DUP founder’s memories of Desmond Boal QC

Desmond Boal, the new Unionist MP for Shankill is surrounded by his happy supporters after the result was announced at the by-election count in February 1960.
Desmond Boal, the new Unionist MP for Shankill is surrounded by his happy supporters after the result was announced at the by-election count in February 1960.

One of the DUP’s founding fathers has paid tribute to the contribution of Desmond Boal QC in both the formation and rise of the party.

Mr Boal, who died on Wednesday, was a highly respected lawyer who previously served as Unionist MP for the Shankill constituency at Stormont between 1960 and 1971.

He strongly disagreed with the then Unionist leader and Prime Minister Terence O’Neill over attempts to improve relations with the Republic of Ireland, and left to establish the Democratic Unionist Party.

Long-serving DUP councillor Tommy Nicholl was in the Sandy Row Orange Hall, along with the prominent barrister and Ian Paisley, when the radial political movement was born.

Now in his 45th year as a Bannside elected representative, Cllr Nicholl said the bond between Mr Paisley and Mr Boal created a powerful and enduring driving force – broken only when the DUP leader entered government with Sinn Fein in 2007.

The change of tack was not to the liking of Mr Boal who had lost none of his firebrand spirit over the decades.

“Ian and Dessie were always friends and Ian would have asked him for his advice from time to time. It saddened me that here we had a friend, of long standing, who felt he couldn’t go that next step. Dessie Boal in those early days was a very hardline politician, obviously representing the Shankill, so we knew where he stood,” he said.

“I remember there were only about 30 people in Sandy Row that night and Dessie Boal was part of the backbone of the party at that time. It was very reassuring to us, as the people below them, that we had brains who could guide us.

“For those of us who were in that hall, there was a special bond that developed that lasted down through the years. While we didn’t always agree on everything, we had the utmost respect for one another.”