Prime Minister of Northern Ireland

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Prime Minister of Northern Ireland
Coat of Arms of Northern Ireland.svg
Arms of the Executive Committee
NominatorHouse of Commons
AppointerGovernor of Northern Ireland
Term lengthAt Her Majesty's pleasure
so long as General Elections are held no more than five years apart.
Inaugural holderSir James Craig
Formation7 June 1921
Final holderBrian Faulkner
Abolished30 March 1972 (suspended)
18 July 1973 (abolished)
SuccessionFirst Minister of Northern Ireland
DeputyDeputy Prime Minister

The prime minister of Northern Ireland was the 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 of Ireland,[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 suspended in 1972 and then abolished in 1973, 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 of Northern Ireland 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. All prime ministers of Northern Ireland were members of the Orange Order.[5]

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 of Northern Ireland.

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.

In 1974, Brian Faulkner was chosen to lead the Northern Ireland Executive not as Prime Minister of Northern Ireland but as Chief Executive of Northern Ireland.

List of office-holders[edit]

No. Name
Portrait Term of office Elected
Ministry Party Last office(s) held before election
1. Sir James Craig (created The 1st Viscount Craigavon in 1927)[6]
MP for Down until 1929
MP for North Down from 1929
James Craig, 1st Viscount Craigavon.jpg 7 June 1921 24 November 1940 1921 (1st) Craigavon Ulster Unionist Party Parliamentary and Financial
Secretary to the Admiralty

1925 (2nd)
1929 (3rd)
1933 (4th)
1938 (5th)
2. John Miller Andrews
MP for Mid Down
John Miller Andrews.jpg 27 November 1940 1 May 1943 — (5th) Andrews Ulster Unionist Party Minister of Finance (1937–1941)
3. Sir Basil Brooke (created The 1st Viscount Brookeborough in 1952)[7]
MP for Lisnaskea
Brookeborough 1963 UUC Yearbook.jpg 1 May 1943 26 March 1963 — (5th) Brookeborough Ulster Unionist Party Minister of Commerce
1945 (6th)
1949 (7th)
1953 (8th)
1958 (9th)
1962 (10th)
4. Terence O'Neill
MP for Bannside
25 March 1963 1 May 1969 — (10th) O'Neill Ulster Unionist Party Minister of Finance (1956–1963)
1965 (11th)
1969 (12th)
5. James Chichester-Clark
MP for South Londonderry
James Chichester-Clark 1970.jpg 1 May 1969 23 March 1971 — (12th) Chichester-Clark Ulster Unionist Party Minister of Agriculture (1967–1969)
Leader of the House of Commons (1968–1969)
6. Brian Faulkner
MP for East Down
23 March 1971 30 March 1972 — (12th) Faulkner Ulster Unionist Party Minister of Development (1969–1971)

Parliamentary Secretary, Department of the Prime Minister[edit]

Additional Parliamentary Secretary, Department of the Prime Minister[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. ^ "Who are the Orangemen?". BBC News. 11 July 2012. By the 20th century, the Order had pervaded the highest echelons of society. Every prime minister of Northern Ireland, from Partition in 1921 to the return of direct rule in 1972, was an Orangeman, as are a number of current ministers in the Northern Ireland Executive.
  6. ^ Viscount Craigavon from 1927
  7. ^ Viscount Brookeborough from 1952