Robert Porter (politician)

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The Right Honourable

Sir Robert Porter

Member of the Northern Ireland Parliament
for Queen's University of Belfast
In office
Preceded byCharles Stewart
Succeeded byconstituency abolished
Member of the Northern Ireland Parliament
for Lagan Valley
In office
Preceded byconstituency created
Succeeded byconstituency abolished
Personal details
Born(1923-12-23)23 December 1923
Derry, Northern Ireland
Died25 May 2014(2014-05-25) (aged 90)
Political partyUlster Unionist Party (−1972)
Alliance Party of Northern Ireland (1972–)
Alma materQueen's University Belfast
Military service
Allegiance United Kingdom
Branch/serviceRoyal Air Force Volunteer Reserve (1943–46)
Territorial Army (1950–56)
Years of service1943 to 1946
1950 to 1956
RankFlying Officer
Battles/warsWorld War II
Cold War

Sir Robert Wilson Porter PC (NI), QC (23 December 1923 – 25 May 2014) was a Northern Irish politician, barrister and judge. He served as a pilot in the Royal Air Force during World War II and was later an officer in the Territorial Army.

Early life[edit]

Porter was born on 23 December 1923 in Derry, Northern Ireland, to Joseph Wilson Porter, and his wife Letitia Porter.[1] He was educated at Foyle College, a state grammar school in Derry.[2] He studied law at Queen's University Belfast which was interrupted by his military service during World War II.[1] He returned to his studies in 1946 and graduated in 1949 Bachelor of Laws (LLB).[2]


Military service[edit]

In 1943, he joined the Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve, and serving until 1946.[3] He was posted to South Africa where he trained and qualified as a pilot.[1] He reached the rank of flight sergeant while serving with the other ranks. On 11 February 1945, he was commissioned into the Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve as a pilot officer on probation.[4] On 11 August 1945, he was promoted to flying officer (war substantive).[5]

From 1950 to 1956, he served with the British Army.[3] On 20 November 1950, he joined the Royal Regiment of Artillery, Territorial Army as a second lieutenant with seniority from 18 March 1947.[6] He was later promoted to lieutenant, back dated to 20 November 1950.[7] On 21 March 1952, he was promoted to captain.[8] On 16 October 1956, he transferred to the Territorial Army reserve of Officers, thereby ending his military service.[9]

Legal career[edit]

Porter was called to the Bar of Northern Ireland in 1950.[2] During his early years as a practising barrister, he was also a part-time lecturer in law at Queen's University Belfast.[1][2] He was appointed Queen's Counsel in 1965. From 1978 until 1995 Porter was a judge of the county courts.[3]

Political career[edit]

He was active in the Ulster Unionist Party (UUP) before his election. In 1966 he was elected to the Parliament of Northern Ireland representing Queen's University. In January 1969 he served as Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Home Affairs, after which he was appointed Minister of Health and Social Services. In March he became the Minister of Home Affairs and was also appointed to the Privy Council of Northern Ireland.[3]

Within the Cabinet he was regarded as a moderate and declared that a broadening of the local government franchise called for primarily by nationalists was inevitable.[10]

Porter's seat was abolished for the 1969 Northern Ireland general election, but he was able to win the new Lagan Valley seat. He resigned as Minister of Home Affairs in August 1970.[3] He claimed to have resigned due to ill health, but he later complained that he had not been consulted about the imposition of a military curfew on the Falls Road in July.[11] He resigned from the UUP itself in June 1972 to join the Alliance Party of Northern Ireland.

Later life[edit]

He died at the age of 90 on 25 May 2014 in Belfast.[12] His funeral was held on 29 May at Holy Trinity Church in Drumbo, Lisburn.[13]

Personal life[edit]

Portor was a member of the Orange Order but resigned in 1971 because of his lodge's support of provocative Loyalist rallies.[2]


  1. ^ a b c d "Sir Robert Porter". The Times. 24 June 2014. Retrieved 25 June 2014.
  2. ^ a b c d e "Sir Robert Porter – obituary". The Daily Telegraph. 16 June 2014. Retrieved 25 June 2014.
  3. ^ a b c d e Boothroyd, David. "Biographies of Members of the Northern Ireland House of Commons". Retrieved 25 June 2014.
  4. ^ "No. 37000". The London Gazette (Supplement). 23 March 1945. pp. 1646–1648.
  5. ^ "No. 37264". The London Gazette (Supplement). 11 September 1945. p. 4574.
  6. ^ "No. 39241". The London Gazette (Supplement). 29 May 1951. pp. 2993–2994.
  7. ^ "No. 39345". The London Gazette (Supplement). 28 September 1951. p. 5100.
  8. ^ "No. 39546". The London Gazette (Supplement). 20 May 1952. p. 2780.
  9. ^ "No. 40937". The London Gazette (Supplement). 27 November 1956. p. 6777.
  10. ^ Graham Walker, A History of the Ulster Unionist Party: Protest, Pragmatism and Pessimism
  11. ^ A Chronology of the Conflict – 1970, CAIN Web Service
  12. ^
  13. ^ "Robert Porter: Inspirational father, politician and judge had Derry close to his heart". Belfast Telegraph. 28 May 2014. Retrieved 26 June 2014.
Parliament of Northern Ireland
Preceded by
Charles Stewart
Sheelagh Murnaghan
Ian McClure
Elizabeth Maconachie
Member of Parliament for Queen's University of Belfast
With: Sheelagh Murnaghan
Ian McClure
Elizabeth Maconachie
Constituency abolished
New constituency Member of Parliament for Lagan Valley
Parliament abolished
Political offices
Title last held by
William Fitzsimmons
Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Home Affairs
Succeeded by
John Taylor
Preceded by
William James Morgan
Minister of Health and Social Services
Succeeded by
William Fitzsimmons
Preceded by
William Long
Minister of Home Affairs
Succeeded by
James Chichester-Clark