wreath-laying ceremony at the Lisburn Cenotaph; a photograph of the event published in the Ulster Star (6 June 1972) was later used by the UDA (1983) and John Hume (1985) to criticise him. Molyneaux maintained that he distrusted paramilitarism after experiencing how the French resistance engaged in personal feuds and arbitrary executions. He supported William Craig’s (qv) Vanguard movement but remained with the UUP when Craig formed a separate party. Molyneaux denounced the Sunningdale agreement as ‘a sell-out’ (Irish Times, 14 Dec. 1973), believing a government containing members pledged to abolish Northern Ireland and with certain parties automatically represented was unworkable. This remained his constant position; Molyneaux himself noted its incongruity with his popular image as more ‘moderate’ than Paisley.
At the February 1974 Westminster election Molyneaux secured a large majority. He contested the UUP leadership election after Brian Faulkner’s (qv) resignation but was defeated by Harry West (qv). After Enoch Powell vacated his Wolverhampton seat in February 1974, Molyneaux worked to secure an unionist seat for Powell, hoping to instal him as Ulster Unionist leader; Powell subsequently succeeded the outgoing UUP parliamentary leader Laurence Orr (qv) as MP for South Down at the December 1974 general election. Molyneaux had replaced Orr as leader of the ten anti-Sunningdale United Ulster Unionist Council (UUUC) MPs at Westminster on 22 October 1974 and offered to step down for Powell, but Powell would only accept unanimous endorsement and Craig dissented. Some observers (such as James Prior, secretary of state 1981–4) called Molyneaux Powell’s puppet; others such as Graham Diskin thought the relationship symbiotic, with Powell articulating and rationalising Molyneaux’s instincts, while Molyneaux enthused UUP grassroots unresponsive to the aloof Powell. Powell emphasised his personal loyalty to Molyneaux, though they sometimes differed on tactics. They also reinforced each other’s conspiratorial mindset and belief that senior administrators conspired for decades to jettison Northern Ireland.
In December 1976 Molyneaux declared that administrative devolution mattered more than legislative devolution and published a ‘Molyneaux Plan’, calling for strengthened local government and the creation of one or more power-sharing ‘super-councils’ modelled on Strathclyde Regional Council (founded 1973, abolished 1996, covering much of western Scotland with a population of 2.5 million). This was seen as an integrationist proposal reflecting Powell’s opposition to devolution (he maintained that parliamentary sovereignty could not be divided). Critics included Harry West and future UUP leader David Trimble (1944–2022), who claimed the Troubles could be ended by a strong local parliament (Irish Times, 15 Dec. 1976). Molyneaux modified the plan to conciliate devolutionists, and a version was taken up by the Conservative Northern Ireland spokesman Airey Neave (1916–1979).
West was increasingly eclipsed by Molyneaux because of his peripheral location, uncharismatic personality, lack of a parliamentary platform, and failure to suggest a workable devolutionist strategy or present the UUP as a plausible administration-in-waiting. Molyneaux seemed to be making concrete gains and liked to hint that all was well at Westminster, though confidentiality precluded a detailed explanation. He staved off audiences with cryptic and rambling speeches, presenting himself as embodying inarticulate common sense. This was a deliberate strategy; Molyneaux could coin snappy one-line slogans, and among friends was known as a raconteur. Molyneaux was chronically inclined to mistake personal amiability – encouraged by shared wartime experiences – from British MPs and prominent figures for committed political sympathy and to underestimate how his semi-reclusiveness and near-teetotalism distanced him from the deeper social currents of Westminster. This secretiveness extended to UUP MPs; after Powell lost his seat in 1987 Molyneaux was criticised for conducting negotiations with British ministers single-handed, which made it difficult to establish what had been agreed.
The UUUC disintegrated in 1977 after Molyneaux and the UUP opposed a loyalist workers’ strike supported by Paisley and Ernest Baird (qv), after which Molyneaux entered a formal pact with James Callaghan’s minority Labour government, offering limited support from the six UUP MPs in return for progress on administrative devolution and a speaker’s conference on the creation of more Northern Ireland Westminster seats. The UUP helped to keep the Callaghan government in office until legislation increasing the number of Northern Ireland Westminster seats to seventeen passed in March 1979. When these changes were implemented at the 1983 general election Molyneaux’s constituency was divided; he represented the Lagan Valley seat until his retirement in 1997.
