Terence O'Neill

Terence O'Neill

Infobox Prime Minister
honorific-prefix = The Right Honourable
name=Terence O'Neill
honorific-suffix =
The Lord O'Neill, PC

imagesize = 150px
office =Prime Minister of Northern Ireland
term_start = March 25 1963
term_end = May 1 1969
predecessor =Basil Brooke, 1st Viscount Brookeborough
successor =James Chichester-Clark
constituency_MP2 = Bannside
parliament2 =Northern Ireland
term_start2 = 7 November 1946
term_end2 = 16 April 1970
predecessor2 = Malcolm William Patrick
successor2 = Ian Paisley
birth_date = Birth date|1914|09|10
birth_place =London, England
death_date =death date and age|1990|06|12|1914|09|10
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.


Terence O'Neill was born on the 10 September 1914 at 29 Ennismore Gardens, Hyde Park, London. [Oxford Dictionary of National Biography] 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. [Oxford Dictionary of National Biography] During World War II he served in the Irish Guards.

On 4 February 1944 he married Katharine Jean (b. 16 January 1915 - d. 15 July 2008 [http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/obituaries/2494952/Lady-ONeill-of-the-Maine.html] ), the daughter of William Ingham Whitaker, of Pylewell Park, Lymington, Hampshire. They had one son, Patrick (b. 1945), and one daughter, Penelope (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. He was Minister of Home Affairs from April to October 1956 when he was appointed Minister for Finance.

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 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 May 1968, O'Neill was pelted with eggs, flour and stones by members of the Woodvale Unionist association who disapproved of his perceived conciliatory policies.

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.


The electorate was faced with a simple choice: pro- or anti-O'Neill. However, 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 in 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...they will refuse to have 18 children.... If you treat Roman Catholics with due consideration and kindness, they will live like Protestants in spite of the authoritative nature of their Church."


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.


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


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.

ee also

* List of Northern Ireland Members of the House of Lords

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