Trio of UUP top brass pay tribute to ‘anti-extremist’ unionist veteran

Robin Chichester-Clark
Robin Chichester-Clark

A former UUP member of the British cabinet has been praised as a staunch opponent of hardliners during the early years of the Troubles following his death.

Current Ulster Unionist leader Mike Nesbitt was among a trio of senior party figures paying tribute to Robin Chichester-Clark, the former MP for Londonderry.

Sir Robin died while on holiday on August 5. He was aged 88.

He had held the Londonderry seat from 1955 to 1974, and in 1972 was appointed Minister of State for Employment in the cabinet of Tory Prime Minister Ted Heath.

In his obituary in Thursday’s News Letter, CDC Armstrong recounted that Sir Robin had been among Ian Paisley’s early political critics, and noted that he had once been suspended from the Orange Order for attending a requiem mass for Irish Guards officer Colonel Conolly MacCausland MC, a Catholic convert.

Mr Nesbitt described him as a “role model, who abhorred extremism and was not afraid to say so, no matter what the source happened to be and stood firm while under fire from militant nationalists and unionists alike”.

He added: “I am confident history will shine a kindly light on his life which was defined by public service and informed by a spirit of civic duty.”

Meanwhile, Danny Kinahan, UUP MP for South Antrim, said the party veteran had been among his parents’ “greatest friends” – and was particularly close to his mother, Coralie Kinahan.

Mr Kinahan said: “He was the last Ulster Unionist MP to be a Government minister in Westminster, and he retained close links to the highest levels of the Conservative party and was fully briefed on what was happening in government.

“When I was elected to Westminster as the Member of Parliament for South Antrim, I received a lovely letter from Robin congratulating me on two counts – one as a close friend of my father’s and the other on seeing the UUP returning MPs to the green benches of Westminster.”

Mr Kinahan described how the two met for tea, and described Sir Robin as having been “totally lucid and totally up to speed on all political matters and at that time in pretty good health”.

He concluded: “I was so saddened to hear of his passing because we had so much still to talk about.”

Tom Elliott, the UUP’s other MP, representing Fermanagh & South Tyrone, said: “The late Sir Robin Chichester-Clark was someone who promoted fairness, equality and reconciliation for the people of Northern Ireland, but that vision wasn’t often reciprocated...

“When Sir Robin retired from politics in 1974 the people of the UK, and particularly those in Northern Ireland, lost a visionary who could see the potential of a positive working relationship that included everyone in Northern Ireland working together as part of the United Kingdom.”