Molyneaux made constituency work his first priority and continued to do so even after retirement from the Commons. He once turned down the high-profile television interviewer David Frost to attend an Orange widows’ function. Molyneaux told the Belfast Telegraph (11 Aug. 1978) that between Westminster and his constituency he worked a sixteen-hour day. Constituents visiting London were invited to use his South Kensington flat.
West resigned after the UUP lost two seats to the DUP in the May 1979 Westminster election, and after Paisley massively outpolled the UUP in the June 1979 European election. On 7 September 1979 Molyneaux was elected party leader, defeating Roy Bradford (qv) and Austin Ardill (d.2010).
Molyneaux’s first action as leader was to overhaul the party organisation (though it remained outclassed in this respect by the DUP). He was perennially popular with UUP rank and file, a reflection of his personal courtesy, Orange contacts and social and generational factors. His calm politeness contrasted with the stress-related emotional volatility and sporadic angry outbursts of many other Northern Irish politicians. He was seen as having critics but no personal enemies: ‘They said when Jim Molyneaux was leader he had no charisma’, commented a provincial activist in 1999, ‘but he always had a word for you after a meeting. He knew your name. Trimble thinks we are lepers’ (Irish Times, 27 Nov. 1999).
A generation of UUP activists who supported O’Neill and/or Sunningdale had left politics or defected to other parties. Although some of these (and some Vanguard hardliners) later re-joined, until the late 1980s the UUP was dominated by older people recruited under Brookeborough (qv) who saw the 1950s as ‘normality’. These were Molyneaux’s people, and he was closer to them socially and educationally than the aristocrats, businessmen and professionals who previously dominated the UUP leadership. He made a virtue of this by presenting himself as the reliable ‘dull dog’ of Northern Irish politics, eschewing risky constitutional proposals. (Prior noted that some traditional unionist aristocrats privately sneered at Molyneaux as a farmer’s son.) The political scientist Michael Diskin maintained that while the DUP presented themselves as the party of initiative and movement, with younger professionals leavening provincial fundamentalists, Molyneaux represented the UUP rank and file’s distaste for the compromises entailed in power politics (Irish Times, 21 Jan. 1986).
Molyneaux’s admirers argued that his major achievement was keeping the UUP united and fending off DUP attempts to replace it as the leading unionist party. Molyneaux’s refusal to participate in devolution-orientated inter-party talks in 1980, convened by Humphrey Atkins (qv), and reluctance to participate in the Northern Ireland Assembly (1982–6) marked the UUP as troublesome intransigents, while the DUP tried to present themselves as reasonable and responsible. The DUP polled marginally more votes than the UUP at the May 1981 local elections, leading to a brief UUP leadership crisis, when many commentators predicted Molyneaux would be replaced by his deputy Harold McCusker (qv), or Smyth. Critics argued that Molyneaux’s concentration on unity constrained the UUP to remain politically close to the DUP and allowed the towering, loud-voiced ‘big man’ Paisley to overshadow the small, dapper, reserved ‘wee man’ Molyneaux.
While contemporaries such as the Social Democratic and Labour Party (SDLP) leader John Hume (1937–2020) made considerable efforts to put forward his party’s position on the international stage, Molyneaux regarded Europe and the US as irredeemably hostile and focused his attention on Westminster and neglected metropolitan journalists. On 19 October 1982 the Irish National Liberation Army (INLA) tried to assassinate Molyneaux in bomb attacks on Unionist headquarters in Belfast and his constituency office in Crumlin; he disliked the additional security which ensued.
