Development & Alumni Relations Office 

John Caldwell Basil Glass - President of the Queen's University Association 1996-97 (died 4 October 2005)

(Obituary from the Methodist Newsletter, November 2005)

At the time of the formation of the New Ulster Movement in February 1969 Basil Glass was already a household name in the legal profession.Its purpose was to promote moderation and non-sectarianism in politics.At that meeting Basil and Oliver Napier were elected its joint Treasurers.That was the start of his political career.He brought to politics the same qualities for which he was known as a solicitor, total commitment, dependability, passion and hard work.

When a year later the Alliance Party was formed, Basil was deeply involved in its launch and became its first Chairman.Basil was older than the majority of the members – in his early 40s – and he was a kind of father figure.Chairman was his ideal role – calm, polite, meticulous, firm and decisive.It was a position he excelled in.In those early days the task of organising the party was enormous and the work fell heavily on the Chairman – and Basil was working by day in his law office and by night for the Alliance, setting up branches east of the Bann and west of the Bann.After his year as Chairman he became party President in 1973.In that year he was elected for South Belfast to the Northern Ireland Assembly.He became party Chief Whip.The Alliance negotiating team both in Stormont Castle talks and at Sunningdale consisted of Basil, Oliver Napier and the late Bob Cooper and they were a formidable team.

Those negotiations in the autumn and winter of 1979 were part of history.First were the talks between Alliance, SDLP and the Ulster Unionist Party on the formation of a future power sharing administration.Basil was a magnificent negotiator – polite by very firm.He genuinely liked his political opponents but he was not prepared to sell his own position short and in spite of enormous political differences of background and culture – agreement was reached.To no small extent this was due to Basil.We then went to Sunningdale where the two governments joined the negotiations.Basil was again deeply involved in the negotiations. Again agreement was reached after days of tough and continuous negotiation.

Basil represented his constituents with the same passion and commitment which he showed in everything he did.On one occasion in the Markets area of Belfast as extremely irate lady was dressing down a young English Army officer for alleged damage when her home had been searched.She shouted, ‘I am not letting this go, I will bring it to the highest in the land.’The young officer said, ‘Oh no – not Basil Glass again.’

After the Power Sharing Executive fell under the violence and intimidation of the UVF and the UDA – while the then British government and the Mother of Parliaments sat back and did nothing, Basil continued to work day in and day out for his constituents.In 1975 when elections took place for a Constitutional Convention Basil was not only elected again in South Belfast but he brought Jim Hendron in also as his running mate.He served also as a Councillor in the Belfast City Council from 1977 to 1981.

When Bob Cooper resigned as Deputy Leader in 1976 to take up the new post as Chair of the Fair Employment Agency, Basil became the party’s Deputy Leader.

In 1987 he was appointed Bankruptcy and Companies Master of the High Court – in effect the Judge sitting in virtually all insolvency cases.And what a Judge he became.It brought out all his virtues; dignity because he felt that administration of the law should be dignified.No-one ever went into Basil’s court and felt humiliated and no-one ever left without feeling that at least they had a fair hearing, even if they did not like the decision.

He was the son of a Methodist minister and very often it showed.He believed that he had a personal responsibility to fight the wrongs of the world – at least those within his own orbit – and a crusader against what he considered to be wrong he certainly was.No effort to right such wrongs was ever a waste of time to Basil even if at the end he did not succeed.

So who was Basil?  A man who set himself the highest standards and who expected others to do the same.A passionate advocate of the just society.Above all a man who cared deeply about everything he did.And of course, as many of you know, a wonderful friend with a wry and self-effacing sense of humour.An affectionate and deeply caring husband, father and grandfather.He was not proud of himself but he was almost childishly proud of Mary and so intensely proud of his four sons and his two stepsons, seeking the path of justice in every facet of life.Basil was a very great man.

Just before he died he was talking to the Rev Harold Good about his role in the recent decommissioning of IRA arms to which Harold was a witness.Basil said that he was so glad to have lived to see the day when all republican arms were put beyond use.Harold said, ‘Basil, I was only at the finishing of what you started’.

Basil Glass was born 21 April 1926.He died 30 September 2005.




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