Ken Maginnis and the UUP leader’s problem with a party elder statesmen…

So, Ken Maginnis. I have to confess I like the guy. He once offered me a brandy in the City Airport (which because I was driving at the other end, I politely refused). His comments on homosexuality (rather than his views on Gay Marriage, which I’d say are pretty mainstream in his party), on Nolan yesterday were probably ill advised:

The first thing to say is that the issue of gay marriage is a Westminster matter which does not concern (at this stage) Stormont. Nonetheless this is starting to look like an unbidden nightmare for Mike Nesbitt.

It is customary for party leaders to allow an elder statesmen, particularly those like McGinnis who’ve been elevated to the Lords, some latitude to speak on their own behalf. It’s also customary to allow party members a free vote when it comes to matters of morals and sexuality.

Now an extraordinary general meeting has been called because as Mike Nesbitt says:

I have no desire to be a member of any organisation that equates homosexuality to bestiality.

Hmmmm… That won’t be easy… Northern Ireland differs from its union partner country England in lots of ways. One of them is its abiding social conservatism (see also Sinn Fein’s tight policy on abortion)… The party executive may itself have some trouble getting its head round what it was that Ken said that was wrong…

Now the action’s been formalised it’s hard to see how this ends well for the party… For Mike… Or, indeed, for Ken…

  • andnowwhat

    Hi Mick;

    In case you missed it, against general intsruction form Nesbitt, Ken was back on Nolan again.

    Nolan raised the issue of whether he had permission from central office to be on his show.

  • Mick Fealty

    I didn’t. But thanks for posting it.

    Important to note that the Alliance party have been making liberal hay out of the UUP’s political discomfort. They’re about detaching the party from what’s left of their socially liberal core in the east.

    That’s electoral politics in action.

  • London_Irish

    “It is customary for party leaders to allow an elder statesmen, particularly those like McGinnis who’ve been elevated to the Lords, some latitude to speak on their own behalf.”

    Agree with that Mick, but the shrinking size of the UUP means that elder statesman or not, Maginnis can still be regarded as a senior party member and close to the leadership of the party for the purposes of the media.

    I note recently that the UUP have put the ‘Westminster’ representatives link back on their homepage – which disappeared following Sylvia Hermon’s decision to go it alone – and now lists their five peers. Perhaps Mike Nesbitt and the UUP will want to distance themselves from Westminster once more…

  • andnowwhat

    Your welcome Mick.

    Unlike yourself, I do not like Magginis but neither do I like that other elder statesman who fell ill of the party, Mc Narry. That said, I dislike disloyalty greatly more, especially when it is for superficial or cynical reasons.

    The Alliance party are a counter punch party and like Ali against Foreman, it’s easy to do when faced with someone with a direction of effort, rather than make your own clearly defined direction of effort.

  • Its not what he said. Its the fact that he said anything at all.
    I lived in Dungannon in late 1970s and can confirm Mr Fealtys observation that I also like the guy.
    I think he is wrong about the substance of the partnership thing. Many folks of a certain age want to be liberal and each generation throws up a new front line in the battle between social conservatism and social liberalism. And for folks of a certain generation the issue of “gay marriage” is an issue.
    In part its the word “marriage” but there just comes a time when people of a certain generation need to realise that the world belongs to a new generation and we should quietly accept the way things are. Even embrace it.

    As an (almost) side issue, I resent filling in forms where the word “partner” is the only acceptable answer. What people choose to call their significant other is a matter for them. And there should be as many options as possible. I have a fondness for the word “wife”. And if someone took the trouble to turn up at a church or registry office on a certain day, then I think they are entitled to simple courtesy.

    And thats where Ken went wrong. His remarks were discourteous, unpleasant and offensive. He sought to (literally) dehumanise people because of their sexual orientation. It has no place in political discourse or in the bar of Dungannon RFC.
    Not really sure why Mike Nesbitt wants to go nuclear on this. Bringing the UUP into the 21st century (and losing some old fogeys along the way) seems a poorer choice than just dismissing it as an old timer………a man of my generation (more or less) not fully at ease with the 21st century.

    But I think it would be wrong to say that this is something unique to Norn Iron. Politics and moral attitudes dont mix anywhere.
    And as is often the case Drama can highlight the issue.
    Trevor Griffiths ITV series “Bill Brand” circa 1977 should be compulsory viewing for students of politics.
    Left wing newly elected Labour MP “Bill Brand” at odds with his Manchester constituency (heavily influenced by Catholics) on his stance on Abortion.
    And Real Life imitated Art. Traditional “conscience” issues were politicised so that the anti-Abortion Campaign was led by David Alton was supported by some of the most right wing Tories (often Catholic) who had no conspicuous record on the Right to Life (such as nuclear weapons).
    Traditional pockets of Catholic Labourite support in South Lancashire, west of Scotland and North East England has never really recovered from the politicisation.
    Nesbitt would I suggest be foolish not to pay heed.

