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Friday, 5 January, 2001, 12:44 GMT
Ken Maginnis: Profile

Ken Maginnis shocked some unionists when he appeared on US television with Gerry Adams
Ulster Unionist MP Ken Maginnis' announcement that he is to stand down at the next election could prove a major blow to pro-agreement unionism.

A strong supporter of the Good Friday Agreement peace accord, Mr Maginnis has been Ulster Unionist MP for Fermanagh-South Tyrone for 18 years.

He was a member of the talks team that negotiated the 1998 accord and has been one of David Trimble's most steadfast supporters as the Ulster Unionist leader came under increasing pressure from the anti-agreement faction of the party.

Mr Maginnis' announcement comes after the UUP lost their formerly safe South Antrim seat to the anti-agreement Democratic Unionist Party's William McCrea in the September 2000 by-election.

This followed another blow to the pro-agreement section of the party when anti-agreement assembly member Peter Wier was selected to fight the general election for North Down.

Life choices

But Mr Maginnis has said his decision to stand down as MP was not connected to political pressures.

In parliamentary terms he feels his work is done.

In a BBC Radio Ulster interview he said he had worked through "18 years of ups and downs".

But he said Ulster Unionism's position and the political landscape in Northern Ireland had been transformed since the "absolute downer" of the 1985 Anglo Irish Agreement signed by Britain and Dublin, over which he resigned his seat in protest with other Ulster Unionists, until he was re-elected in the 1996 by-election.

"I have seen Ulster Unionism claw its way back to a situation where people have an opportunity to move forward to heal old divisions and to be constructive in their position," he said.

He said he had been considering whether to resign the Fermanagh/South Tyrone seat since the last general election in 1997.

"Quite simply I have done the job at Westminster for 18 years, I have been a school teacher for 24 years before that, I have served in the Ulster Defence Regiment for 12 years and I have run a business," he said.

"I reckon I've done a fair bit of work in 42 years since I left college and I would like to work more to my own schedule than I am able to do as a member of parliament."

However, Mr Maginnis, added: "Although I'm standing down as MP, I have no intention, if God spares me, of going away."

Security role

As the party's security spokesman, Mr Maginnis is likely to remain a high profile figure in the party, as the political battles on the reform of Northern Ireland policing, demilitarisation and illegally held paramilitary weapons are still raging.

He has been one of the most outspoken opponents of changing the Royal Ulster Constabulary's title and emblems and the planned dismantling of the RUC reserve, in the force's transformation into a new Police Service of Northern Ireland.

Mr Maginnis has pressed the case for provision for RUC widows and retired members of the force and was an adviser to the Northern Ireland Police Federation for a time.

He has repeatedly called for stronger action to be taken against the IRA, which over the years made a number of attempts to murder him, and has opposed demilitarisation in the border areas of his constituency.

Since the 1992 Brooke-Mayhew talks on Northern Ireland, Mr Maginnis has insisted that any IRA ceasefire must be accompanied by the handing over of weapons.

But a longstanding supporter of devolution for Northern Ireland, he has supported David Trimble's current policy of "putting the IRA to the test" on its May 2000 offer to get involved in a process of putting weapons "verifiably and completely beyond use".

Mr Maginnis served in the controversial Ulster Special Constabulary from 1958 to 1965 and the Ulster Defence Regiment from 1970 to 1981, where he reached the rank of Major. Both forces have been disbanded.

He lists international terrorism and internal security as his special interests on his party's website.

Long career

Mr Maginnis is still vice-president of the Ulster Unionist Party's ruling body, the Ulster Unionist Council, and a member of the Executive Committee of the party.

He was a member of the House of Commons Select Committee on Defence from 1984 to 1985 a member of the House of Commons Select Committee which worked on the 1990 Armed Forces Bill.

He was chairman of the Southern Health and Social Services Board from 1989 - 1991.

As a member of the old Northern Ireland Assembly from 1982 - 1986, he was chairman of the Security Committee from 1983-86.

In 1987 he served a short term in prison for refusing to pay car tax in protest at the Anglo Irish Agreement.

He was a member of Dungannon District Council in County Tyrone from May 1981 to 1993.

In 1991 he was chairman of the council for a period under a local power-sharing arrangement.

Mr Maginnis worked as a teacher at Cookstown Secondary School in County Tyrone from 1959 to 1960, Drumglass Primary School, in Dungannon 1960 from 1966 and was principal of Pomeroy Primary School from 1966 to 1982.

Mr Maginnis is the author of books including "McGimpsey & McGimpsey v Ireland" (1990) "Witness for the Prosecution" (ref. UDR 4) (1993) and "Disarmament - Pathway to Peace" (1999).

At 62, married with four children, Mr Maginnis describes himself as "in good health".

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