Files reveal plot to oust unionist leader James Molyneaux in 1982

James Molyneaux A unionist pressure group wanted to oust James Molyneaux

There was a plot to oust the then Ulster Unionist leader, James Molyneaux, in 1982, according to newly-released confidential files.

In January 1982, Frank Millar, the Ulster Unionist press officer, told Northern Ireland Office officials morale in the party was low.

Its image among Protestants, especially in Belfast, was "disastrous", he said.

Millar said that the party was "all over the place" under Mr Molyneaux's leadership.

However, Mr Millar added that: "Everyone was terrified at the electoral implications of a public struggle to oust him."

On 3 February, 1982 Stephen Leach, an NIO official, recorded a conversation with Captain Austin Ardill, the convenor of the Unionist Devolution Group (UDG), a UUP pressure group which supported the restoration of devolved institutions.

Ardill told the official that there was "a wide consensus… that Molyneaux ought to be replaced as leader as soon as possible".

In his view, the Armagh MP, Harold McCusker was clearly the front runner.

In Mr Ardill's view 'the next step must be to secure Molyneaux's resignation'.

The UDG was planning an early approach to the UUP president, Sir George Clark. He believed that Mr Clark now thought the UUP leader should step down but wished that the manner of his going should not damage the party.

The plot failed and Mr Molyneaux was to remain UUP leader until 1995.

More Northern Ireland stories

RSS

Features & Analysis

  • Dr Mahinder Watsa Dr Sex

    The wisecracking 90-year-old whose advice column is a cult hit


  • Payton McKinnonKilling heat

    Why so many American children die in hot cars


  • Vice-President Joe Biden.Joe v Hillary

    What needs to happen for Biden to be the next president


  • USA fanSoccer punch

    Has the US finally fallen in love with the beautiful game? BBC Sport


Elsewhere on the BBC

  • Kyoto.Falling for Kyoto

    Acclaimed writer Pico Iyer describes an enchanting first stroll through the city

Programmes

  • (File photo) Usain BoltClick Watch

    Challenging the world's fastest man to a virtual race over 40m – can you keep up?

BBC © 2014 The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites. Read more.

This page is best viewed in an up-to-date web browser with style sheets (CSS) enabled. While you will be able to view the content of this page in your current browser, you will not be able to get the full visual experience. Please consider upgrading your browser software or enabling style sheets (CSS) if you are able to do so.