|Member of Parliament
for West Belfast
1964 – 1966
|Member of Parliament
for North Down
1970 – 1995
16 July 1928|
|Died||20 March 1995
|Political party||Ulster Unionist Party
Popular Unionist Party
|Alma mater||Trinity College, Dublin
James Kilfedder, born in Kinlough, County Leitrim to a family from Enniskillen, was educated at Portora Royal School, Enniskillen and Trinity College, Dublin. During his time in college he acted as Auditor of the College Historical Society, the oldest undergraduate debating society in the world. He became a barrister, called to the Irish Bar at King's Inns, Dublin, in 1952 and the English Bar at Gray's Inn in 1958. He practised law in London.
At the 1964 general election, Kilfedder was elected as an Ulster Unionist Party (UUP) Member of Parliament for West Belfast. During the campaign there were riots in Divis Street when the police removed a tricolour from the Sinn Féin electoral offices of Billy McMillan after a complaint by Kilfedder in the form of a telegram to the Minister of Home Affairs, Brian McConnell. It read "Remove tricolour in Divis Street which is aimed to provoke and insult loyalists of Belfast." Kilfedder lost his seat at the 1966 election to Gerry Fitt. He was elected again in the 1970 general election for North Down, and held the seat until his death in 1995.
Kilfedder was elected for North Down in the 1973 Assembly election, signing Brian Faulkner's pledge to support the White Paper which eventually established the Sunningdale Agreement but becoming an anti-White Paper Unionist after the election. In 1975 he stood for the same constituency in the Constitutional Convention election, polling over three quotas as a UUP member of the United Ulster Unionist Coalition (UUUC) although he refused to sign the UUUC's pledge of conduct.
He left the UUP in 1977 in opposition to the party's policies tending to integrationism, preferring to advocate the restoration of the Stormont administration. For a time he sat as an "Independent Ulster Unionist". He contested the 1979 European Parliament Election under that label, finishing fourth in the count for the three seats, having overtaken the UUP leader Harry West on transfers.
In 1980 he formed the Ulster Popular Unionist Party (UPUP) and was re-elected under that label in all subsequent elections. He again topped the poll in the 1982 Assembly election and was elected as Speaker of the Assembly (to 1986). He generally took the Conservative whip at Westminster. Whilst Speaker he was paid more than the Prime Minister.
Death and legacy
On 20 March 1995, while travelling by train into London from Gatwick airport, Sir James died of a heart attack. This was the same day that the Belfast Telegraph carried a front page story saying that an Ulster MP had been targeted as one of twenty MPs invited by the LGBT rights organisation OutRage! in a letter to come out. On 20 June 2005 the Belfast Telegraph carried a further story of how the columnist Leo McKinstry (writing in the Spectator) had as a boy rejected "anguished" attempts at "intimacy" from Kilfedder.
He died unmarried, survived by two sisters. Sir James was described as
"a phenomenon or perhaps a left-over from a remote era of Northern Irish politics when Ulster was represented by such figures as Lord Robert Grosvenor, Major Robin Chichester-Clark, Stratton Mills, and Rafton Pounder."
Sir Jim was described by DUP MLA Peter Weir as "the best MP North Down ever had." The UPUP did not outlive him, and the by-election for his Commons seat was won by Robert McCartney standing as a "UK Unionist". He had fought the seat in the 1987 general election as a "Real Unionist" with the backing of the Campaign for Equal Citizenship.
At the 1987 election count, in his victory speech, Kilfedder had "attacked his rival's supporters as 'a rag tag collection of people who shame the name of civil rights.' He said they included communists, Protestant paramilitaries and Gay Rights supporters and he promised to expose more in future." McCartney lost North Down in 2001 to Lady Hermon of the Ulster Unionist Party.
Kilfedder's personal and political papers (including constituency affairs) are held in PRONI, reference D4127.
Kilfedder is buried in Roselawn cemetery in East Belfast.
- Obituary; the Independent
- Holy War in Belfast by Andy Boyd
- North Down 1973–1982
- The 1995 North Down by-election
- The 1979 European Election
- Robert Waller, Almanac of British Politics, 3rd ed
- Waller and Criddle, Almanac of British Politics, 6th ed
- Angus McLaren, Sexual Blackmail: A Modern History, Harvard University Press, 2002 and the Belfast Telegraph of that date
- Co. Down Spectator, 18 June 1987
- Hundreds pay their respects to MP, The Herald, 28 March 1995
- Hansard 1803–2005: contributions in Parliament by James Kilfedder
|Member of Parliament for Belfast West
|Member of Parliament for North Down