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Prime Minister of Northern Ireland

Prime Minister of Northern Ireland
Arms of the Executive Committee
Nominator House of Commons
Appointer Governor of Northern Ireland
Term length At Her Majesty's pleasure
so long as General Elections are held no more than five years apart.
Inaugural holder Sir James Craig
Formation 7 June 1921
Deputy Deputy Prime Minister
The Ulster Banner
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 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. All Prime Ministers of Northern Ireland were members of the Orange Order.

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.


  • List of office-holders 1
  • Parliamentary Secretary, Department of the Prime Minister 2
  • Additional Parliamentary Secretary, Department of the Prime Minister 3
  • Sources 4
  • Footnotes 5

List of office-holders

No. Name
Portrait Term of office Elected
Ministry Party Last office(s) held before election
1. Sir James Craig[5]
MP for Down until 1929
MP for North Down from 1929
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
27 November 1940 1 May 1943 — (5th) Andrews Ulster Unionist Party Minister of Finance (1937–1941)
3. Sir Basil Brooke[6]
MP for Lisnaskea
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
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

Additional Parliamentary Secretary, Department of the Prime Minister


  • Alan J. Ward, The Irish Constitutional Tradition (Irish Academic Press, 1994)
  • Government of Ireland Act, 1920
  • The Government of Northern Ireland


  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
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