Obituary for Willie Thompson

William Thompson former MP for West Tyrone died on Sunday. Most of the great and the good of unionism turned out for his funeral. There are tributes to him here and here in the Newsletter. He was a man of firm unionist principles but more than that an utterly decent individual who also had an extremely strong and committed personal religious faith. He was heavily involved in Omagh Methodist church and also in the Faith Mission organisation. My only recollection of him was going to the leadership election after Jim Molyneaux resigned. I was over at the student house his son lived in at the time and he suggested walking down with me. He was good company for the walk but I never realised and he was too polite to tell me what a senior party member he was: less than two years later he became MP for West Tyrone. A post I remember hearing that he was fairly shocked to get when the nationalist vote split almost exactly evenly between SDLP and Sinn Fein allowing him to win. Willie, however, despite his shock served as a conscientious, hard working MP until defeated by Pat Doherty in 2001. He had previously represented Mid Ulster in the Stormont assemblies of the 1970s and 1980s.

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  • Barry the Blender

    Thanks for posting this Turgon. I only heard the sad news last night.

    I’ve always been interested in Willie, and I think his wikipedia article could use a bit more info. than the paragraph that it currently amounts to.

  • an utterly decent individual

    What’s the difference between a Unionist MP and a SF one? The Unionist shows up very rarely: the Shinner doesn’t. There’s an alternative version of that one: at least you can rely on not seeing a Shinner in the lobby.

    A semi-absentee at Westminster, who voted (on the rare occasions he did) for homophobia and for aristocratic privilege in the Lords.

  • redhugh78

    I remember his speech after being defeated by Pat Doherty, very magnanimous he was.
    May he rest in peace.

  • Barry the Blender

    I remember the numbers coming up on the screen once West Tyrone had declared in 2001, but not Thompson’s speech. I think gracious concessions are difficult, rare but worthy of commendation when a politician gets it right.

  • Bill

    One of the great pieces of humour from Willie was when David Trimble & the UUP were frequently running Ulster Unionist Council (UUC) meetings, when they were deciding to perhaps go into government with Sinn Fein.

    Before one of these meetings Willie proclaimed that: ‘If this party goes back into government with Sinn Fein/IRA, then I’ll not be in it & I’ll resign immediately’. Then at that UUC meeting the UUP decided to go back into government with SF, but Willie subsequently didn’t resign.

    Then at another UUC meeting several weeks later Willie was asked ‘At the last UUC meeting Mr. Thompson you said you would resign if the UUP went back into government, and you haven’t resigned, so aren’t you a Hypocrite?’ – Willie replied: ‘Well in a party full of hypocrites, one more isn’t going to make a lot of difference’!