Chief Secretary for Ireland

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Chief Secretary for Ireland
Arms of Ireland (historical).svg
Arms of the Kingdom of Ireland
Style The Right Honourable
as a member of the Privy Council
Residence Chief Secretary's Lodge (from 1776)
Appointer The Lord Lieutenant
Term length At the pleasure of the Lord Lieutenant
Inaugural holder Edward Woodhouse
Formation20 January 1566
Final holder Sir Hamar Greenwood
Abolished19 October 1922
The Chief Secretary's office in Dublin Castle.
The Chief Secretary's residence was the Chief Secretary's Lodge in the Phoenix Park, next to the Viceregal Lodge. Chiefsecoffice.jpg
The Chief Secretary's office in Dublin Castle.
The Chief Secretary's residence was the Chief Secretary's Lodge in the Phoenix Park, next to the Viceregal Lodge.

The Chief Secretary for Ireland was a key political office in the British administration in Ireland. Nominally subordinate to the Lord Lieutenant, and officially the "Chief Secretary to the Lord Lieutenant", [1] from the early 19th century until the end of British rule he was effectively the government minister with responsibility for governing Ireland, roughly equivalent to the role of a Secretary of State, such as the similar role of Secretary of State for Scotland. Usually it was the Chief Secretary, rather than the Lord Lieutenant, who sat in the British Cabinet. [2] The Chief Secretary was ex officio President of the Local Government Board for Ireland from its creation in 1872. [3]


British rule over much of Ireland came to an end as the result of the Irish War of Independence, which culminated in the establishment of the Irish Free State. In consequence the office of Chief Secretary was abolished, as well as that of Lord Lieutenant. Executive responsibility within the Irish Free State and Northern Ireland was effectively transferred to the President of the Executive Council (i.e. the prime minister) and the Prime Minister of Northern Ireland respectively.

History of the office

The dominant position of the Lord Lieutenant at Dublin Castle had been central to the British administration of the Kingdom of Ireland for much of its history. Poynings' Law in particular meant that the Parliament of Ireland lacked an independent power of legislation, and the Crown kept control of executive authority in the hands of the Lord Lieutenant and its own appointees, rather than in the hands of ministers responsible to the Irish parliament.

In 1560 Queen Elizabeth I of England and Ireland ordered the Lord Lieutenant, the Earl of Sussex, to appoint John Challoner of Dublin as Secretary of State for Ireland "because at this present there is none appointed to be Clerk of our Council there, and considering how more meet it were, that in our realm there were for our honour one to be our Secretary there for the affairs of our Realm". [4] The appointment of a Secretary was intended to both improve Irish administration, and to keep the Lord Lieutenant in line.[ citation needed ] The role of Secretary of State for Ireland and Chief Secretary of Ireland were originally distinct positions, Thomas Pelham being the first individual appointed to both offices concurrently in 1796. [5]

Over time, the post of Chief Secretary gradually increased in importance, particularly because of his role as manager of legislative business for the Government in the Irish House of Commons, in which he sat as an MP. While the Irish administration was not responsible to the parliament, it nevertheless needed to manage and influence it in order to ensure the passage of legislation.

Chief Secretary Viscount Castlereagh played a key role in the enactment of the Act of Union which passed in the Irish Parliament on its second attempt in 1800 through the exercise of patronage and direct bribery.[ citation needed ] Upon the Union on 1 January 1801, the Kingdom of Ireland was merged into the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland and the Irish parliament ceased to exist. However, the existing system of administration in Ireland continued broadly in place, with the offices of Lord Lieutenant and Chief Secretary retaining their respective roles.

The last Chief Secretary to represent an Irish constituency while in office was Chichester Parkinson-Fortescue, MP for County Louth, serving from 1868 to 1871.

The last Chief Secretary was Sir Hamar Greenwood, who left office in October 1922. The Irish Free State, comprising the greater part of Ireland, would become independent on 6 December 1922. In Northern Ireland, a new Government of Northern Ireland was established with a Prime Minister of Northern Ireland. This government was suspended in 1972, and the position of Secretary of State for Northern Ireland was created as a position in the British cabinet.