Molyneaux did not realise that Margaret Thatcher initially disliked him. She later developed a patronising fondness for ‘dear Jim’ while regarding him as weak, and believed she could defend the Union better than he could. While Paisley denounced Thatcher’s contacts with Charles Haughey (qv) and Garret FitzGerald (qv), her willingness to allow ten republican hunger strikers to die in 1981, her conduct of the 1982 Falklands war (unionists identified with the islanders) and the rout of a Labour Party influenced by pro-republican figures such as Tony Benn (1925–2014) at the 1983 Westminster election reinforced unionist perceptions of returning ‘normality’, fostered by Molyneaux. This contributed to a renewed UUP lead over the DUP at the October 1982 Assembly elections and South Belfast by-election (4 March 1982), and in June 1983 the UUP secured eleven Westminster seats to the DUP’s three. Molyneaux became a privy councillor in 1982, and from 1982 to 1986 represented South Antrim in the Northern Ireland Assembly (which he privately denounced as a ‘toothless bribery machine’ intended to pave the way for a united Ireland (Belfast Newsletter, 29 Aug. 2014)).
The November 1985 Anglo-Irish Agreement was the turning point of Molyneaux’s leadership. Trusting Thatcher’s unionism, Powell’s influence, and Conservative backbench support for the unionists, Molyneaux initially dismissed Irish predictions of an agreement as psychological warfare. As negotiations progressed, Molyneaux spoke of an independent Ulster, but like most unionists failed to grasp that Thatcher might give the Irish Republic a formal role in Northern Ireland – especially after her May 1984 public dismissal of the New Ireland Forum proposals. The refusal of the British government to brief unionists (Molyneaux was offered a briefing on Privy Council terms but refused since he could not have disclosed what he had learned while also sharing responsibility) contrasted with Irish governmental dealings with the SDLP and made the exposure of unionist wishful thinking all the more shattering. A last-minute document, ‘The way forward’, proposing an assembly with power-sharing committees and a bill of rights to safeguard the minority, contained little new and came too late.
Molyneaux lamented that the signing of the agreement was ‘the end of the Union’ (Irish Times, 16 Nov. 1985), adding ‘If I was a Falkland Islander now, I would take to the boats’ (Irish Times, 23 Nov. 1985). In January 1986, however, he dismissed rumours of a unilateral declaration of independence as false and a contradiction of unionism. Molyneaux’s speech at the massive anti-agreement rally held at Belfast City Hall (23 November 1985) emphasised endurance and warned that violence would reinforce opponents; he avoided sharing platforms with paramilitaries. After a ‘day of action’ on 3 March 1986 led to widely publicised violent incidents, Molyneaux vetoed similar protests and spoke of returning to politics; DUP hardliners denounced this as sabotage. Northern Ireland Office (NIO) personnel saw Molyneaux as restraining popular anger; he privately accepted the agreement would not be discarded while appealing for modifications to address unionist concerns. In fact, Molyneaux hoped that over time the agreement would disintegrate through its own contradictions. He defeated an attempt by the prominent barrister Robert McCartney (b.1936) to commit the UUP to electoral integration; McCartney was subsequently expelled for contesting North Down in the 1987 Westminster election against the independent unionist James Kilfedder (qv). Although McCartney was erratic and integrationism unrealistic, his defeat and disowning of proposals from a 1987 joint unionist ‘task force’ by both Molyneaux and Paisley reflected continuing inertia. Even the Conservative MP Ian Gow (1937–90), who resigned a junior ministry in opposition to the agreement, privately admitted that Molyneaux though personally sympathetic was weak.
Molyneaux’s survival reflected the absence of a plausible alternative UUP leader. Willie Ross (b.1936), MP for East Londonderry and chief whip, became de facto deputy after McCusker’s death in 1990. From 1987 the unionists entered a talks process seeking a replacement for the agreement. Molyneaux established clandestine contacts with the NIO and with Charles Haughey’s post-1987 governments, joined inter-party talks from 1991, and led a UUP delegation to negotiations in Dublin in September 1992; these failed to achieve concessions on the Republic’s constitutional claim to Northern Ireland. Molyneaux hoped Irish intransigence might persuade the British government to revert to an internal settlement. He realised the necessity of dealing with the SDLP, hoping they might accept an Assembly run by committees rather than an executive, but was rebuffed by Hume, who was engaged in clandestine attempts to draw Sinn Féin into the peace process and believed Molyneaux fundamentally more intransigent than Paisley.
