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Maginnis resignation another blow for UUP

A leading Ulster Unionist is expected to announce he is leaving the party after controversial comments he made on homosexuality.

Ken Maginnis, now Lord Maginnis, lost the party whip at Westminster earlier this year after comments he made during a Radio Ulster interview in which he called homosexuality "unnatural and deviant."

Lord Maginnis was MP for Fermanagh/South Tyrone for 18 years, from 1983 to 2001 and visited the U.S. more than once in that period.

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A former major in the Ulster Defense Regiment (UDR), he was the party's security spokesman during the 1980s and 1990s.

He strongly backed former UUP leader David Trimble's decision to sign the Good Friday Agreement in 1998.

Maginnis was also instrumental in securing the victory of fellow constituent Tom Elliott as UUP leader two years ago. Mr. Elliott resigned as leader this year leading to former journalist Mike Nesbitt taking over the helm of the beleaguered party.

In June of this year, Lord Maginnis clashed with Mr. Nesbitt over gay marriage after the new leader ruled that no party member should broadcast on the subject without first informing the Ulster Unionist press office. His resignation from the party will come as little surprise to political observers.

The Ulster Unionist Party has been plagued with resignations and infighting over recent years with high profile defections like Jeffrey Donaldson and Arlene Foster to the rival DUP.

Following the 2010 Westminster election, when the party returned with no seats, Sir Reg Empey resigned as leader and was replaced by Tom Elliott. Shortly after Elliott's election, three 2010 General Election candidates resigned.

The party further declined in the 2011 Assembly elections. It lost two seats and was placed fourth behind the DUP, Sinn Féin and the SDLP.

It now has only three councilors sitting on Belfast City Council, a far cry from the party that once ruled Northern Ireland unchallenged for 50 years and was, until ten years ago, the largest party in the North.