List of Chief Secretaries for Ireland

This list includes holders of a key political office in the British administration in Ireland. Nominally subordinate to the Lord Lieutenant, from the late 18th century until the end of British rule he was effectively the government minister with responsibility for governing Ireland; usually it was the Chief Secretary, rather than the Lord Lieutenant, who sat in the British Cabinet. [2] Exceptions were the periods from 29 June 1895 to 8 August 1902, when the Lord Lieutenant Lord Cadogan sat in the Cabinet and the Chief Secretaries Gerald Balfour until 9 November 1900 did not sit there and George Wyndham from that date also sat there, [6] and from 28 October 1918 to 2 April 1921, when both the Lord Lieutenant Lord French and the Chief Secretaries Edward Shortt, Ian Macpherson and Sir Hamar Greenwood sat in the Cabinet. [7]

Kingdom of Ireland


NamePortraitTerm of officeServed under
Edward Waterhouse [8] No image.svg 20 January 15669 October 1567Sir Henry Sidney
Edward Waterhouse
(second time) [8]
No image.svg 28 October 1568Sir Henry Sidney
Edmund Tremayne No image.svg 15 July 156931 March 1571Sir Henry Sidney
Philip Williams No image.svg post March 157117 September 1575Sir William Fitzwilliam
Edmund Molyneux No image.svg 18 September 1575Sir Henry Sidney
Edmund Spenser Edmund Spenser oil painting.JPG 7 September 158030 August 1582 The Lord Grey de Wilton
Philip Williams No image.svg 21 June 158410 August 1594 Sir John Perrot
Sir William FitzWilliam
Richard Cooke [9] No image.svg 11 August 159421 May 1597 Sir William Russell
Philip Williams No image.svg 22 May 159713 October 1597 The Lord Burgh
Henry Wotton SirHenryWotton.jpg 15 April 15994 September 1599 The Earl of Essex
Francis Mitchell No image.svg 28 February 1600March 1600 The Lord Mountjoy
George Cranmer No image.svg March 1600Died 16 July 1600 The Lord Mountjoy
Fynes Moryson No image.svg 14 November 160031 May 1603 The Lord Mountjoy
John Bingley No image.svg 1 June 16032 February 1605 Sir George Carey
Henry Piers No image.svg 3 February 160510 February 1616 Sir Arthur Chichester
Henry Holcroft [10] No image.svg 30 August 16163 May 1622 Sir Oliver St John
Sir John Veele No image.svg 8 September 162225 October 1629 The Viscount Falkland
George Lane No image.svg 21 January 1644April 1646 The Marquess of Ormonde


NamePortraitTerm of officeServed under
Matthew Locke No image.svg 16601660 The Lord Robartes
Sir Thomas Page No image.svg 16621669 The Duke of Ormonde:
The Earl of Ossory
Henry Ford No image.svg 16691670 The Lord Robartes
Sir Ellis Leighton No image.svg 16701672 The Lord Berkeley of Stratton
Sir Henry Ford No image.svg 16721673 The Earl of Essex
William Harbord No image.svg 16731676 The Earl of Essex
Sir Cyril Wyche SirCyrilWyche.jpg 16771682 The Duke of Ormonde
Sir William Ellis No image.svg 16821685 The Duke of Ormonde
Sir Paul Rycaut Sir Paul Rycaut by Sir Peter Lely.jpg 16861687 The Earl of Clarendon
Thomas Sheridan No image.svg 16871688 [11] The Earl of Tyrconnell
Bishop Patrick Tyrrell No image.svg 16881689 The Earl of Tyrconnell
John Davis No image.svg 16901692
Sir Cyril Wyche SirCyrilWyche.jpg 16921693 [12] The Viscount Sydney
Sir Richard Aldworth No image.svg 16931696 The Lord Capell
William Palmer No image.svg 16961697
Matthew Prior Matthew Prior by Thomas Hudson.jpg 16971699
Humphrey May No image.svg 16991701


