LONDON (AP) _ Lawmaker Sir James Kilfedder, considered a leading candidate to become speaker of a new Northern Ireland assembly, died of a heart attack that he suffered Monday on a train bound for Parliament. He was 66.
Kilfedder joined Parliament in 1964, representing predominantly Catholic west Belfast for three years before losing to an Irish nationalist.
Since 1970, he represented the affluent North Down coast east of Belfast, becoming Northern Ireland’s longest-serving lawmaker.
Always a supporter of continued British rule, he nonetheless maintained good relations with Irish Catholic politicians.
Kilfedder was Northern Ireland’s most independent lawmaker. He left the Ulster Unionists, the biggest pro-British bloc, in 1977 to protest its inflexibility. He formed the Popular Unionist Party two years later.
Unlike many of his pro-British ``unionist″ colleagues, Kilfedder consistently supported the Conservative government of Prime Minister John Major in close House of Commons votes.
He showed unusual openness in a society where politicians often live in fear of assassination. Unlike most of the province’s Parliament members, he published his home address and telephone number in the phone book.