Brian Faulkner

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The Right Honourable
The Lord Faulkner
PC
Brianfaulkner.jpg
Chief Executive of Northern Ireland
In office
1 January 1974 – 28 May 1974
Preceded by Office created
Succeeded by Office abolished
Prime Minister of Northern Ireland
In office
23 March 1971 – 30 March 1972
Preceded by James Chichester-Clark
Succeeded by Office abolished
Leader of the Ulster Unionist Party
In office
31 March 1971 – 22 January 1974
Preceded by James Chichester-Clark
Succeeded by Harry West
Member of the Northern Ireland Parliament
for East Down
In office
19 February 1949 – 30 March 1972
Preceded by Alexander Gordon
Succeeded by Abolished
Personal details
Born (1921-02-18)18 February 1921
Helen's Bay, United Kingdom
Died 3 March 1977(1977-03-03) (aged 56)
Co. Down, United Kingdom
Political party Ulster Unionist Party, UPNI
Spouse(s) Lucy Forsythe
Children 3
Alma mater Queen's University Belfast
Religion Presbyterian

Arthur Brian Deane Faulkner, Baron Faulkner of Downpatrick PC (18 February 1921 – 3 March 1977) was the sixth and last Prime Minister of Northern Ireland, from March 1971 until his resignation in March 1972. He was also the chief executive of the short-lived Northern Ireland Executive during the first half of 1974.

Early life[edit]

Faulkner was born in Helen's Bay, County Down, the elder of two sons of James and Nora Faulkner. His younger brother was Col Sir Dennis Faulkner CBE. James Faulkner owned the Belfast Collar Company which traded under the name Faulat. At that time, Faulat was the largest single purpose shirt manufacturer in the world, employing some 3,000 people. He was educated initially at Elm Park preparatory school, Killylea, County Armagh, but at 14 was sent to the Church of Ireland St Columba's College at Rathfarnham in Dublin, although Faulkner was Presbyterian. Faulkner chose St Columba's, preferring to stay in Ireland rather than go to school in England; whilst there his best friend was Michael Yeats, son of WB Yeats. He was the first and only Prime Minister of Northern Ireland to have been educated in Ireland.

Faulkner entered the Queen's University of Belfast in 1939 to study law, but, with the advent of World War II, he quit his studies to work full-time in the family shirt-making business.

Early political career[edit]

Faulkner became involved in unionist politics, the first of his family to do so, and was elected to the Parliament of Northern Ireland as the Ulster Unionist Party Member of Parliament (MP) for the constituency of East Down in 1949. His vociferous traditional unionist approach to politics ensured him a prominent backbench position. He was, at the time, the youngest ever MP in the Northern Irish Parliament.[1] He was also the first Chairman of the Ulster Young Unionist Council in 1949.

In 1956 Faulkner was offered and accepted the job of Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Finance, or Government Chief Whip.

Ministerial office[edit]

In 1959 he became Minister of Home Affairs and his safe handling of security for most of the Irish Republican Army campaign of 1956–62 bolstered his reputation in the eyes of the right wing of Ulster unionism.[citation needed]

When Terence O'Neill became Prime Minister in 1963 he offered Faulkner, his chief rival for the job, the post of Minister of Commerce, a post he held until his acrimonious resignation in 1969. He was congratulated by others, including the nationalist opposition for his energetic and sustained approach in this high-profile role.[citation needed]

His resignation over the technicalities of how and when to bring in the local government reforms which the British Labour government was pushing for was probably the final nail in the political coffin of Terence O'Neill,[citation needed] who resigned in the aftermath of his failure to achieve a good enough result in the Northern Ireland general election, 1969.

In the ensuing leadership contest, Faulkner was again denied the prize when O'Neill gave his casting vote to his cousin, James Chichester-Clark. In 1970, Faulkner became the Father of the House.

Faulkner came back into government as Minister of Development under Chichester-Clark and in a sharp turn-around, began the implementation of the political reforms that were the main cause of his resignation from O'Neill's cabinet.

Chichester-Clark himself resigned in 1971; the political and security situation and the more intensive British interest proved too much for this mild-mannered man.

Prime Minister[edit]

Promising beginnings[edit]

Faulkner finally achieved what history has deemed was his political goal in March 1971 when he was elected leader of the Ulster Unionist Party and Prime Minister. In his initial innovative approach to government, he gave a non-unionist, David Bleakley, a former Northern Ireland Labour Party (NILP) MP, a position in his cabinet as Minister of Community Relations. In June 1971, he proposed three new powerful committees at Stormont which would give the opposition salaried chairmanships of two of them.

Initial troubles[edit]

However, this initiative (radical at the time) was overtaken by events. A shooting by soldiers of two nationalist youths in Derry caused the Social Democratic and Labour Party, the main opposition, to boycott the Stormont parliament. The political climate deteriorated further when in answer to a worsening security situation, Faulkner introduced internment on 9 August 1971.[2] This alone was a disaster; instead of lessening the violence, it caused the situation to worsen.

Despite this, Faulkner continued his radical approach to Northern Irish politics and, following Bleakley's resignation in September 1971 over the internment issue, appointed Dr G.B. Newe, a prominent lay Catholic, as Minister of State in the Cabinet Office. Faulkner's administration staggered on through the rest of 1971, insisting that security was the paramount issue.

