William McCrea, Baron McCrea of Magherafelt and Cookstown

Robert Thomas William McCrea, Baron McCrea of Magherafelt and Cookstown (born 6 August 1948) is a retired Free Presbyterian minister from Northern Ireland.[1] A former Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) politician, he represented South Antrim and Mid Ulster as their Member of Parliament (MP), representing Mid Ulster from 1983 to 1997; then South Antrim between 2000 to 2001, and then again from 2005 to 2015. [2]

The Lord McCrea
of Magherafelt and Cookstown

Member of the House of Lords
Lord Temporal
Assumed office
19 June 2018
Life peerage
Member of Parliament
for South Antrim
In office
5 May 2005  30 March 2015
Preceded byDavid Burnside
Succeeded byDanny Kinahan
In office
22 September 2000  14 May 2001
Preceded byClifford Forsythe
Succeeded byDavid Burnside
Member of Parliament
for Mid Ulster
In office
9 June 1983  8 April 1997
Preceded byJohn Dunlop
Succeeded byMartin McGuinness
Member of the Legislative Assembly
for South Antrim
In office
7 March 2007  1 July 2010 (resigned)
Preceded bymultiple members
Succeeded byPaul Girvan
Member of the Legislative Assembly
for Mid-Ulster
In office
25 June 1998  7 March 2007
Preceded byOffice created
Succeeded bymultiple members
Personal details
Born (1948-08-06) 6 August 1948 (age 72)
Stewartstown, County Tyrone, Northern Ireland
Political partyDemocratic Unionist Party
Children5 (including Ian McCrea)
ResidenceMagherafelt, County Londonderry
Alma materRaveanhill Theological Hall
WebsiteWilliam McCrea

McCrea was also a Member of the Northern Ireland Assembly (MLA) for Mid Ulster from 1998 to 2007, before moving to represent South Antrim in the Assembly from 2007 to 2010.

Early life and education

McCrea was the youngest of five children born to Robert Thomas (a farmer in Stewartstown, Northern Ireland) and Sarah Jayne in August 1948.[3] He was educated in Magherafelt and spent a short time working in Social Security in the Civil Service of Northern Ireland before beginning training as a Free Presbyterian Church of Ulster minister. He undertook this training at Ravenhill Theological Hall, on the Ravenhill Road in Belfast.[citation needed]

McCrea received an Honorary Doctorate of Divinity from Mariette Bible College, Ohio, United States.[4] (This institution is not certified by the Department of Higher Education or the State of Ohio.)[5]


McCrea was a Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) member of Magherafelt District Council from its creation in 1973 until he stood down to concentrate on Westminster duties in 2010, and topped the poll in every local government election he contested from 1973–2005.[citation needed]

He ran unsuccessfully for the House of Commons at the 1982 Belfast South by-election. He was Member of Parliament for Mid Ulster from 1983 but lost this seat to Sinn Féin chief negotiator and deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness at the 1997 election. He took South Antrim at a by-election in 2000 caused by the death of Ulster Unionist Party MP, Clifford Forsythe, but failed to retain this seat at the 2001 election. In the 2005 election he regained the seat and he held it at the 2010 election. He was subsequently defeated by the Ulster Unionist Party in 2015.[6]

In 1996, he was elected to the Northern Ireland Forum for Mid-Ulster.[7] From 1998 to 2007 he was a member of the Northern Ireland Assembly for Mid Ulster. He was therefore a political representative for two separate constituencies (Mid Ulster and South Antrim) from 2000 to 2001 and from 2005 to 2007.

At the 2007 election, he was elected as an Assembly Member for South Antrim. He resigned from the Assembly in 2010, following his return to Westminster at the general election of that year.[8]

He is also the minister of Magherafelt Free Presbyterian Church and has made numerous gospel albums.[citation needed]

McCrea was created a life peer on 19 June 2018, taking the title Baron McCrea of Magherafelt and Cookstown, of Magherafelt in the County of Londonderry and of Cookstown in the County of Tyrone.[9]

Controversy and paramilitary associations

McCrea was convicted in 1971 of riotous behaviour in Dungiven.[10][11] In 1975 he led a prayer service at the funerals of paramilitary members Wesley Somerville and Harris Boyle. The two terrorists were part of the Glenanne gang which carried out the Miami Showband killings and were accidentally blown up when the bomb they were planting in the band's minibus went off prematurely, killing them instantly.[11] McCrea was the target of a parcel bomb to his home on 9 August 1988, when a package sent by the Irish People's Liberation Organisation was disarmed. McCrea had become suspicious when he noticed the package had a Dublin postmark.[12] In September 1991, following the murder of Sinn Féin councillor Bernard O'Hagan by the Ulster Defence Association (who claimed the shooting under its outlawed "Ulster Freedom Fighters" cover name) in Magherafelt, County Londonderry, McCrea said "He who lives by the sword often dies by the sword" and "[O'Hagan] without apology stood for the policy of the Armalite in one hand and the ballot box in the other".[13]

