Maginnis insists: ‘I’m no homophobe’ in interview after dramatic resignation
DUNGANNON peer and political veteran, Ken Maginnis - who last week dramatically quit the Ulster Unionist Party after 50 years - says he has received “hundreds” of supportive emails, phone calls and text messages in the wake of his comments on the issue of same sex marriage.
In an interview with the Tyrone Times, the outspoken former Fermanagh-South Tyrone MP, who lost the party whip after saying that gay marriage was a “rung on the ladder” to “other deviant practices” such as bestiality, also insisted he was “not a homophobe”.
After publicly stating that he had lost confidence in Mike Nesbitt’s leadership of the UUP, Ken Maginnis announced his resignation from the party during a series of interviews with reports in Belfast on Tuesday.
Correspondence between Mr Nesbitt and Lord Maginnis, which was also made public, shows that the UUP leader offered to restore the party whip to the peer early on Tuesday morning in an attempt to stop him from resigning.
Maginnis and his party leader’s relationship was fractured following remarks made by Maginnis on a BBC Radio Ulster discussion on the issue of same sex marriage.
Mr Nesbitt said Maginnis had ignored the leader’s rule that no party member should broadcast on the topic without first informing the Ulster Unionist press office.
Speaking to the Times, Mr Maginnis accused Mike Nesbitt of “seeking to create a Kremlin up in Stormont, where the views of the ordinary rank and file community are not allowed to be expressed without referring them to some no doubt well meaning, but very junior, press officer”.
Asked to clarify the remarks he made about the issue of gay marriage, the peer denied he was being controversial and insisted: “I am not a homophobe, and I want to make that really clear. What I am totally opposed to, however, is arrogant young politicians, such as David Cameron and the like, and anyone else who is saying we are governing so well that we are going to change the basis on which society understands its rights. Rights like the sanctity of marriage between a man and a woman.”
Mr Maginnis said he had been approached by several members of the public who were supportive of his stance on the issue.
“Taxi drivers were coming over to me in Belfast and shaking my hand”, said the peer.
“They didn’t think I was being controversial. I have had probably hundreds of emails, phone calls and text messages of support, but I can count on one hand the number of, frankly, unseemly messages, I have received.”
On the issue of how Mike Nesbitt dealt with the situation following his remarks on gay marriage, Ken Maginnis told the Times: “I felt he should not have interfered. I cautioned him not to withdraw the whip and then asked him, ‘When is my disciplinary committee sitting and when can I make an appeal? After that, I got something official through to say, there was no charge against me, and therefore, there would be no appeal.
“Instead, there appeared to be some summary humiliation on his part by taking on the ‘tough guy’, as it were.
“I gave him (Nesbitt) three options, and he knew specifically on Sunday afternoon that my resignation was in type. He waited until Tuesday morning at 8.35am to send me a one-liner email saying he would restore the whip, but no explanation. It was a hypocritical gesture.”
Since his resignation, Mr Maginnis says, he has been “inundated” with messages of support from other members of the UUP, who, he said, had been “amazingly supportive”.
Quizzed about his plans for his own personal and political future, Mr Maginnis said: “I won’t have one less email or letter, nor I won’t have one less moment to be sitting here in the blinking sun we are having at the moment, that’s for sure!”
He concluded: “It was hugely offensive to withdraw the whip from someone who has had 50 years experience in politics.”
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