Brian Faulkner, Baron Faulkner of Downpatrick

Brian Faulkner, Baron Faulkner of Downpatrick

Infobox Prime Minister
honorific-prefix = The Right Honourable
name=Brian Faulkner
honorific-suffix =
The Lord Faulkner, PC

imagesize = 150px
office =Prime Minister of Northern Ireland
term_start = March 23 1971
term_end = March 30 1972
predecessor =James Chichester-Clark
successor =None "(Office abolished)"
constituency_MP2 = East Down
parliament2 =Northern Ireland
term_start2 = 19 February 1949
term_end2 = 30 March 1972
predecessor2 = Alexander Gordon
successor2 = None "(Parliament Prorogued)
Abolished 1973
birth_date = Birth date|1921|02|18
birth_place =County Down, Ireland
death_date =death date and age|1977|03|03|1921|02|18
death_place = County Down, Northern Ireland
party= Ulster Unionist Party, UPNI

Arthur Brian Deane Faulkner, Baron Faulkner of Downpatrick, PC (February 18, 1921 - March 3, 1977) was the sixth and last Prime Minister of Northern Ireland from March 1971 until his resignation in March 1972. He was also the first Chief Executive of the Northern Ireland Assembly.

Early life

Faulkner was born in Helen's Bay, County Down, the elder of two sons (his brother being Col. Sir Dennis Faulkner CBE) of James and Lilian Faulkner. James Faulkner owned the Belfast Collar Company, then the largest single purpose shirt manufacturer in the world, employing some 3,000 people. He was educated initially in County Armagh, Northern Ireland, but at 14 was sent to the Church of Ireland St Columba's College at Rathfarnham in Dublin, although Faulkner was Presbyterian. Faulkner chose St. Columba's, preferring to stay in Ireland, rather than go to school in England; whilst there his best friend was Michael Yeats, son of W.B. Yeats. He was the first Prime Minister of Northern Ireland to be educated on the island of Ireland.

Faulkner entered the Queen's University of Belfast in 1939 to study law, but, with the advent of war, he quit his studies to work full time in the family shirt-making business.

Early political career

Faulkner became involved in Unionist politics, the first of his family to do so, and was elected to Stormont as Ulster Unionist Party Member of Parliamenr (MP) for the constituency of East Down in 1949. His vociferous traditional Unionist approach to politics ensured him a prominent backbench position. He was, at the time, the youngest ever MP in the Northern Irish Parliament. [ [ Ulster Biography] ] He was also the first Chairman of the Ulster Young Unionist Council in 1949. In 1956 Faulkner was offered and accepted the job of Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Finance, or Government Chief Whip.

Heading various Ministries

In 1959 he became Minister of Home Affairs and his safe handling of security for most of the IRA campaign of 1956-62 bolstered his reputation in the eyes of the right wing of Ulster Unionism.Fact|date=October 2007

When Terence O'Neill became Prime Minister in 1963 he offered Faulkner, his chief rival for the job, the post of Minister of Commerce. Faulkner accepted and, until his acrimonious resignation in 1969, revelled and was extremely successful (from his point of view, but was congratulated by others, including the Nationalist opposition for his energetic and sustained approach) in this high profile role.

His resignation over the technicalities of how and when to bring in the local government reforms which the British Labour Government was pushing for was probably the final nail in the political coffin of Terence O'Neill, who resigned in the aftermath of his failure to achieve a good enough result in the Northern Ireland general election, 1969.

In the ensuing leadership contest, Faulkner was again denied the prize when O'Neill gave his casting vote to his cousin, James Chichester-Clark. In 1970, Faulkner became the Father of the House.

Faulkner came back into government as Minister of Development under Chichester-Clark and in a sharp turn-around, began the implementation of the political reforms that were the main cause of his resignation from O'Neill's Cabinet.

Chichester-Clark himself resigned in 1971; the political and security situation and the more intensive British interest proved too much for this mild-mannered man.

Prime Minister

Promising beginnings

Faulkner finally achieved what history has deemed was his political goal in March 1971 when he was elected leader of the Ulster Unionist Party and Prime Minister. His year in this office was a disaster both for himself and for the UUP's fifty year hold on power in the region.

In his initial innovative approach to government, he gave a non-unionist, David Bleakley, a former Northern Ireland Labour Party (NILP) MP, a position in his Cabinet as Minister of Community Relations. In June 1971, he proposed three new powerful committees at Stormont which would give the Opposition salaried chairmanships of two of them.