In January 1972, an incident occurred during a Northern Ireland Civil Rights Association march in Derry, during which paratroopers shot and killed thirteen unarmed civilians. A fourteenth civilian was to die later. What history has come to know as Bloody Sunday was, in essence, the finish of Faulkner's government. In March 1972, Faulkner refused to maintain a government without security powers which the British government under Edward Heath decided to take back. The Stormont parliament was subsequently prorogued (initially for a period of one year) and following the appointment of a Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, William Whitelaw, direct rule was introduced.

Chief Executive[edit]

In June 1973, elections were held to a new devolved parliament, the Northern Ireland Assembly. The elections split the Ulster Unionist Party. Faulkner became chief executive in a power-sharing executive with the SDLP and the middle-of-the-road Alliance Party, a political alliance cemented at the Sunningdale Conference that year. However the prominence in the Sunningdale Agreement of the cross-border Council of Ireland suggested that Faulkner had strayed just too far ahead of his party. A section of the party had previously broken away to form the Vanguard Progressive Unionist Party which contested the elections in opposition to the UUP.

The power-sharing Executive which he led lasted only six months and was brought down by a loyalist Ulster Workers Council Strike in May 1974. Loyalist paramilitary organisations were prominent in intimidating utility workers and blockading roads. The strike had the tacit support of many Unionists. In 1974 Faulkner lost the leadership of the Ulster Unionists to anti-Sunningdale elements led by Harry West. He subsequently resigned from the Ulster Unionist Party and formed his own Unionist Party of Northern Ireland (UPNI).

Faulkner's party fared badly in the Convention elections of 1975 winning only five out of the 78 seats contested. Whereas Faulkner had topped the poll in South Down in 1973 with over 16,000 votes he polled just 6035 votes in 1975 and finished seventh, winning the final seat.[3] In 1976 Faulkner announced that he was quitting active politics. He was elevated to the Lords in the New Year's Honours list of 1977, taking the title Baron Faulkner of Downpatrick, in County Down.[4]

Personal life[edit]

Lord and Lady Faulkner of Downpatrick

Faulkner married Lucy Forsythe, a graduate of Trinity College, Dublin, in 1951. They met through their common interests in politics and hunting. She was equally suited to a political partnership having had a career in journalism with the Belfast Telegraph and was secretary to the Northern Ireland Prime Minister, Lord Brookeborough, when they met. Together they had three children: a daughter and two sons. They took up residence at Highlands, not far from the village of Seaforde. One of his sons, Michael, has published a biographical book, "The Blue Cabin" (2006) about his move to the family's former holiday house on the island of Islandmore on Strangford Lough. He was a member of the Apprentice Boys of Derry but was expelled from the group in 1971.[5]

Death[edit]

Lord Faulkner, a keen huntsman, died on 3 March 1977 at the age of 56 following a riding accident whilst hunting with the Co Down Staghounds near Saintfield, County Down. Faulkner had been riding at full gallop along a narrow country road when his horse slipped. Faulkner was thrown off and killed instantly. He was laid to rest at Magherahamlet Presbyterian Church near Spa in County Down where he had been a regular member of the congregation. Lord Faulkner had retired from active politics and was pursuing his interests in industry at the time of his death. He had recently become a European consultant for the Goodyear Tire and Rubber Company, a company which he proved instrumental in attracting to Northern Ireland during his tenure as Minister of Commerce. His twenty-four-day life peerage is thus believed to have been the shortest-lived;[6] although there have been hereditary peerages, most notably Lord Leighton, which have been shorter still.

See also[edit]

References[edit]

Further reading[edit]

  • The Lord Faulkner, Memoirs of a Statesman, Weidenfeld & Nicolson, London, 1978 (An autobiography published posthumously)
  • David Bleakley, Faulkner, Mowbrays, London, 1974
  • Andrew Boyd, Brian Faulkner and the Crisis of Ulster Unionism, Anvil Books, Tralee, Ireland, 1972.
  • The Honourable Michael Faulkner, The Blue Cabin, Blackstaff Press, Belfast, 2006.
  • Mark Carruthers, Brian Faulkner 'Soft Hardliner': an assessment of political leadership in a divided society, unpublished MSc thesis Queen's University Belfast (QUB), 1989.
  • James P. Condren, Brian Faulkner – Ulster Unionist: The long road to the premiership, PhD thesis, University of Ulster, 2005.
Party political offices
Preceded by
Walter Topping
Unionist Chief Whip
1956–1959
Succeeded by
Isaac George Hawthorne
Preceded by
James Chichester-Clark
Leader of the Ulster Unionist Party
1971–1974
Succeeded by
Harry West
New office Leader of the Unionist Party of Northern Ireland
1974–1976
Succeeded by
Anne Dickson
Political offices
Preceded by
Walter Topping
Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Finance
1956–1959
Succeeded by
Isaac George Hawthorne
Preceded by
Walter Topping
Minister of Home Affairs
1959–1963
Succeeded by
William Craig
Preceded by
Ivan Neill
Leader of the House of Commons
1965–1966
Succeeded by
James Chichester-Clark
Preceded by
Jack Andrews
Minister of Commerce & Production
1963–1969
Succeeded by
Roy Bradford
Preceded by
William James Long
Minister of Development
1969–1971
Preceded by
James Chichester-Clark
Prime Minister of Northern Ireland
1971–1972
Office abolished
Minister of Home Affairs
1971–1972
Preceded by
Terence O'Neill
Father of the House of the Parliament of Northern Ireland
1970–1973
Title abolished
New office Chief Executive of Northern Ireland
1973–1974
Office abolished
Parliament of Northern Ireland
Preceded by
Alexander Gordon
Member of Parliament for East Down
1949–1973
Position prorogued 1972
Parliament abolished 1973