NamePortraitTerm of officeServed under
Francis Gwyn No image.svg 17011703 The Earl of Rochester
Edward Southwell Edward Southwell.jpg 17031707 The Duke of Ormonde
George Dodington No image.svg 17071708 The Earl of Pembroke
Joseph Addison Joseph Addison by Sir Godfrey Kneller, Bt.jpg 17081710 The Earl of Wharton
Edward Southwell Edward Southwell.jpg 17101713 The Duke of Ormonde
Sir John Stanley, Bt No image.svg 17131714 The Duke of Shrewsbury
Joseph Addison Joseph Addison by Sir Godfrey Kneller, Bt.jpg 17141715 The Earl of Sunderland
Martin Bladen and
Charles Delafaye
No image.svg 17151717
Edward Webster No image.svg 17171720 The Duke of Bolton
Horatio Walpole Horacy Walpole (1678 -1757) - brat Sir Roberta.jpg 17201721 The Duke of Grafton
Edward Hopkins No image.svg 17211724 The Duke of Grafton
Thomas Clutterbuck No image.svg 17241730 The Lord Carteret
Walter Cary
(also spelt 'Carey')
No image.svg 17301737 The Duke of Dorset
Sir Edward Walpole SirEdwardWalpole.jpg 17371739 The Duke of Devonshire
Thomas Townshend No image.svg 17391739 The Duke of Devonshire
Hon. Henry Bilson Legge HenryBilsonLegge.jpg 17391741 The Duke of Devonshire
Viscount Duncannon Joshua Reynolds, Portrait of William Ponsonby, 2nd Earl of Bessborough (c. 1760).jpg 17411745 The Duke of Devonshire
Richard Liddell No image.svg 17451746 The Earl of Chesterfield
Sewallis Shirley No image.svg 17461746 The Earl of Chesterfield
Edward Weston 17461750 The Earl of Harrington


NamePortraitTerm of officeServed under
Lord George Sackville George Germain, 1st Viscount Sackville.PNG 17501755 The Duke of Dorset
Hon. Henry Seymour Conway Field Marshal Conway.jpg 17551757 The Duke of Devonshire
Richard Rigby No image.svg 17571761 The Duke of Bedford
William Gerard Hamilton Right Honourable William Gerard Hamilton, one of his Majesty's Most Honourable Privy Council and chancellor of the Exchequer, in Ireland.jpg 17611764 The Earl of Halifax;
The Earl of Northumberland
The Earl of Drogheda Charles Moore, 1st Marquess of Drogheda.jpg 17641765 The Earl of Northumberland
Sir Charles Bunbury Sir Thomas Charles Bunbury Bt.jpg 17651765 The Viscount Weymouth
Viscount Conway Francis Seymour Conway, 2nd Marquess of Hertford NPG D9798.jpg 17651766 The Earl of Hertford
Hon. Augustus Hervey Augustus John Hervey, 3rd Earl of Bristol by Sir Joshua Reynolds.jpg 17661767 [13] The Earl of Bristol
Theophilus Jones No image.svg 17671767 The Earl of Bristol
Lord Frederick Campbell Lord Frederick Campbell (1729-1816) by Henry Raeburn.jpg 17671768 The Viscount Townshend
Sir George Macartney George Macartney, 1st Earl Macartney by Lemuel Francis Abbott.jpg 17691772 The Viscount Townshend
Sir John Blaquiere 1stLordDeBlaquiere.jpg 17721776 The Earl Harcourt
Sir Richard Heron No image.svg 17761780 The Earl of Buckinghamshire
William Eden William Eden 1. baron Auckland.jpg 17801782 The Earl of Carlisle
Hon. Richard FitzPatrick No image.svg 17821782 The Duke of Portland
William Grenville 1st Baron Grenville-cropped.jpg 17821783 The Earl Temple
William Windham WilliamWindham.jpg 17831783 The Earl of Northington
Hon. Thomas Pelham 2ndEarlOfChichester.jpg 17831784 The Earl of Northington
Thomas Orde Thomas Orde-Powlett 1st Baron Bolton.jpg 17841787 The Duke of Rutland
Alleyne FitzHerbert Alleyne FitzHerbert04738.jpg 17871789 The Marquess of Buckingham
Hon. Robert Hobart 4thEarlOfBuckinghamshire.jpg 17891793 The Marquess of Buckingham;
The Earl of Westmorland
Sylvester Douglas 1stLordGlenbervie.jpg 17931794 The Earl of Westmorland
Viscount Milton George Damer 2nd Earl of Dorchester.jpg 17941795 The Earl FitzWilliam
Thomas Pelham 2ndEarlOfChichester.jpg 17951798 The Earl Camden
Viscount Castlereagh Lord Castlereagh Marquess of Londonderry.jpg 17981801 The Marquess Cornwallis

