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Tuesday, 30 January, 2001, 17:28 GMT
John Taylor: Profile
Ulster Unionist MP John Taylor to step aside at general election
John Taylor: Unlikely to disappear from political scene
Ulster Unionist John Taylor may be stepping down from his Westminster seat after the next general election but he is likely to figure significantly in Northern Ireland politics for the foreseeable future.

The Strangford MP will be in his party's team of three representatives on the new Policing Board, should the body secure the necessary support from the nationalist SDLP and Sinn Fein to get off the ground.

And he may be called upon to make a return to Westminster to sit in "the other place", the House of Lords, at some time in the future where he would join other party colleagues such as Lords Molyneaux, Rogan and Laird.

During his long political career spanning the Troubles, John D Taylor has played a role in many of the dramas surrounding the Ulster Unionist Party.

His support or otherwise has always been seen as crucial to UUP leader David Trimble in his move towards and subsequent involvement in a power-sharing devolved government in Northern Ireland.

Mr Trimble - and his predecessors as leader of the UUP - are unlikely to forget the role played by the Strangford MP in the downfall of Northern Ireland Prime Minister Brian Faulkner in 1974.

Mr Faulkner incurred opposition in the party's ruling council over the power-sharing Sunningdale Agreement of that year.

Machine-gunned

It was a young John Taylor who proposed a motion at the council, criticising the Sunningdale agreement.

The motion was carried and Mr Faulkner resigned his leadership.

Mr Taylor, the youngest Stormont MP in 1965, was also one of 10 Stormont MPs who signed a statement calling for then Ulster Unionist leader Terence O'Neill to go in 1969.

He was often critical of what he perceived was a lack of British security.

In 1972, Mr Taylor was machine-gunned by the Official IRA as he got into his car in Armagh City. He defied the odds and survived.

Mr Taylor served as Member of the European Parliament (MEP) from 1979 to 1989, at one time aligning himself with the European Right Group (ERG). He rejected claims the ERG was fascist in nature.

He has always been viewed as a mercurial figure, sometimes courting unionist hard-liners, at other times the pragmatists.

Controversial remarks

He was among the first to advocate talks with Dublin ministers about 10 years ago.

Mr Taylor is also known for his colourful and sometimes controversial remarks.

In 1993 he condemned an upsurge in loyalist murders - but pointed out "Catholic fears may be helpful" as they would have a better understanding of Protestant suffering.

After the 1994 IRA cease-fire, Mr Taylor was one of the few unionists who accepted republican bona fides, stating he had a "gut feeling" about it.

Mr Taylor was made deputy leader of the Ulster Unionist parliamentary party by David Trimble in 1995, after he unsuccessfully contested the leadership when James Molyneaux resigned.

Ulster Unionist leader John Taylor
David Trimble: John Taylor's support for him seen as crucial
He was seen as an important ally to Mr Trimble during the negotiation of the Good Friday Agreement in 1998.

He once dismissed one set of proposals as too green - famously saying he would not touch them "with a 40 foot pole".

During the several meetings of the Ulster Unionist Council, Mr Taylor's support for his leader's policies was seen as crucial.

At times he has been accused of withholding a clear declaration of his intentions until the last minute.

Others say that his support - even at the last minute - has helped swing wavering voters behind his party leader.

One example of this was the eve of the November 1999 vote, when the Ulster Unionist Council first voted to enter a power-sharing executive alongside Sinn Fein - prior to IRA decommissioning - when he declared he would support such a move.

However, he was abroad on business during the October 2000 UUC vote.

He did predict beforehand that power-sharing would be over by Christmas.

While that prediction did not come true, he is widely regarded as a pundit with a particularly accurate reading of the political situation in the province, particularly within the unionist community.

As well as his involvement in politics, Mr Taylor has considerable business interests. A civil engineer by profession, he owns the Alpha group of regional newspapers in Northern Ireland.

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See also:

30 Jan 01 | Northern Ireland
Taylor confident party will hold seat
30 Jan 01 | Northern Ireland
Surprise at Taylor decision
02 Aug 00 | Northern Ireland
Taylor would 'welcome' UUP challenge
16 Oct 00 | Northern Ireland
Taylor wins reselection battle
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