News from Ireland: Ulster Unionists Lose Party Leader

Josias Cunningham.

By Irish America Staff
October / November 2000

Pro-Agreement and anti-Agreement Unionists were united recently at the funeral of Sir Josias Cunningham, a leader of the Ulster Unionist Party, the largest Unionist party in Northern Ireland. Cunningham was killed on August 9 in a two-car collision in Belfast. He was 66.

Cunningham was elected president of the Ulster Unionist Council in 1991. The Council is the governing body of the Ulster Unionist Party. He played an important role in the creation of the new Northern Ireland Assembly by resolving the debate on whether to go into government with Sinn Féin. He reassured other party members about power-sharing by obtaining from Trimble a postdated letter of resignation which was to take effect if the I.R.A. took no steps toward decommissioning their weapons. His conviction contributed to the British government’s decision to suspend the Northern Ireland government.

Along with his considerable involvement in politics, Cunningham led his family’s brokerage firm Cunningham Coates until he retired to his farm last year. He was also a former chairman of the Belfast Stock Exchange. He is survived by his wife Ann, his sons Stephen and Jonathan, and his daughters Miranda and Penny. ♦

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