Several contemporaries of the late Jim Molyneaux have poured scorn on a gay man’s claim that he was a “close companion” of the politician over many years.
Christopher Luke, a unionist who lives in Kent and is a some-time contributor to the letters pages of Belfast newspapers, made the claims over recent days.
Mr Luke placed an ‘In memorium’ notice in the Belfast Telegraph on Thursday which referred to his “close companion” Lord Molyneaux and alluded to the Biblical friendship between David and Jonathan, saying “your love for me was wonderful, more wonderful than that of women”.
Then on Friday, Mr Luke was quoted by the Irish News saying that he had met Lord Molyneaux for a final time a few months before his death a year ago, he had tried to hug and kiss the peer but the former UUP leader “tried to shove me off”.
The 48-year-old told the newspaper that he was just 17 when he met the then 64-year-old UUP leader at a London meeting of the Conservative Monday Club in 1984.
When the openly gay Mr Luke was asked about how intimate they had become, he said: “I don’t wish to talk about that.”
In an interview on the BBC’s Talkback, Mr Luke was asked whether they had a “deeply intimate personal relationship”. He replied: “That could be interpreted in many ways and I wouldn’t wish necessarily to mar Jim with my own sexuality.”
He said there had been “brotherly love between us”. When asked if he was saying that it was not a romantic relationship, he paused before saying: “It was a very close relationship built on mutual respect and trust...”
A senior unionist source told the News Letter: “Having known Jim Molyneaux for many years and attended many meetings and events with him, both in Northern Ireland and London, I have never seen him in the company of Christopher Luke and have never witnessed anything that would suggest that Jim had any kind of friendship with this man.
“I am certainly aware of Christopher Luke and his involvement in supporting unionism at the London side of things, but he is not prominent in any way in any organisation and wouldn’t have been someone who would have been in the orbit of the leader of the Ulster Unionist Party.
“I fear that there is a degree of fantasy to this stuff. It is very hurtful to the Molyneaux family and I hope Christopher Luke will reflect in terms of what he has been saying.”
Lord Maginnis, who was a senior UUP MP under Lord Molyneaux, told the News Letter that he remembered having “clashed” with Mr Luke many years ago, though he could not recall what it was which had sparked the dispute.
Laughing, he said: “All I can recall is that he wasn’t my lover, I’m afraid!”
When asked if he would give credence to claims of a relationship between the two men, Lord Maginnis said he knew that people had passed comment about “Jim the old bachelor” but said that Lord Molyneaux had only ever been “ever gracious” to both him and his UUP MP colleagues.
Another former associate of both Lord Molyneaux and Mr Luke was scathing about him, using unprintable language.
‘Christopher Luke was really anti-gay then’
Belfast Ulster Unionist councillor Graham Craig, who 25 years ago as a student had Mr Luke stay in his house on a number of occasions, said that at the time “he was really anti-gay”.
Mr Craig, who proposed the ‘stalking horse’ candidate Lee Reynolds who critically destabilised Lord Molyneaux’s leadership in 1995, said that the then UUP leader’s sexuality was “of no concern to me” as it was “a private matter”.
He questioned Mr Luke’s claims and said he was “shocked” that he had been given such considerable airtime by BBC Radio Ulster on Friday.