  • lover not a fighter

    With members like Ken Mcginnis ulster unionists should begin to worry about Britain moving away from them.

    Ken Mcginnis views are a minority view in mainland britain.

    Todays Britain has a much more live and let live atititude to sexuality.

    I wonder if Ken Mcginnis’s views would be construed as an incitement to hatred.

    Certainly, had he attacked other minorities in such a manner I believe that there would be a greater outcry. In fact it is only that Northern Ireland is considered such a backwater that the views of yet another old bigot has not yet been given the coverage it deserves.

  • cynic2

    An old man who lives in the bogs opposes gay marriage. How shocking!

    He’s entitled to his view no matter how bigoted, outdated and prejudiced it is

  • andnowwhat


    Ken went beyond reasonable biblical based objection to homosexuality. He said that toleration (via marriage) would be on the “Ladder” to tolerating beastiality and inferred there were connections to moral dangers of young people in the vicinity. It begins at 5.54 on the audioboo above

  • Mick Fealty

    Okay, I’m not expecting everyone to like Ken, I was just disclosing a personal affection. I do disagree with FJH on one point though.

    I personally feel it is good thing that elder statesmen speak more freely than their whipped colleagues. In this parliamentary regard, there is a difference between Ken and D McN.

    And there’s the aspect of this that too few pols have permission to speak human these days because ‘whipping’ (wha hay!) is turning into an obsession if not on the part of the pols then the pol corrs.

    The critical mistake IMHO is trying to brigade Ken into the lobby of an issue that’s almost (though not quite) a generational deal breaker and a matter of personal values.

    At a time of rpid change, political parties need the capacity to finesse some things that should not necessarily be subject to a corporate view.

  • Evolve

    I think Ken is totally wrong on this issue. He couldn’t be more wrong.

    Nonetheless free speech is vitally important and Ken has the right to state his views.

  • Mick Fealty


    I think you underestimate them. Anna Lo is the only pro abortion MLA in the Assembly now that Dawn Purvis has gone. I doubt she is the only one who is in actual fact, pro choice. But her party no doubt benefits from her public stance in South Belfast.

  • lover not a fighter

    This “jolly old boy” is a member of the house of Lords and can therefore vote on laws that effect minorities and all of us.

    Do the Ulster unionist have some more old bigots stashed away in the house of lords.

    Ken Mcginnis has given us a view of this jolly old lord. Its enlightening but exposes all too clearly the democratic deficit of the upper chamber.

  • andnowwhat

    I get what you’re saying about liking Ken as a man, Mick. Via my work, I’ve met big Ian quite a few times when he was visiting patients in my dept. and I found him to be a funny, nice man.

    I’m uncomfortable with what went on this morning and would query if the BBC should have maybe not put him on (that empathetic personality of mine is a right pain in my hole).

  • Mister Joe

    …pro abortion…

    Are there many such people? (I note that you did say “pro choice” later.)

  • Reader

    lover not a fighter: This “jolly old boy” is a member of the house of Lords and can therefore vote on laws that effect minorities and all of us.
    I note that your primary concern is the democratic deficit. That would still be the case even if Ken had been all nice and liberal.
    It’s probably safe to say that his views match those of some part of the population, who are therefore better represented by the mix in an unelected, but unwhipped, second chamber than by the lobby fodder in the Commons.

  • cynic2

    I think he’s wrong too … utterly and unfairly wrong

    But he does have the right to be

  • dwatch

    In my opinion Ken Maginnis was extremely foolish going on the Nolan show to discuss this subject. He should have remembered what happened to Iris Robinson over giving her views on the same subject in public and how it effected the DUP. This recent gay marriage controversial issue is between David Cameron, the government and the Church Of England.

  • Mr Fealty,
    We are in broad agreement here. Yes retired old timers (and every Party has them) often make welcome remarks. But SOME retired old timers (and every Party has them) occasionally dont like it when there out of the limelight.
    I dont think that retired politicians are silent because of tight Party discipline but rather they know the value of discretion, especially on generational issues.
    At the very least Ken would have known that he was not being “helpful”.
    Its certainly not a generational deal breaker. Or shouldnt be.
    There is no aspect of compulsion here.
    And of course as “and nowwhat” and I agree….the comparison with bestiality was de-humanising.