United Kingdom


NamePortraitTerm of officePolitical party
Charles Abbot
MP for Helston
Charles Abbot, 1st Baron Colchester by John Hoppner.jpg 18011802 Tory
William Wickham
MP for Cashel
William Wickham (1761-1840) Chief Secretary Ireland.jpg 18021804 Tory
Sir Evan Nepean, Bt
MP for Bridport
SirEvanNepean.JPG 18041805 Tory
Nicholas Vansittart
MP for Old Sarum
Nicholas Vansittart, 1st Baron Bexley.jpg 18051805 Tory
Charles Long
MP for Wendover
1stLordFarnborough.jpg 18051806 Tory
William Elliot
MP for Peterborough
No image.svg 18061807 Whig
Sir Arthur Wellesley
MP for Tralee (1807)
MP for Mitchell (1807)
MP for Newport (1807–09)
Lord Arthur Wellesley the Duke of Wellington.jpg 18071809 Tory
Robert Dundas
MP for Midlothian
Robert Saunders Dundas, 2nd Viscount Melville.jpg 18091809 Tory
William Wellesley-Pole
MP for Queen's County
William Wellesley-Pole, later 1st Baron Maryborough, by Thomas Lawrence.jpg 18091812 Tory
Robert Peel
MP for Chippenham (1812–17)
MP for Oxford University (1817–29)
Robert Peel by RR Scanlan detail.jpg 18121818 Tory
Charles Grant
MP for Inverness-shire
Lord-glenelg.jpg 18181821 Tory
Henry Goulburn
MP for West Looe (1818–26)
MP for Armagh City (1826–31)
HenryGoulburn.jpg 18211827 Tory
William Lamb
MP for Bletchingley
William Lamb, 2nd Viscount Melbourne, painted by John Partridge.jpg 29 April 182721 June 1828 Whig
Lord Francis Leveson-Gower
MP for Sutherland
Francis Egerton, 1st Earl of Ellesmere by Edwin Longsden Long.jpg 21 June 182830 July 1830 Tory
Sir Henry Hardinge
MP for St Germans
Henryhardinge.jpg 30 July 183015 November 1830 Tory
Edward Smith-Stanley
MP for Windsor (1831–32)
MP for North Lancashire (1832–44)
14th Earl of Derby.jpg 29 November 183029 March 1833 Whig
Sir John Hobhouse, Bt
MP for Westminster
John Cam Hobhouse.jpg 29 March 1833May 1833 Whig
Edward Littleton
MP for South Staffordshire
Edward John Littleton, 1st Baron Hatherton by Sir George Hayter.jpg May 183314 November 1834 Whig
Sir Henry Hardinge
MP for Launceston
Henryhardinge.jpg 16 December 18348 April 1835 Conservative
Viscount Morpeth
MP for West Riding of Yorkshire
7th Earl of Carlisle.jpg 22 April 183530 August 1841 Whig
Lord Eliot
MP for East Cornwall
No image.svg 6 February 18411 February 1845 Conservative
Sir Thomas Fremantle, Bt
MP for Buckingham
1st Baron Cottesloe.png 1 February 184514 February 1846 Conservative
The Earl of Lincoln
MP for Falkirk Burghs
5thDukeOfNewcastle.jpg 14 February 1846June 1846 Conservative
Henry Labouchere
MP for Taunton
Charles Baugniet00a.jpg 6 July 184622 July 1847 Whig
Sir William Somerville, Bt
MP for Drogheda
No image.svg 22 July 184721 February 1852 Whig


