Terence O'Neill, Baron O'Neill of the Maine: Wikis


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The Right Honourable
 The Lord O'Neill of the Maine 

In office
25 March 1963 – 1 May 1969
Preceded by Basil Brooke, 1st Viscount Brookeborough
Succeeded by James Chichester-Clark

In office
7 November 1946 – 16 April 1970
Preceded by Malcolm William Patrick
Succeeded by Ian Paisley

Born 10 September 1914(1914-09-10)
London, England
Died 12 June 1990 (aged 75)
Political party Ulster Unionist Party

Terence Marne O'Neill, Baron O'Neill of the Maine, PC (10 September 1914 – 12 June 1990) was the fourth Prime Minister of Northern Ireland. Today his premiership is viewed with mixed emotions. Though he clearly had hopes for improving the situation for Catholics in Northern Ireland and easing tensions and violence between Unionists and Nationalists, his inability to make personal connections within and without his own party, due mostly to not being very personable himself, spelled failure for most of his attempts at reform. He was, in his own words, "blown out of office by the Protestants."[1]



Terence O'Neill was born on the 10 September 1914 at 29 Ennismore Gardens, Hyde Park, London.[2] He was the youngest son of Lady Annabel Hungerford Crewe-Milnes (daughter of the Marquess of Crewe) and Captain Arthur O'Neill of Shane's Castle, Randalstown, the first MP to be killed as a result of World War I. Despite bearing the name of O'Neill, this line of the family in fact assumed the surname by Royal license in lieu of their original name Chichester. In turn, the Chichesters can trace their lineage to the name O'Neill through Mary Chichester, daughter of Henry O'Neill, of Shane's Castle. O'Neill, who grew up in London, was educated at West Downs School in Winchester and Eton College; he only spent Summer holidays in Ulster. Following school he spent a year in France and Germany and then took work in the City of London, as well as Australia. In May 1940 he received a commission to the Royal Military Academy Sandhurst.[2] During World War II he served in the Irish Guards, and he eventually became the prime minister of Northern Ireland. He, although Protestant himself and coming from a long line of Protestants, attempted to reconcile the Catholics and the Protestants of Northern Ireland. Nobody knew why, the recently it was discovered that when he was serving with the Irish Guards in World War Two, but his plane was shot down in a mission over the Netherlands during the war, he was hidden and sheltered by a kind Catholic family who also sheltered other wounded soldiers and the Jewish, who the Nazis were looking for. Sentiments towards this family caused him to frequently visit them and attempt at Protestant and Catholic harmony. On 4 February 1944 he married Katharine Jean (16 January 1915 - 15 July 2008[3]), the daughter of William Ingham Whitaker, of Pylewell Park, Lymington, Hampshire. They had one son, Patrick (b. 1945), and one daughter, Anne (b. 1947).


At the end of 1945 O'Neill and his family finally went to live in Northern Ireland, in Glebe House, a converted Regency rectory near Ahoghill, Co. Antrim and in a by-election in 1946 he was elected as a Unionist MP for the Bannside constituency in the Stormont parliament. Lord O'Neill served in a series of junior positions. He was Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Health and Local Government from February 1948 until November 1953, when he was appointed Chairman of Ways and Means and Deputy Speaker of the House of Commons. In the latter year, he served as High Sheriff of Antrim.[4] He was Minister of Home Affairs from April to October 1956 when he was appointed Minister of education.

Prime Minister

In 1963 he succeeded Viscount Brookeborough as Prime Minister. He introduced new policies that would have been unheard of with Brookeborough as Prime Minister. He aimed to end sectarianism and to bring Catholics and Protestants into working relationships. A visit to a convent proved controversial among many Protestants. He also had great aspirations in the industrial sector. In January 1965 O'Neill invited the Taoiseach of the Republic of Ireland, Seán Lemass, for talks in Belfast. O'Neill met with strong opposition from within his own party mainly because he informed very few of the visit and from Ian Paisley, who rejected any dealings with the Republic of Ireland. Paisley and his followers threw snowballs at Lemass' car during the visit. In February O'Neill visited Lemass in Dublin. Opposition to O'Neill's reforms was so strong that in 1967 George Forrest, the MP for Mid Ulster who supported the Prime Minister, was pulled off the platform at the Twelfth of July celebrations in Coagh, County Tyrone, and kicked unconscious by fellow members of the Orange Order.

In December 1967 Taoiseach Jack Lynch travelled to Stormont for his first meeting with O'Neill. On 8 January 1968 they met again in Dublin. On 19 January 1968, O'Neill made a speech marking five years in office to members of the Irish Association, calling for "a new endeavour by organisations in Northern Ireland to cross denominational barriers and advance the cause of better community relations". On 20 May 1968, O'Neill was pelted with eggs, flour and stones by members of the Woodvale Unionist Association[5] who disapproved of his perceived conciliatory policies.

In 1968 the Northern Ireland Civil Rights Association (NICRA) began street demonstrations. The march in Derry on 5 October 1968, banned by William Craig, the Minister of Home Affairs was met with violence from the Royal Ulster Constabulary (RUC), who batoned protesters, among them prominent politicians. This violence was caught by television cameras and broadcast worldwide. The date of this march is taken by many historians as being the start of the Northern Ireland troubles.

In response to this bad publicity O'Neill introduced a Five Point Reform Programme. This granted the NICRA a number of the concessions they had demanded, but most importantly, it did not include one man one vote. Despite this, the NICRA felt they had made some ground and agreed to postpone their marches. Things were expected to improve, but many in the Catholic community felt let down by the limited reforms. A student group was formed by Bernadette Devlin and Michael Farrell, which they named the People's Democracy. A four-day march from Belfast to Derry began on the 1st of January 1969. On the fourth day the march was ambushed at Burntollet Bridge by around 200 hardline unionists. Although many RUC men were present during the attack, none intervened. It later emerged that many of the assailants were in fact off-duty policemen themselves. Thirteen marchers required hospital treatment as a result of their injuries. The Burntollet attack sparked several days of rioting between the RUC and Catholic protesters in the Bogside area of Derry.

