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Kevin McNamara

Member of Parliament
for Hull North
Hull Central (Feb 1974–1983)
In office
31 March 1966 – 5 May 2005
Preceded by Henry Solomons
Succeeded by Diana Johnson

Born 5 September 1934 (1934-09-05) (age 75)
Nationality Birtish
Political party Labour
Spouse(s) Nora McNamara

Dr (Joseph) Kevin McNamara KSG (born 5 September 1934) is a British Labour Party politician who served as a Member of Parliament for almost 40 years.


Early life

He was educated by the Irish Christian Brothers at independent St Mary's College in Crosby, Merseyside, England. He studied for an LLB at the University of Hull. He was head of department in History at St Mary's Grammar School (an RC school, now called St Mary's College) on Cranbrook Avenue in Hull from 1958-64. He was a Law lecturer at Hull College of Commerce from 1964-6.[1]

Political career

McNamara was elected to the House of Commons as Member of Parliament (MP) for Hull North, in a by-election in January 1966 following the death of sitting Labour MP Henry Solomons. Labour's hold of a marginal seat in a mid-term by-election is widely considered to have helped convince the Prime Minister Harold Wilson to call the 1966 election to seek a stronger majority.

He retained his seat at the 1966 general election, and at subsequent elections until the constituency was abolished for the February 1974 general election, when he transferred to the new Hull Central constituency. When that constituency was abolished for the 1983 election, McNamara was re-elected for the re-created Hull North constituency.[1]

He stepped down at the 2005 general election, with the local Constituency Labour Party choosing Diana Johnson to stand in his place.

In parliament

McNamara was known throughout his parliamentary career as a supporter of Irish nationalism who favoured the reunification of Ireland. After entering parliament, he soon became interested in allegations of discrimination against the Catholic minority in Northern Ireland and supported the Campaign for Democracy in Ulster (CDU). He served as a frontbench spokesman for the Labour Party, including Shadow Secretary of State for Northern Ireland under Neil Kinnock, 1987-94, an appointment that was widely criticised by Ulster Unionists.[2] After his election to the Labour leadership, Tony Blair sacked McNamara as Northern Ireland spokesman, because he was perceived as being too "green", and replaced him with Mo Mowlam.[3] He was nevertheless instrumental in 1997 in persuading the new Labour government to donate £5,000 (thereby matching the contribution of the Dublin government) for the erection of a memorial to the Irish Potato Famine in Liverpool.[4]

Much of his work was concerned with human rights and he had a value based approach to politics. His work and questions concerning the security services may have antagonised those working in the field, yet he continued to ask questions, often with no response, about security issues including the recruitment practices of MI6. Like many who took an interest in Irish politics since the Civil Rights protests of the 1960s, McNamara and his family received death threats - although the source was never identified. Noticing that musicians and gypsies were amongst the first casualties of pre-war Germany, McNamara took an active interest in defending the rights of such groups - to the anger of many Conservatives. In the years following the Anglo-Irish Agreement musicians were welcomed to attend the House of Commons to celebrate and perform for the 'Friends of the Anglo-Irish Agreement'.

Personal life

He is a staunch Catholic and is a Knight of the Pontifical Order of Saint Gregory the Great.[5] During the 2005 UK General Election campaign he claimed some of the policies regarding illegal travellers’ sites of the Jewish leader of the Conservative Party, Michael Howard had 'whiff of the gas chambers’ about them.[6] He campaigned in his last years in parliament on many issues, protesting against the Act of Succession which prohibits a Roman Catholic or the spouse of a Roman Catholic to be the British monarch, believing it to be discriminatory in a way which would not be allowed in other areas of subsidised employment. He followed many other parliamentary interests both in Europe and at home including interests in medical issues such as Multiple Sclerosis.

In 2006, McNamara received the honorary degree of Doctor of Laws from Hull University in recognition of his long service in politics.[7] He also graduated with a PhD from the University of Liverpool in 2007 having having completed a thesis on the MacBride Principles[8] at the Institute of Irish Studies, where he gave the 2008 John Kennedy Lecture in Irish Studies, entitled: 'Perhaps It will all go away – An examination of the British Response to the Civil Rights movement in Northern Ireland'.

He is married to Nora McNamara, and is the father of four sons and a daughter.[1]


  1. ^ a b c BBC Vote 2001, candidate biographies
  2. ^ Conflict Archive on the Internet (CAIN), Biographies of Prominent People, [1]
  3. ^ Henry Patterson, Ireland since 1939: The persistence of conflict, (Dublin: Penguin Ireland, 2006) p.334
  4. ^ Christine Kinealy, The Great Irish Famine, (Basingstoke: Palgrave, 2002), p.12
  5. ^ Papal Knights of Great Britain
  6. ^ The Times, 22 March 2005
  7. ^ University of Hull, News Archive
  8. ^ J. K. McNamara, "The MacBride Principles", Unpublished PhD thesis, (University of Liverpool, 2006)

External links

Parliament of the United Kingdom
Preceded by
Henry Solomons
Member of Parliament for Hull North
1966Feb 1974
Constituency abolished
New constituency Member of Parliament for Hull Central
Feb 19741983
Constituency abolished
New constituency Member of Parliament for Hull North
Succeeded by
Diana Johnson
Political offices
Preceded by
Peter Archer
Shadow Secretary of State for Northern Ireland
Succeeded by
Mo Mowlam


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