In July 1993 Molyneaux entered an informal pact with John Major’s Conservative government, whose dwindling majority was destabilised by parliamentary revolts against ratification of the Maastricht Treaty. The creation of a Northern Ireland Grand Committee to scrutinise relevant legislation was attributed to this pact, and after informal negotiations (partly mediated by Robin Eames, Church of Ireland archbishop of Armagh, b.1936) Molyneaux claimed credit for purging the Downing Street Declaration of December 1993 of elements unacceptable to unionists. Paisley responded by labelling Molyneaux as Judas Iscariot. Meanwhile, Molyneaux led a delegation to Washington DC, where he was surprised at his warm reception by senior members of the Clinton administration. Molyneaux, however, was noticeably deferential to Major and over-optimistic about his influence on the government.
One of Molyneaux’s statements about the August 1994 IRA ceasefire described it as politically destabilising, by which he meant it reflected a republican strategy of deception. The unintended implication that Molyneaux did not welcome cessation of violence was cited by Sinn Féin leader Gerry Adams as exemplifying unionist political bankruptcy. Molyneaux’s downfall began with the publication of the Framework Documents (22 February 1995) on which he had little input. These were condemned by unionists for proposing extensive powers for cross-border bodies; Molyneaux was perceived as repeating the Anglo–Irish agreement debacle. He was challenged for the UUP leadership by a twenty-one-year-old student, Lee Reynolds. Reynolds’s 88 votes (against 521 for Molyneaux) at the Ulster Unionist Council were seen as a major setback; aspiring successors manoeuvred for position. The final blow came when the North Down by-election was won by Robert McCartney, who declared that the ‘donkey’ Molyneaux ‘should be in Madame Tussaud’s’ (Irish Times, 10 June 1995).
Molyneaux resigned the UUP leadership on 28 August 1995. His preferred successor, Willie Ross, came fourth of five contenders; the victory of David Trimble was seen as a vote for unionists to take the initiative. Molyneaux’s departure was marked by numerous tributes to his peace-making. He was knighted (KBE) in the 1996 New Year’s Honours and, after retiring from the Commons at the 1997 election, became a life peer as Lord Molyneaux of Killead. He was succeeded as MP for Lagan Valley by Jeffrey Donaldson, his former aide and political protégé.
The 1998 Belfast agreement reversed public perceptions of Molyneaux and his successor. Trimble’s pugnacity reflected a negotiating strategy to secure unionist influence on the governance of Northern Ireland, even through compromises Molyneaux thought unacceptable. Molyneaux advocated a ‘no’ vote in the 1998 referendum on the Belfast agreement. At subsequent party events Molyneaux called for the agreement to be renegotiated, while Trimble denounced Molyneaux’s record of passivity and argued that the agreement strengthened unionism. Molyneaux mocked Trimble for employing bodyguards – ‘I didn’t have so many men with me in Normandy’ (Irish Times, 29 Nov. 1999). Molyneaux orchestrated successive motions of no confidence in Trimble through a political caucus called Union First. He sought to force Trimble and his core supporters out of the UUP in the same manner as Faulkner had been forced out (calculating many Trimble supporters would stay with the party), install as leader either Donaldson or a former Trimbleite with Donaldson as deputy and de facto leader and Molyneaux pulling the strings, to reduce the DUP to subordinate allies to a hard-line UUP, and to seek comprehensive renegotiation of the Agreement. Molyneaux called for the Northern Ireland Assembly’s powers to be reduced to those of the National Assembly for Wales (established in 1999), which lacked independent executive powers. This ignored the trend towards devolution in Britain (the Welsh government was given formal executive powers in 2006 and its powers of legislation were extended after a 2011 referendum).
