Prime Minister of Northern Ireland

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Not to be confused with First Minister of Northern Ireland.
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This article is part of a series on the
politics and government of
Northern Ireland 1921–72

The Prime Minister of Northern Ireland was the de facto head of the Government of Northern Ireland between 1921 and 1972. No such office was provided for in the Government of Ireland Act 1920,[1] however the Lord Lieutenant,[2] as with Governors-General in other Westminster Systems such as in Canada, chose to appoint someone to head the executive even though no such post existed in statute law. The office-holder assumed the title Prime Minister to draw parallels with the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom. On the advice of the new Prime Minister, the Lord Lieutenant then created the Department of the Prime Minister.[3] The office of Prime Minister of Northern Ireland was abolished in 1972, along with the contemporary government, when direct rule of Northern Ireland was transferred to London.

The Government of Ireland Act provided for the appointment of the Executive Committee of the Privy Council by the Governor.[4] No parliamentary vote was required. Nor, theoretically, was the Executive Committee and its prime minister responsible to the House of Commons of Northern Ireland. In reality the Governor chose the leader of the party with a majority in the House to form a government. On each occasion this was the leader of the Ulster Unionist Party, such was the UUP's electoral dominance using both a simple plurality and for the first two elections, a proportional electoral system.

The Prime Minister's residence from 1920 until 1922 was Cabin Hill, later to become the junior school for Campbell College. After 1922 Stormont Castle was used, though some prime ministers chose to live in Stormont House, the unused residence of the Speaker of the House of Commons.

The new offices of First Minister and deputy First Minister were created by the Good Friday Agreement of 1998. In contrast with the Westminster-style system of the earlier Stormont government, the new Northern Ireland Executive operates on the principles of consociational democracy.

Prime Ministers[edit]

# Name Picture Took Office Left Office Party Cabinet
1. Sir James Craig[5] James Craig Viscount Craigavon.jpg June 7, 1921 November 24, 1940
(died in office)
Ulster Unionist Party Craigavon Ministry
2. John Miller Andrews Johnmillerandrews.jpg November 27, 1940 May 1, 1943 Ulster Unionist Party Andrews Ministry
3. Sir Basil Brooke[6] No image.svg May 1, 1943 March 26, 1963 Ulster Unionist Party Brookeborough Ministry
4. Terence O'Neill Captain Terence O'Neill.jpg March 25, 1963 May 1, 1969 Ulster Unionist Party O'Neill Ministry
5. James Chichester-Clark Jamescclarke.jpg May 1, 1969 March 23, 1971 Ulster Unionist Party Chichester-Clark Ministry
6. Brian Faulkner Brianfaulkner.jpg March 23, 1971 March 30, 1972 Ulster Unionist Party Faulkner Ministry

Parliamentary Secretary, Department of the Prime Minister[edit]

Additional Parliamentary Secretary, Department of the Prime Minister[edit]

Sources[edit]

Footnotes[edit]

  1. ^ Alan J. Ward, The Irish Constitutional Tradition, p.111.
  2. ^ The new office of Governor had not yet come into being because its creation required an amendment to the original Act. The Lord Lieutenant of Ireland had originally been granted the role and exercised the powers, functions and duties pending the creation of governor's post in 1922. Ward, p.116.
  3. ^ Ward, p.116.
  4. ^ Government of Ireland Act 1920, s. 8.
  5. ^ Viscount Craigavon from 1927
  6. ^ Viscount Brookeborough from 1952