McCrea was criticised when he appeared on a platform at a Portadown rally in support of the senior Ulster loyalist paramilitary Billy Wright, who had been threatened by the Ulster Volunteer Force (UVF) leadership, in September 1996.[14][15][16][17] Wright was the founder and leader of the Loyalist Volunteer Force (which had broken away from the UVF), and had been threatened after he broke the UVF ceasefire by ordering the death of Catholic civilian Michael McGoldrick.[18][19]

In 2000, McCrea was the subject of an early day motion by two MPs, Harry Barnes and Sir Peter Bottomley. The motion referenced a claim that McCrea had visited Wright's successor as LVF leader in order to persuade the LVF not to decommission any of its weapons.[20] This claim has yet to be substantiated.

Call for British airstrikes against Irish towns

A Northern Ireland Office memo released under the thirty-year rule in December 2014 revealed that McCrea had called for the Royal Air Force to carry out "strikes against Dundalk, Drogheda, Crossmaglen and Carrickmore" at the DUP's annual conference in April 1986.[21]

Alternative medicine

McCrea is a supporter of homeopathy, having signed several early day motions in support of its continued funding on the National Health Service, sponsored by Conservative MP David Tredinnick.[22]


  1. Walker, Stephen (20 June 2012). "MPs call on government to secure NI air routes". BBC News. Retrieved 30 August 2012.
  2. "Profile: William McCrea MP". Mydup.com. Retrieved 3 August 2020.
  3. Porter, David; McCrea, William (December 1980). In His Pathway: Story of William McCrea. Lakeland Publishing.
  4. Northern Ireland Assembly Information Office (26 November 2003). "William McCrea". Northern Ireland Assembly. Retrieved 4 August 2016.
  5. "Marietta Bible College". Marietta Bible College. Retrieved 6 August 2020.
  6. "The Electoral Office of Northern Ireland". Eoni.org.uk.
  7. "1996 Candidates - Mid Ulster". Ark.ac.uk. Retrieved 3 August 2020.
  8. Girvan makes Stormont return, Newtownabbey Times, 8 July 2010
  9. "No. 62333". The London Gazette. 25 June 2018. p. 11196.
  10. Moloney, Ed (2008). Paisley. Poolbeg Press. p. 185. ISBN 978-1-84223-324-5.
  11. Newton Emerson (12 August 2006). "Reg warns of violence". Irish News. Retrieved 25 March 2007.
  12. Jack Holland & Henry McDonald, INLA – Deadly Divisions, 1994, p. 310
  13. "Loyalist guns down Sinn Fein councillor", Dundee Courier, 17 September 1991.
  14. Nicholas Watt (14 September 2010). "Why does Ian Paisley's party show such interest in a mass murderer? | Politics". The Guardian. Retrieved 4 August 2016.
  15. Gerry Moriarty (8 April 2016). "McCrea defends show of support for Wright". Irishtimes.com. Retrieved 4 August 2016.
  16. "McCrea challenged to clarify relationship with loyalist murderer". An Phoblacht. 5 February 2009. Retrieved 4 August 2016.
  17. Martin Dillon (23 June 2014). God and the Gun: The Church and Irish Terrorism. ISBN 9781136680601. Retrieved 4 August 2016.
  18. "The Billy Wright Inquiry Oral Hearings". Webarchive.nationalarchives.gov.uk. 10 December 2010. Archived from the original on 10 December 2010. Retrieved 4 August 2016.
  19. Neil Root & Ian Hitchings (4 April 2011). Who Killed Rosemary Nelson?: At last, the full story of the conspiracy. ISBN 9781843584698. Retrieved 4 August 2016.
  20. "Private Eye | Post-Brexit trade: Boris's US health cheque".
  21. Adrian Rutherford (29 December 2014). "State papers: DUP MP William McCrea wanted air strikes launched on the Republic in the 1980s". Belfast Telegraph. Retrieved 29 December 2014.
  22. Tredinnick, David (29 June 2010). "Early Day Motion #284 British Medical Association Motions on Homeopathy".