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Ralph O'Neal (right) being appointed as first Premier by Governor David Pearey.
For the WWI ace aviator, see Ralph Ambrose O'Neill

Ralph Telford O'Neal, OBE (born 1933) is the current Premier of the British Virgin Islands. He was the first person to be appointed to the newly titled office by the Governor on 22 August 2007 under the British Virgin Islands constitution adopted in 2007 after leading the Virgin Islands Party to a landslide victory in the 2007 general election two days earlier.

Ralph O'Neal also served a previous term as Chief Minister of the British Virgin Islands (as the office was referred to under the old constitution) from 1995 (on the death of Lavity Stoutt). He won the next election in 1999, but then subsequently lost power to National Democratic Party led by Orlando Smith in the 2003 general election, although he remained the elected representative for the 9th Electoral district (Virgin Gorda and Anegada), a seat in the Legislative Council that he has held continuously since 1971, and leader of the opposition.

He was educated at University of Oxford where he studied Public Administration. He is also one of the largest landowners on his native Virgin Gorda, and during his term as leader of the opposition, it was not uncommon for him to visit his tenants (who were also his constituents) personally to collect rent, and to chat with them about their views and concerns. Apart from his property investments, O'Neal has (like most British Virgin Islands politicians) had a number of outside commercial interests during his life, the most controversial of which was when he acted as a consultant to Shell Corporation in the early 1990s whilst still serving as a minister in the Government of Lavity Stoutt.

In the 1991 general election, O'Neal stood against his nephew in the 9th District, who (confusingly) was also named Ralph O'Neal. The senior O'Neal narrowly won the election, and benefited from a number of absentee ballots.[1] The younger O'Neal made a number of public allegations suggesting impropriety, and senior O'Neal sued for slander. The case came before Mr Justice Georges, sitting without a jury, who dismissed the claim. However, partly as a result of the controversy, absentee ballots were later abolished in the British Virgin Islands.

Political offices
Preceded by
Lavity Stoutt
Chief Minister of the British Virgin Islands
1995-2003
Succeeded by
Orlando Smith
Preceded by
Orlando Smith
Premier of the British Virgin Islands
2007-present
Succeeded by
Incumbent

Footnotes

  1. ^ It should be noted that the 9th District does traditionally have the highest number of absentee ballots, due to the large number of Anegadians who have emigrated over the years.
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