In February 1969 O'Neill called a surprise general election because of the turmoil inside the Ulster Unionist Party caused by ten to twelve anti-O'Neill dissident members of the Unionist Parliamentary Party and the resignation of Brian Faulkner from O'Neill's Government.


From O'Neill's point of view, the election results were inconclusive. O'Neill in particular was humiliated by his near defeat in his own constituency of Bannside by Ian Paisley. He resigned as leader of the Ulster Unionist Party and as Prime Minister in April 1969 after a series of bomb explosions on Belfast's water supply by the Ulster Volunteer Force (UVF) brought his personal political crisis to a head.

In an interview with the Belfast Telegraph, published on 10 May 1969, he stated: "It is frightfully hard to explain to Protestants that if you give Roman Catholics a good job and a good house. they will live like Protestants because they will see neighbours with cars and television sets; they will refuse to have eighteen children. But if a Roman Catholic is jobless, and lives in the most ghastly hovel, he will rear eighteen children on National Assistance. If you treat Roman Catholics with due consideration and kindness, they will live like Protestants in spite of the authoritative nature of their Church..."[6]


He retired from Stormont politics in January 1970 when he resigned his seat, having become the Father of the House in the previous year. In that year he was created a life peer as Baron O'Neill of the Maine, of Ahoghill in the County of Antrim.

He spent his last years at Lisle Court, Lymington, Hampshire, though he continued to speak on the problems of Northern Ireland in the House of Lords, where he sat as a cross-bencher. He was also a trustee of the Winston Churchill Memorial Trust. He died at his home of cancer on 12 June 1990, survived by his wife, son, and daughter. His estate was valued at £443, 043: probate, 28 Aug 1990, CGPLA England and Wales.


16. Rev. Robert Chichester
8. William O'Neill, 1st Baron O'Neill
4. Edward O'Neill, 2nd Baron O'Neill
18. Robert Torrens
9. Henrietta Torrens
2. Arthur O'Neill
20. Thomas Cochrane, 10th Earl of Dickmonkeys
10. Thomas Barnes Cochrane, 11th Earl of Dundonald
21. Katherine Frances Corbet Barnes
5. Lady Louisa Katherine Emma Cochrane
22. William Alexander Mackinnon of Mackinnon FRS, FSA, DL, JP
11. Louisa Harriet Mackinnon
1. Terence O'Neill
24. Robert Pemberton Milnes, of Fryston Hall
12. Richard Monckton Milnes, 1st Baron Houghton
25. The Hon. Henrietta Monckton
6. Robert Crewe-Milnes, 1st Marquess of Crewe
26. John Crewe, 2nd Baron Crewe
13. The Hon. Annabel Crewe
27. Henrietta Maria Anne Walker-Jungerford
3. Lady Annabel Crew-Milnes
28. Rt. Hon. Sir James Robert George Graham, 2nd Bt.
14. Sir Frederick Ulric Graham, 3rd Bt.
29. Fanny Callender
7. Sibyl Marcia Graham
30. Edward Adolphus Seymour, 12th Duke of Somerset
15. Lady Jane Hermione St. Maur Seymour
31. Jane Georgiana Sheridan


  1. ^ O'Neill, Terence. The Last Card, NLI No. 7, p. 110.
  2. ^ a b Oxford Dictionary of National Biography
  3. ^ http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/obituaries/2494952/Lady-ONeill-of-the-Maine.html
  4. ^ Belfast Gazette: no. 1645, p. 2, 2 January 1953. Retrieved on 20 June 2009.
  5. ^ "A Chronology of the Conflict - 1968". Conflict Archive on the Internet (CAIN). http://cain.ulst.ac.uk/othelem/chron/ch68.htm. Retrieved 11 July 2009. 
  6. ^ Online quotation accessed 14-1-2009

Other references

  • Terence O'Neill, Ulster at the crossroads, Faber and Faber, London, 1969.
  • Terence O'Neill, The autobiography of Terence O’Neill, Hart-Davies, London, 1972.
  • Marc Mulholland, Northern Ireland at the crossroads: Ulster Unionism in the O'Neill years 1960-9, Macmillan, London, 2000.

See also

Parliament of Northern Ireland
Preceded by
Malcolm Patrick
Member of Parliament for Bannside
1946 – 1970
Succeeded by
Ian Paisley
Preceded by
Sir Norman Stronge
Father of the House
1969 – 1970
Succeeded by
Brian Faulkner
Political offices
Preceded by
New creation
Parliamentary Secretary at the Ministry of Health and Local Government
Succeeded by
Office abolished
Preceded by
Samuel Hall-Thompson
Chairman of Ways and Means and Deputy Speaker of the Northern Ireland House of Commons
1953 – 1955
Succeeded by
Thomas Lyons
Preceded by
Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Home Affairs
Succeeded by
Preceded by
George Boyle Hanna
Minister of Home Affairs
Apr – Oct 1956
Succeeded by
Walter Topping
Minister of Finance
1956 – 1963
Succeeded by
Jack Andrews
Preceded by
Viscount Brookeborough
Prime Minister of Northern Ireland
1963 – 1969
Succeeded by
James Chichester-Clark
Party political offices
Preceded by
Viscount Brookeborough
Leader of the Ulster Unionist Party
1963 – 1969
Succeeded by
James Chichester-Clark


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