Successive ‘heaves’ weakened Trimble without deposing him. Donaldson was less sanguine about renegotiation and less attached to the UUP than Molyneaux’s veterans. The defection of Donaldson and two other UUP members of the legislative assembly (MLAs) to the DUP, after the 2003 assembly elections confirmed the DUP as the largest unionist party, destroyed Molyneaux’s strategy. Molyneaux nonetheless contributed an introduction to an authorised biography of Donaldson and endorsed anti-agreement UUP and DUP candidates (including Donaldson) at the 2005 Westminster elections, in which Trimble was defeated and the UUP reduced to one Westminster seat. Molyneaux increasingly withdrew from public life as he developed dementia. He obtained leave of absence from the House of Lords in 2008 and his last years were spent in Steeple nursing home in Antrim town, which he regularly left to sing in St Catherine’s choir. James Molyneaux died at Antrim Area Hospital on 9 March 2015 and is buried in the grounds of St Catherine’s. He is commemorated by a ceremonial mace used at RBP council meetings (commissioned to mark his retirement as grand master).
Molyneaux never married and was widely believed to be gay, though he advocated social conservatism; in July 1977 he urged the Labour government to exercise caution in relaxing restrictions on divorce and homosexuality in Northern Ireland (Irish Times, 27 July 1977). Paisley, whose public image included bullish masculinity and happiness as a family man, liked to sneer at Molyneaux’s bachelorhood. Certainty is difficult because of the secrecy required while ‘homosexual acts’ were illegal until the 1980s and thereafter still widely disapproved of by conservative religious believers, and because of a murky underworld of rumour, particularly claims that unionist politicians implicated in the sexual abuse of teenagers at Kincora Boys’ Home were blackmailed by British Intelligence. Two years after Molyneaux’s death, the English pro-union gay activist Christopher Luke (c.1967–2018) claimed he and Molyneaux shared a love that surpassed the love of women; Luke stated, somewhat equivocally, that this relationship had been platonic and dated from 1984; he described Molyneaux as a mentor in public statements as early as 1986. Relatives and political associates of Molyneaux said the two men were rarely seen together and called Luke, an obsessive letter writer, a self-glorifying fantasist.
Molyneaux is sometimes dismissed as an arch-mediocrity. His longevity as leader disguises the frequent fragility of his position, but also the tactical and man-management skills which maintained it. His personal affability and post-1979 position as the principal unionist alternative to the firebrand Paisley overshadowed his earlier opposition to O’Neillite reformism, reckless positions in the near-apocalyptic context of Stormont’s collapse, and sometimes unsavoury links to the Powellite right. It is all the more striking that a liberator of Belsen and ex-pupil of a catholic school, leading a community under concerted terrorist attack, was so ineffective in securing outside sympathy for his cause.
Some unionist veterans of the second world war acquired from military service a certain identification (however equivocal) with British aspirations to post-war modernisation and liberalism; Molyneaux’s experiences reinforced his commitment to an archaic Tory Britishness which declined with the post-war demise of empire. For some commentators, Molyneaux’s securing of constitutional concessions from minority governments in 1976–9 and 1993–5 contrasts with the DUP’s concentration on short-term financial concessions when in a similar position between 2017 and 2019, and differentiates UUP Ulster Britishness from DUP Ulster provincialism, but this should not be overstated. The concessions Molyneaux achieved were limited; he overestimated British identification with Northern Ireland as the post-war British union state was transformed by Thatcherism and regionalism; his recapitulations of the Molyneaux Plan were increasingly threadbare camouflage for inertia. The post-agreement history of devolved government in Northern Ireland suggests his view of power-sharing devolution as inherently unstable had substance, but his failure to address legitimate catholic–nationalist discontents contributed to the rise of Sinn Féin as the leading nationalist party whose participation was required for unionist–nationalist compromise. His limitations were not his alone, but reflected the reactive, deferential and often hypocritical culture of post-Stormont mainstream unionism, and its failure to produce a more effective spokesman for its legitimate concerns was part of a wider tragedy.
Molyneaux never wrote a memoir, but Ann Purdy’s Molyneaux: the long view (1989) contains extensive interviews with her subject and some political contemporaries; it is an indispensable though limited source and portrays its subject as he wished to be seen.