Fury as UUP’s Danny Kinahan likens ivory ban to acts of IS terror


Allan Preston, Belfast Telegraph 

Date Published

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Ulster Unionist MP Danny Kinahan is facing a backlash after comparing a ban on the ivory trade to Islamic terrorists destroying works of art.

MPs on Monday debated the domestic ivory trade after a petition to ban it completely gained more than 105,000 signatures.

As a keen antiques dealer, Mr Kinahan said that while he supported a “near complete ban”, exceptions should be made to prevent the destruction of valuable artefacts, such as ivory chess pieces made from mammoth tusk and a swimming reindeer sculpture from 11,000 BC.

“We must recognise ivory’s place in our history and tourism,” he said, adding that some ivory items were among “the most beautiful pieces I have seen”.

He continued: “We have watched IS destroying Palmyra and the Taliban destroying the two fantastic Buddha statues in Bamiyan. If we had a blanket ban, we would be a little bit on the same page.

“One of our greatest exhibits is probably the Lewis chessmen, which are made out of mammoth tusk. Those would be banned.

“We have to work a way through. What we must stop happening is people copying them and then trying to sell them today.

“Number four in the book A History of the World in 100 Objects is the swimming reindeer, from 11,000 BC. They are very much part of our history.”

But his comments provoked outrage from other MPs, including Patricia Gibson of the SNP.

“As long as there is an ivory trade of any kind, the illegal ivory trade will continue,” she said.

“To suggest that a ban on ivory puts us on the same page as the religious fundamentalists who destroyed Palmyra is not only absurd, but also a little hysterical.

“Banning the trade in ivory does not mean we lose our history. It means we remove the conditions in which the trade thrives and continues.”

While a number of MPs agreed with Mr Kinahan that there should be some flexibility for the antiques trade, Labour’s John Mann claimed nothing but a total ban would do.

“I would ban the lot and stop any trade in and movement of ivory,” he stressed.

“The survival of the elephant is far more important than a museum, however great it and the curators of the modern age may be, however wise, experienced and brilliant they may be and however great their genius.”

“That is nothing compared with the survival of elephants. It is about time we were bold and said that there should be no half-measures, mixed messages, little promises or small steps forwards. A total ban is what I want.”