Initial troubles

However, this initiative (radical at the time) was overtaken by events. A shooting by British soldiers of two Nationalist youths in Derry caused the Social Democratic and Labour Party, the main Opposition, to boycott the Stormont Parliament. The political climate deteriorated further when in answer to a worsening security situation Faulkner introduced internment on 9 August 1971. This alone was a disaster; instead of lessening the violence, it caused the situation to worsen.

Despite this, Faulkner continued his radical (for the time) approach to Northern Ireland politics and, following Bleakley's resignation in September 1971 over the internment issue, appointed Dr. G.B. Newe, a prominent lay Catholic as Minister of State in the Cabinet Office.

However, Faulkner staggered on through the rest of 1971, insisting that security was the paramount issue. In January 1972, an incident occurred during an anti-internment march in Derry, during which British paratroopers shot and killed fourteen unarmed civilians. What history has come to know as Bloody Sunday was, in essence, the finish of Faulkner's government. In March 1972, Faulkner refused to maintain a government without security powers which the British decided to take back. So the British Government dissolved the Stormont parliament and imposed direct rule.

In the immediate aftermath of the dissolution of the Northern Ireland parliament, he initially joined with the militant Vanguard movement to organise against the action of the British government.

As Chief Executive

In June 1973, elections were held to a new devolved parliament, the Northern Ireland Assembly. The elections split the Ulster Unionist Party. Faulkner became Chief Executive in a power-sharing executive with the SDLP and the middle-of-the-road Alliance Party, a political alliance cemented at the Sunningdale Conference that year. However the prominence in the Sunningdale Agreement of the cross-border Council of Ireland suggested that Faulkner had strayed just too far ahead of his party. A section of the party had previously broken away to form the Vanguard Progressive Unionist Party which contested the elections in opposition to the UUP.

In 1974 Faulkner lost the leadership of the Ulster Unionists to anti-Sunningdale elements led by Harry West. He subsequently resigned from the Ulster Unionist Party and formed his own Unionist Party of Northern Ireland (UPNI).

The power-sharing Executive which he led lasted only six months and was brought down by a loyalist Ulster Workers Council Strike in May 1974. Loyalist paramilitary organisations were prominent in intimidating utility workers and blockading roads. The strike had the tacit support of many Unionists.

Faulkner's party fared badly in the Convention elections of 1975 winning only five out of the 78 seats contested. Whereas Faulkner had topped the poll in South Down (Assembly constituency)
South Down
in 1973 with over 16,000 votes he polled just 6035 votes in 1975 and finished seventh, winning the final seat. [ [ South Down constituency results] ] In 1976 Faulkner announced that he was quitting active politics and, on 7 February 1977, he became a life peer, taking the title Baron Faulkner of Downpatrick, of Downpatrick in County Down.

Personal life

He married Lucy Forsythe, a graduate of Trinity College, Dublin, in 1951. They met through their common interest in hunting. She was equally at home in a political partnership having had a career in journalism and was secretary to the Northern Ireland Prime Minister, Lord Brookeborough, when they met. Together they had three children - a daughter and two sons, they took up residence in Highlands Estate, not far from the village of Seaforde, he surrounded the children with heavy security presence (including Ulster Defence Regiment soldiers) and took no risks with his own life, the house being designed that every room lead to another, and panic buttons laid throughout. One of his sons, Michael, has published a biographical book, "The Blue Cabin" (2006) about his move to the family's former holiday house on the island of Islandmore.


Lord Faulkner, a keen huntsman, died on 3 March 1977 at the age of 56 following a riding accident whilst fox hunting (with the Down Staghounds) near Saintfield, County Down. Faulkner had been riding at a full gallop when his horse slipped; he was thrown off and killed instantly. Lord Faulkner had retired from active politics and was pursuing his interests in industry at the time of his death. His twenty-four day life peerage is thus believed to have been the shortest-lived; [] although there have been hereditary peerages, most notably Lord Leighton, which have been shorter still.



* The Lord Faulkner, "Memoirs of a Statesman", Weidenfeld & Nicolson, London, 1978 (An autobiography published posthumously)
* David Bleakley, "Faulkner", Mowbrays, London, 1974
* Andrew Boyd, "Brian Faulkner and the Crisis of Ulster Unionism", Anvil Books, Tralee, Ireland, 1972.
* The Hon. Michael Faulkner, "The Blue Cabin", Blackstaff Press, Belfast, 2006.
* Mark Carruthers, "Brian Faulkner 'Soft Hardliner': an assessment of political leadership in a divided society", unpublished MSc thesis Queen's University Belfast (QUB), 1989.
* James P. Condren, "Brian Faulkner - Ulster Unionist: The long road to the premiership", PhD thesis, University of Ulster, 2005.

ee also

* List of Northern Ireland Members of the House of Lords

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