    I’m shocked that Lord M was back on the radio today still saying much the same thing. His comments are ignorant, arrogant, out of touch and grossly offensive. I would like to invite Lord M (or anyone who thinks similarily) to provide any evidence whatsoever to support his claim that ‘homosexuality is a rung on the ladder to bestiality’.

    Indeed I would invite him to provide any evidence whatsoever that ‘homosexuality is a rung on the ladder to bestiality’ any more than having intimate relations with one’s wife in an unorthodox manner ‘is a rung on the ladder to bestiality’.

  • Neil

    I would posit he’s proud of his views, saw his performance on BBC news last night where he said if he was to be censured it should happen in public, presumably so he could best his leader on TV.

    It’s one thing to say he’s entitled to his views (which of course he is) but unfortunately people with views such as these – unnatural he says, bestiality he says and more, give cover to the population of the most homophobic area of the UK and Ireland.

    So for society’s sake he is absolutely entitled to hold and express his views but it should be a matter of conscience for others to express their opposition to them.

  • Comrade Stalin

    Important to note that the Alliance party have been making liberal hay out of the UUP’s political discomfort. They’re about detaching the party from what’s left of their socially liberal core in the east.

    It’s just as well Seamus Close keeps a rather low profile these days.

  • Mister Joe

    Blessed are the poor in spirit because they will receive nothing.

  • Comrade Stalin

    I can sort of get the logic of the argument that people aren’t happy with gay marriage on biblical or traditional grounds etc, even though I don’t agree with it. I did not hear Maginnis making this argument, he did not go beyond a reference to the strawman that churches should not be compelled to implement gay marriage (churches are not compelled to marry anyone and I do not see this changing).

    What I did hear was what I seem to hear a lot in this debate; an argument built upon the frankly rather creepy, prurient obsession that homophobes like Ken have with what two (or more!) consenting adults do in the privacy of their bedroom. This kind of debate seems to involve such people dwelling at length on precisely what goes on in these private circumstances, without any meaningful explanation being given as to how this could have any influence at all on the outside world, and without any reference to the notion that perhaps marriage is about something more than sex to most people.

  • Mister Joe

    “The state has no business in the bedrooms of the nation. ”

    Pierre Trudeau when Canadian minister of justice, 1967.

  • Rory Carr

    I liked the comments of the listener (about 26 mins in) “, “I’m a married man myself, with five children…” who went on to explain homosexuality in terms of genes that were “wrong at birth”. So it’s “not their fault” he magnanimously concluded before then (even more magnanimously) absolving their Creator[ “It’s not God’s fault either.”

    In the great British tradition of fixing the blame I wanted to shout out, “Whose bloody fault is it then ?” but rather my thinking drifted to consider that, in terms of political blame, Ken, whose thinking on this matter is hardwired along with his time and place and he is “not to blame” either. But then, as with God, it is not Mike’s fault either. Of course, Ken airing his views so forthrightly will not lose him any support that he cares about but as for Mike, I reckon he is likely to lose more support from taking Ken to task than he might have lost had he not. Better had he considered that great piece of philosophy embodied, as with much English philosophy, in a nursery rhyme, in this case, Little Bo Peep:

    Leave them alone
    and they will come home
    Wagging their tales behind them.

    Or, “Least said, soonest mended.”

  • Comrade Stalin

    I thought said caller spoke very well.

  • Carsons Cat

    If this is a problem with the UUP’s elder statesmen / enforcing discipline / modernising then it does demonstrate a huge mistake by Nesbitt.

    He’s decided that he wants to copy the supposed iron discipline of SF and the DUP (allegedly) – lets leave aside of course the fact that Nesbitt has previously and repeatedly criticised that ‘centralism’…

    However, if those kind of controls exist within other parties they’re not played out in public, because well, that’s the very point of having that kind of control; you don’t end up with these kind of spats in public.

    Only, and I mean only, in the UUP could you have the issue of media control and clearance to speak being played out – in the bloody media. Mind you, that’s Nesbitt’s default position because he’s been told so many times, and he believes it himself; that he’s some sort of media guru – which he just ain’t.

    Any leader of a party who had either the respect, affection or even fear of his party membership would be able to stamp on this problem behind closed doors. The fact that Nesbitt tries to stop his people speaking to the media by effectively issuing a press statement to that effect gives an indication of his chances of success.

  • Neil

    Ulster Unionist peer Ken Maginnis has said he stands firmly behind controversial on-air comments in which he referred to gay marriage as “unnatural and deviant behaviour”.

    Lord Maginnis told the Belfast Telegraph he stood by his words — referring to “unnatural physical acts” by “deviants”.

