Leader of the Opposition (Northern Ireland)

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The Ulster Banner
This article is part of a series on the
politics and government of
Northern Ireland 1921–72

The Leader of the Opposition in Northern Ireland was theoretically the leader of the largest party in the House of Commons of Northern Ireland which was not the government. The position was eliminated in 1972 when the Stormont Parliament was abolished and replaced by direct rule from London.

Through the existence of the Stormont Parliament, members of the Irish Nationalist opposition often practiced a policy of abstentionism where they would run for seats in the parliament but refuse to take them if elected in order not to give legitimacy to British rule or the partition of the island and refused to accept recognition as the Official Opposition until 1965 despite the fact that they were the second party in the House of Commons in terms of seats won from 1925 until 1972 and had been tied for second with Sinn Féin (which was also abstentionist) in the first Northern Ireland House of Commons from 1921 to 1925.

Though the Nationalist Party was consistently the second largest party in the House of Commons its members refused to take their seats in the legislature until 1924, then resumed the abstentionist policy in the 1930s to protest the abolition of proportional representation. From 1937, T. J. Campbell and Richard Byrne were the only Nationalist MPs to take their seats until Byrne's death in 1942 and Campbell's resignation in 1945. It was not until 1965 that the Nationalist Party agreed to form the Official Opposition in the House of Commons. Eddie McAteer served as Leader of the Opposition from 1965 until he lost his seat in the 1969 election. Roderick O'Connor succeeded McAteer as Nationalist Party leader but the party again withdrew from its role as Official Opposition.

Leaders of the Opposition[edit]

This is a list of people who served as the de facto Leaders of the Opposition of Northern Ireland, being leaders of the largest party in the House of Commons of Northern Ireland which was not the government.

Leader of the Opposition[edit]

No. Name
Portrait Term of office Election Parliament Party Second Major Opposition Leader
1. Éamon de Valera
MP for Down
Eamon de Valera c 1922-30.jpg 1921 1925 1921 1st Sinn Féin Joseph Devlin
(Nationalist Party)
2. Joseph Devlin
MP for Belfast West and Belfast Central
Joe Devlin.JPG 1925 1934 1925 2nd Nationalist Party Sam Kyle
(Labour Party)
1929 3rd Jack Beattie
(Labour Party)
1933 4th Harry Midgley
(Labour Party)
3. Thomas Joseph Campbell
MP for Belfast Central
Judge TJ Campbell.jpg 1934 1945
1938 5th Paddy Agnew (1938–42)
Jack Beattie (1942–43)
Paddy Agnew (1943–45)
(Labour Party)
1945 6th Hugh Downey
(Labour Party)
4. James McSparran
MP for Mourne
1945 1958
1949 7th None
(Labour Party)
1953 8th
5. Joseph Francis Stewart
MP for East Tyrone
1958 1964 1958 9th Tom Boyd
(Labour Party)
1962 10th
6. Eddie McAteer
MP for Foyle
1964 1969
1965 11th
7. Roderick O'Connor
MP for West Tyrone
1969 1972 1969 12th Vivian Simpson
(Labour Party)

See also[edit]