Tributes paid to defiant Londonderry unionist who opposed O’Neill and Paisley

Desmond Boal pictured in the late 1960s when he was a MP at Stormont.
Desmond Boal pictured in the late 1960s when he was a MP at Stormont.

The only unionist MP to vote against the O’Neill Government’s decision to overlook his native Londonderry as the site of a second university back in 1964, has died.

Desmond Boal (aged 86) was born in Londonderry but represented the Shankill as a Unionist MP at Stormont between 1960 and 1971.

He later became a major figure in the early DUP but ultimately withdrew his support from the party.

Eileen Paisley recently recalled Mr Boal visiting the Paisley family home in the wake of the St Andrew’s Agreement.

According to Mrs Paisley, he said: “I just can’t believe he’s done what he’s done and I just don’t want anything more to do with you.”

She continued: “I said: ‘Desmond, I’m very sorry it has to come to that but... what could he do? Would you have him responsible for another 30 or 40 years of warfare and devastation and killing and murdering, or do what he did?’”

She said “he just walked away”, adding it was “a very big blow” to her husband.

TUV leader Jim Allister paid tribute: “Desmond was a unique talent in both politics and law.

“As MP for Shankill in the old Stormont Parliament, he fought tirelessly for his constituents and was both a vocal opponent of Republicanism and an articulate champion of the Union.

“Desmond’s talent at the criminal bar was unsurpassed. Brilliant in cross examination and unrivalled in the skills of advocacy, I, as a young barrister, learned much from watching him in action. It was a privilege to have known him for these last several decades.

“My thoughts and prayers are with his family and, particularly, his widow at this sad time. I hope that they will know the presence of the Father of Mercies and the God of all comfort as they mourn the loss of a loved one.”

Ulster Unionist leader Mike Nesbitt said Mr Boal would be remembered as a “man of intellect and commitment”.

He added that, in politics or law, he “was a hard man to miss.”