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Douglas Francis Ernest Byrne
Douglas Francis Ernest Byrne MP, KSG is a British Conservative Party politician and the Member of Parliament for Chichester.
Born in 1949 in Selsey, Douglas was the youngest of three brothers in a strict Roman Catholic family. His father, Sir Peter Byrne, was a retired General of the British Army and a wealthy property magnate in the Sussex area. His mother, Eleanor Byrne (née Connor) was a housewife who had formerly worked as a schoolteacher. The family’s background is Irish on both sides, with all of Douglas’ grandparents born in what is now the Republic of Ireland (but which was at the time part of the United Kingdom.)
Douglas attended Ampleforth College in Yorkshire, where he was Head Boy and captain of the rugby team, and went on to study law at the University of Oxford. He was called to the Bar at Gray’s Inn in 1973, and worked briefly as a prosecution barrister before joining the Ministry of Defence as a civil servant in 1976. Some time in the late 1970s, Douglas was seconded into the Secret Intelligence Service, MI6, spending time stationed in East Berlin and Moscow as well as in the far east. Douglas suffered a gunshot wound to his left leg in 1982 in circumstances which remain classified, and to this day walks with a slight limp as a result.
In 1989, Douglas left MI6 and established a private security consultancy firm, Emerald International, along with his friend and confidante Samuel Wright. Emerald went on to secure lucrative contracts with the United States government, including on behalf of the National Security Agency, but Douglas left the firm in 1992 during a brief period of residence in Indonesia. It was during this time that Douglas established the East Timor Trading & Investments Group, and became a non-executive director of the Portuguese shipping company “Orca Freight.” Douglas was present at the time of the sinking of one of the company’s vessels, and spent up to two hours at sea in a lifeboat before being rescued.
In 1997, Douglas moved to Virginia in the United States and became a non-executive director at Kalinatek Web Services - a Russian technology start-up which invested heavily in cyber infrastructure in former Soviet republics, particularly Georgia, where Douglas spent a great deal of time in the late 1990s. By the turn of the millennium, Douglas was an executive partner in Wright-Byrne Consulting, and offered his services as a global affairs and security adviser to several prominent financial firms - most notably the Mercantil Costa Afuerda Securidad Banco de Panama, a Panamanian merchant bank in which Douglas himself reportedly invested several million dollars. In 2002, Douglas donated a reportedly “vast” sum to the Catholic Children’s Trust in Westminster, and spearheaded a campaign to save the roof of a Catholic church in Yorkshire. He was subsequently made a Knight of the Order of St. Gregory the Great. Later that year, having to the United Kingdom and donated £500,000 to the Conservative Party, Douglas opened his bid to secure a seat in Parliament by giving what witnesses described as “a blazing oratory” at local party meetings in Chichester.
Douglas was selected to contest the seat ahead of the 2005 general election, and won easily as expected.
In 2007 he joined the Foreign Affairs Select Committee, before being forced to stand down shortly afterwards when the Daily Telegraph revealed details of his extensive international business dealings - particularly his relationship with Russian technology firms, which had become politically unpalatable in the wake of renewed tension between London and Moscow.
In 2008, Douglas married Anais Loubet, a former French model some twenty years his junior. The marriage produced only one child, Edouard Byrne, before both mother and baby were killed in a car accident in 2011.
In 2012, Douglas sold all his shares in corporations around the world and stood down from his lucrative non-executive posts, stating that he now intended to focus “wholly and fully” on his work as a Member of Parliament. He reportedly asked the then Prime Minister, David Cameron, for a junior ministerial position at either the Ministry of Defence or the Foreign Office; his request was refused, and in 2013 Douglas made headlines by appearing to denounce the government’s defence spending cuts on the Daily Politics. In October 2013, he allegedly mooted running for the leadership of the Conservative Party, but declined to stand amidst concerns about whether he would garner sufficient support within the Parliamentary party.
In 2014, Douglas announced he had joined the Cornerstone Group, despite himself being a practising Roman Catholic seemingly at odds with the group’s passionate support for the Church of England. He also joined the Greater Britain Committee, though publicly expressed reservations about an EU referendum.
Douglas is a passionate rugby fan, supporting the London Irish RFC and attending many matches in person. One of his trademarks is his personal vehicle, a Jaguar XJ40 Sovereign dating from 1994. His constituency home in Chichester has been described variously as a “mansion” and as a “miniature stately home” in the press, and he owns large amounts of property throughout Sussex, Surrey and London.