    “Of course I do. Is it natural? The answer is it is not natural,” he added.

    The natural argument gets me. Shampoo isn’t ‘natural’. Neither are sausages. Something tells me Mike should walk away from this one, due to his complete impotence as far as Ken’s concerned.

  • andnowwhat

    To paraphrase the fundies; “What would Dawkins do?”

  • Shibboleth

    I must have really offended someone’s liberalism as my post has been stuck in moderation. I didn’t realise that criticising the Nolan TV show would tread on someone’s toes. So much for tolerance.

  • Progressive Unionist

    Mike Nesbitt was strategically smart to respond rapidly and unequivocally in the way he did – “I have no desire to be part of any organisation that equates homosexuality to bestiality” – it was also just the ‘right thing to do’.

    He has the media smarts to know that this is far too high profile a media issue for him to be able to let it slide, even if he wanted to (which I doubt). He’d have ended up being forced to express a view sooner or later and it’s infinitely better to do so in the immediate aftermath of the story breaking.

    Tom Elliott’s failure to meet this issue head-on and his comments about not attending gay pride ended up redefining the UUP as being a million miles away from mainstream UK values and were part of the reason the UUP was reduced to just 11% – now equal to Alliance.

    Mike won the leadership with an enormous mandate and deserves the space to lead. He can also use the EGM, which will doubtless be the focus of intense media interest, to redefine the UUP more clearly as an upholder of traditional British values of tolerance and respect.

    (There’s also plenty of inspiration to be borrowed from the kind of inclusive language the mainland Tories have used on this issue)

  • socaire

    Couple of points. Honest Ken did not ‘equate homosexuality with bestiality’ as slippy Nolan tried to say. He made the point that if you accept the fact that homosexuality is a deviant practice ie not the norm and you try to integrate it into ‘normal’ society then you are opening the gates for other deviant practitioners. Homosexuality is not a choice nor a fashion fad. Neither is paedophilery? nor bestiality. So if you can be tolerant of one deviation then why stop there? I mean what harm am I doing if I take a comely young heifer to the Registry Office and ask to be wed? We won’t be able to have children but we love each other and that’s all that counts. The duine aerach who demands the same rights ie marriage as heterosexual people is wrong because he/she is not the same and emphasises this fact. Don’t persecute them but let’s not pretend that what they do is normal.

  • andnowwhat

    And what of Ken’s assertion that gays are not a good (I’m being kind here. Listen to the audioboo) influence on children around them?

    I’ve a gay friend and he and his partner have cared for his sister’s child for some 13 years since his sister/her mother died. Is that wee girl at some risk?

  • socaire

    The only risk she may be at is to think that such a setup is normal. Loving kind responsible but not normal.

  • Mister Joe


    I’dove to hear your explanation of what is “normal”, not just confined to the sexuality sphere.

  • Mister Joe

    Here’s some help from the Macmillan dictionary:

    something that is normal is how you expect it to be, and is not unusual or surprising in any way

  • socaire

    You are familiar, I presume, with the bell graph and standard deviation from the norm? It is normal for men to have two testicles. If you have one or three well no harm done but not normal. It is normal for the different sexes to couple and produce offspring. It is not normal for same sex couples to couple for sexual pleasure and produce nothing. As a society we can/cannot tolerate this but it is not normal. It is not normal to blow a man’s brains out but circumstances arise when it is acceptable but in general – no.

  • andnowwhat

    Actually, blowing a man’s brain out is a perfectly natural thing to do. It’s in our ancient survival and warrior instinct. Through moral development, we’ve decided it’s just not nice and rightly so.

    In parts of the world, the Middle East and Africa most notably, there are people killed because they are gay. In some Balkan states political parties stand on a homophobic ticket along with their anti semitism.

    In recent times I’ve seen links posted to legitimate academics who give scientific reasoning and supposedly supportive evidence to the inferiority of black people, even citing President Obama as an example.

    We, the Irish, have also been subject to pseudo science in the Georgian and Victorian era which declared us an inferior being by nature.

    Someone incapable of comprehending the wonderful diversity of creation is the inferior one.

  • Mister Joe

    Well, I don’t find it either unusual nor surprising that a certain number of people are homosexual. it happens commonly in all of the animal kingdom. Where do you draw the vertical lines on your bell curves?

  • quality


    In what sense is homosexuality not “normal”? Same-sex sexual activity is present throughout the animal kingdom and natural in general, it’s not a conditioned human trait. Doesn’t get more natural than that.

  • quality

    Have just seen Mister Joe’s post above, apologies for duplication.