The Northern Ireland Senate was the upper house of the Northern Ireland
Parliament (usually referred to as Stormont though that is only really
accurate from 1932). It had 26 members in total. 24 were elected by Single
Transferable Vote by members of the Northern Ireland
House of Commons in blocks of twelve for eight-year terms; the other
two were the Lord Mayor of Belfast and the Mayor of Londonderry. Note that
after the Londonderry Corporation was replaced by a Development Commission
in 1969, the Mayor's place in the Senate was not filled and there were
thus only 25 Senators rather than 26 for the last few years of its existence.
The Senate Chamber in Stormont could seat twice that number without much
discomfort and they must have fairly rattled around when in session. In
contrast to the abortive Southern Ireland Senate
it was not designed to be a check on the legislature, but rather a place
for reflection and revision of government bills - an additional means of
finding parliamentary time. Of course it developed into a sinecure for
politicians who couldn't or wouldn't get into the lower house. There was
also a Governor of Northern Ireland, who mattered even less than the Senate.
The Senate has been largely ignored by historians of the period, and
there are practically no references to it on the Internet apart from a
Irish News article calling for its abolition, and my own account of
the 1925 Senate elections on both sides of the
border. I cannot really blame historians for ignoring it. However as it
is pretty easy to get hard-copy details of those elected to the Northern
Ireland House of Commons between 1921 and 1972 (see in particular Brian
Walker's book, details on the front page), I felt
that the Senate should not be completely left in darkness.
The list below gives details of Northern Ireland Senators; their terms
of office in the Senate, including if they died or resigned (otherwise
they retired at the quadrennial elections, or when their terms of office
as Mayor expired, or when the Senate was abolished in 1972); also noted
are holders of the posts of Speaker, Leader of the Senate, Deputy Speaker
(two at any given time), and Deputy Leader of the Senate (until 1961 when
that post seems to have been dropped). I am very grateful to Lord Alderdice
(the Speaker of the Northern Ireland Assembly) and the Northern Ireland
Assembly Research Department for making this information available to me.
I have added details of Senators who also sat in Westminster or in the
other Northern Ireland regional bodies. Thanks also to Louis Epstein and
Anne Carville for clarifying a couple of details. If you have any comments,
please let me know.
Altogether 142 individuals sat as members of the Northern Ireland
Senate, 141 men and 2 women. 114 of these were elected by the members of
the House of Commons, 14 became Senators by virtue of being Lord Mayor
of Belfast, 13 were Mayors of Londonderry, and one (Sir W.F. Coates) was
at different times an elected Senator and a Lord Mayor of Belfast.
9 Senators were or became peers of the realm at the time of their
membership of the Senate. These were two Dukes of Abercorn, Lord
Lord Charlemont, Marquess of Dufferin and Ava, Lord Glentoran,
Marquess of Londonderry, Lord Massereene and Ferrard, and
Pirrie. Lord Bangor and Lord Charlemont held Irish titles only;
Lord Charlemont had been elected as an Irish Representative Peer and so
sat in the House of Lords, Lord Bangor however did not. At least another
3 Senators subsequently became members of the House of Lords by different
routes. Lord R.G. Grosvenor inherited the title of Duke of
Sir Basil Brooke was created Viscount Brookeborough and Victor Cooke
was created as a life peer Baron Cooke of Islandreagh - he is the
only former Senator who is still politically active at the time of writing.
7 Senators also sat in the Westminster House of Commons; H.B.W.
(Mid-Armagh, 1921-22), H.T. Barrie (North Londonderry, 1908-18 and
1919-22), Lord R.G. Grosvenor (Fermanagh and South Tyrone, 1955-64),
W.F. Neill (North Belfast, 1945-50), R.G. Sharman-Crawford
(East Belfast, 1914-18), Sir Frederick J. Simmons (Mid Down, 1921-22)
and Thomas Sinclair (Queen's University of Belfast, 1923-1940).
Four of these (Armstrong, Barrie, Neill and Sinclair) were members of both
bodies simultaneously. T.J. Campbell and H.S.C. Richardson both contested
Westminster elections unsuccessfully.
25 Senators were also members at some time of the Northern Ireland
House of Commons. They were A.W. Anderson (Londonderry City,
1968-72), J.L.O. Andrews (Mid Down, 1953-64), Sir Basil S. Brooke
1929-68), T.J. Campbell (Belfast Central 1934-46), Sir George A.
(Belfast Dock 1938-45), Robert Corkey (QUB 1929-43), Lord Glentoran
(Belfast Bloomfield 1950-61), A.R.G.
Gordon (East Down, 1929-49),
J.W. Gyle (East Belfast, 1925-29), R.J.R. Harcourt (Belfast
Woodvale 1950-55), Sir Alexander W. Hungerford (Belfast Oldpark,
1929-45), R.G.C. Kinahan (Belfast Clifton 1958-9), T.R.
1921-29), T.S. McAllister (Antrim 1921-29), Robert McBride
(Down/West Down 1921-33), H.I. McClure (QUB, 1962-68), Sir Crawford
(South Belfast, 1921-25), John
McHugh (Fermanagh-Tyrone, 1925-29),
William J. Morgan (Belfast Oldpark 1949-58 and Belfast Clifton 1959-69),
E.S. Murphy (Londonderry City, 1929-39), Thomas
1949-58), J.R. Perceval-Maxwell
(Ards, 1945-49), Herbert Quin
(QUB, 1944-49), John Hanna Robb (QUB, 1921-37), and Samuel Rodgers
1949-58). A further 6 Senators unsuccessfully stood for election to the
Northern Ireland House of Commons. These were J.F. Cairns, Sir Joseph
Joseph Fisher, William Gibson, J.G. Lennon, and W.C.
It appears that if a member of the lower house was elected as Lord Mayor
of Belfast or Mayor of Londonderry he was obliged to give up his seat in
the House of Commons - cf Rolston (1955) and Kinahan (1959). There are
several instances where a member of one house was elected to the other
and resigned from the seat originally held.
William J. Morgan was elected to both the 1973-4 Assembly
the 1975-6 Constitutional Convention from North Belfast (having
already been a member of both houses of the old Northern Ireland Parliament).
Nelson Elder was elected to the 1973-4 Northern Ireland Assembly
from South Belfast. P.F. McGill unsuccessfully contested the 1973
Assembly election. It should be added that McGill had written his MA thesis
at Queen's university on "The Senate in Northern Ireland, 1921-1962"; the
degree was awarded in 1965, the year he became a Deputy Speaker.
I have attempted to get some idea of the political complexion of the
Senate. It is rather difficult to be precise, as party designations have
not been recorded. Obviously it was an even more Unionist body than the
House of Commons, given that some Nationalists who were members of the
latter chose not to participate in Senate elections, and that the Unionists
had a bonus of the two Mayors (after the Londonderry gerrymander).
A few Senators (Campbell, McAllister, Lennon) can
be identified as Nationalists because they also stood for the lower house,
and others have what look like Catholic names. Claude Wilton was
a member of the Ulster Liberal Party. I have not identified any as NILP
members but there must have been some. It is noticeable that Nationalists
served as Deputy Speaker on a few occasions. It is also noticeable that
they never got to be Speaker and that one Speaker made the switch straight
from Leader of the House.