Tributes paid to unionist stalwart

ONE of Unionism's most colourful figures is set to be laid to rest today.

Captain Austin Ardill distinguished himself winning the Military Cross for bravery while serving with the Royal Irish Fusiliers in the Second World War before entering the political battlefield.

He served as a Larne councillor for the Ulster Unionist Party upon his return home and was MP at the Northern Ireland Parliament representing Carrickfergus from 1965.

However, after opposing then leader Terence O'Neill, he lost the Ulster Unionist nomination to defend his seat in 1969.

Showing the same resilience as he had in the military, Captain Ardill became involved in the Ulster Vanguard movement, as one of its deputy leaders, but when it broke away from the UUP, he remained with the party.

The war hero returned to Stormont in 1973 as the MP for south Antrim but again was not afraid to voice his views and opposed the Sunningdale Agreement of the same year.

In 1979 he stood for the Ulster Unionist leadership, against James Molyneaux and Rev Robert Bradford but lost out while in the 1990s, he opposed talks with Sinn Fein and later the Good Friday Agreement.

Ulster Unionist leader Tom Elliott paid tribute to Captain Ardill.

"Captain Ardill will be remembered as someone who was a passionate Unionist and an individual who made a huge contribution to politics in Northern Ireland," he said,

"He represented Carrickfergus in the old Stormont parliament, where he was secretary of the 1966 committee of backbenchers.

"Captain Ardill, however, will not only be remembered as a politician but also for his time in the military.

"He was captured by enemy forces on the Greek island of Leros, before being transported to Germany where he remained as a prisoner of war for 18 months – something that shaped his attitude to life.

"As an individual, Captain Ardill was a real character, notable for his courage in politics and the military.

"Even in his later life he actively followed current affairs and was never shy to contact leading politicians to explain or argue a point.

"We extend our deepest sympathies to his family who will feel their loss deeply at this most difficult time."

Captain Ardill will be buried following a funeral service at Holy Trinity Church, Prospect Road in Carrickfergus at 1.30pm today.

He is survived by his children, grandchildren and great grandchildren.