Thursday, 12 February 2015

My visit to the House of Lords to hear Lord Maginnis speak

Lord Maginnis of Drumglass was educated at The Royal School in Dungannon and at Stranmillis College in Stranmillis in Belfast. He worked as a teacher for a number of years before joining the Ulster Defence Regiment (UDR) in 1971. After leaving the Army with the rank of Major in 1981, he became Ulster Unionist spokesman on internal security and defence, and was that same year elected to Dungannon District Council, on which he sat for twelve years until he lost his seat in 1993. In June 2012, the UUP Whip was withdrawn from Lord Maginnis by party leader Mike Nesbitt over remarks which he made concerning his opposition to same sex marriage. Maginnis subsequently resigned from the UUP on 28 August 2012.

Yesterday, Lord Maginnis spoke on our Presidential system of Government (an unwelcome development with no democratic mandate); also Middle East and Ulster issues; Q&A. Lord Maginnis has a particular interest in Iran and recently attended a conference organised by the National Council of Resistance in Iran.

I am afraid I did not really know what he meant by that since it is easier for a British Prime Minister to start a war than an American President who has to obtain the approval of the both houses of Congress.  

My guess is that he was really complaining about the remoteness of Cameron surrounded by inexperienced advisers whom he regarded as young whipper snappers who have never had a proper job in their lives still wet behind the ears, and it seems he thinks the problem was particularly acute in the Foreign Office. Things were rather different when Thatcher was in power, but at the time, I can imagine that Unionist MPs would naturally get a lot of media attention as well as access to the Prime Minister anxious to do a deal with the Shinners and the Loyalists.  Another question I regretted not asking him was whether he approved of Theresa May's Counter-Terrorism and Security Bill.

The House of Lords is these days is "no longer about governing the country or giving advice" to the Commons any longer, he said, but a place where political cronies of the Lower House are rewarded.

He told us of what George Mitchell, the US Special Envoy for Northern Ireland said when he introduced him to Martin McGuinness (whom Lord Maginnis described as a "very able politician"): 

"Ah, Ken, I must introduce you to Martin over here: you two have the same name and must be related." 

It seems that the two men took rather well to this diplomatic banter, and the rest is history.  

Lord Maginnis is often invited to events in the Irish Republic. I asked, in the context of a United Ireland, if he thought that rule from Dublin would be really that much worse than rule from London and he readily conceded that it was probably not. Indeed, he praised a politician whose name I did not catch for so rigorously and faithfully pursuing its austerity programme.  

He was asked why there are now four Unionist parties in Northern Ireland but said he did not really know the answer and was guessing that it was probably a lack of a sense of purpose.  

On the theme of bad government, he took particular exception to Chris Grayling, the only Lord Chancellor in British history who was not also a lawyer.  He particularly deplored how a Christian JP was disciplined and "re-educated" for daring to express his view that children should only be adopted by  married heterosexual couples rather than gay couples gaily married.

He disapproved of the proposed bill to sack MPs, 

"We are teaching a responsible adult population to treat MPs like naughty boys." 

As for the his conviction of road rage, you may wish to view the video at showing a man in his 20s loping towards the court. Lord Maginnis is now 77 and not tall.  This young man whom Lord Maginnis described as being of about 6 feet claimed to be terrified of a white-haired not very tall 75 year old man with a weak arm and an arthritic shoulder. The incident occurred as a result of Lord Maginnis stopping his car and allowing a woman to cross the road and the young man behind him sounding his horn long and repeatedly, infuriating him so much he got out of his car to confront the driver. 

He told us that he is currently being pursued to pay his fine after his conviction of fare-dodging in Croydon, and says he has extensive documentary evidence to prove that the incident was the result of a genuine misunderstanding and mistake. He will continue to refuse paying the fine which increases if one does not pay it, he tells us, and says he did not receive a fair trial.

Lord Maginnis did indeed speak about the Iranian refugees now being persecuted by Iraq, but whys and wherefores went over my head, I am afraid, as did what he said about Cyprus and Turkey.

I must also say that the mixed nuts in the Strangers' Bar are really the best I have ever had and also noticed that the Lords' division bell was far more tuneful than the Commons' division bell. 

I was tempted to be photographed INSIDE the phone booth, but I am sure I would not have found any accomplices willing to photograph my proposed "crime"!

The Strangers' Bar

The ceiling of the Strangers' Bar

Lovely Pugin wallpaper. 

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