NamePortraitTerm of officePolitical party
Lord Naas
MP for Coleraine
6th Earl of Mayo.jpg 1 March 185217 December 1852 Conservative
Sir John Young, Bt
MP for Cavan
John Young, 1st Baron Lisgar.png 6 January 185330 January 1855 Peelite
Edward Horsman
MP for Stroud
Horsman, Edward (1807-1876), by Southwell Brothers, c.1862-4.jpg 1 March 185527 May 1857 Whig
Henry Arthur Herbert
MP for Kerry
No image.svg 27 May 185721 February 1858 Whig
Lord Naas
MP for Cockermouth
6th Earl of Mayo.jpg 4 March 185811 June 1859 Conservative
Edward Cardwell
MP for Oxford
1stViscountCardwell.jpg 24 June 185929 July 1861 Liberal
Sir Robert Peel, Bt
MP for Tamworth
Peel, Sir Robert, third baronet (1822-1895), by Camille Silvy.jpg 29 July 18617 December 1865 Liberal
Chichester Parkinson-Fortescue
MP for County Louth
1st Baron Carlingford.jpg 7 December 186526 June 1866 Liberal
The Earl of Mayo
MP for Cockermouth
6th Earl of Mayo.jpg 10 July 186629 September 1868 Conservative
John Wilson-Patten
MP for North Lancashire
John Wilson-Patten.jpg 29 September 18681 December 1868 Conservative
Chichester Parkinson-Fortescue
MP for County Louth
1st Baron Carlingford.jpg 16 December 186812 January 1871 Liberal
Marquess of Hartington
MP for Radnor
Picture of Spencer Cavendish, 8th Duke of Devonshire.jpg 12 January 187117 February 1874 Liberal
Sir Michael Hicks-Beach, Bt
MP for East Gloucestershire
St Aldwyn Michael Edward Hicks-Beach (1st Earl).jpg 27 February 187415 February 1878 Conservative
James Lowther
MP for City of York
James Lowther Vanity Fair 8 December 1877.jpg 15 February 187821 April 1880 Conservative
William Edward Forster
MP for Bradford
William Edward Forster - Project Gutenberg eText 13789.jpg 30 April 18806 May 1882 Liberal
Lord Frederick Cavendish
MP for West Riding of Yorkshire North
Cavendish, Lord Frederick Charles (1836-1882), by John D. Miller, pubd 1883 (after Sir William Blake Richmond, exh. RA 1874).jpg 6 May 18826 May 1882 Liberal
George Trevelyan
MP for Hawick Burghs
George Otto Trevelyan portrait early career.jpg 9 May 188223 October 1884 Liberal
Henry Campbell-Bannerman
MP for Stirling Burghs
Sir-Henry-Campbell-Bannerman.jpg 23 October 18849 June 1885 Liberal
Sir William Hart Dyke, Bt
MP for Mid Kent
William Hart Dyke by George W Baldry.jpg 25 June 188523 January 1886 Conservative
William Henry Smith
MP for Strand
William Henry Smith (1825-1891).jpg 23 January 188628 January 1886 Conservative
John Morley
MP for Newcastle-upon-Tyne
John Morley 2.jpg 6 February 188620 July 1886 Liberal
Sir Michael Hicks Beach, Bt
MP for Bristol West
St Aldwyn Michael Edward Hicks-Beach (1st Earl).jpg 5 August 18867 March 1887 Conservative
Arthur Balfour
MP for Manchester East
A.J. Balfour LCCN2014682753 (cropped).jpg 7 March 18879 November 1891 Conservative
William Jackson
MP for Leeds North
William Lawies Jackson.JPG 9 November 189111 August 1892 Conservative
John Morley
MP for Montrose Burghs
John Morley 2.jpg 22 August 189221 June 1895 Liberal
Gerald Balfour
MP for Leeds Central
GeraldBalfour.jpg 18951900 Conservative


NamePortraitTerm of officePolitical party
George Wyndham
MP for Dover
George Wyndham.jpg 9 November 190012 March 1905 Conservative
Walter Long
MP for Bristol South
Walter Hume Long, 1st Viscount Long portrait.jpg 12 March 19054 December 1905 Conservative
James Bryce
MP for Aberdeen South
1st Viscount Bryce 1902b.jpg 10 December 190523 January 1907 Liberal
Augustine Birrell
MP for Bristol North
Augustine Birrell.jpg 23 January 19073 May 1916 Liberal
Henry Duke
MP for Exeter
1stLordMerrivale.jpg 31 July 19165 May 1918 Conservative
Edward Shortt
MP for Newcastle upon Tyne West
Edward Shortt.jpg 5 May 191810 January 1919 Liberal
Ian Macpherson
MP for Ross and Cromarty
1923 Ian Macpherson.jpg 10 January 19192 April 1920 Liberal
Sir Hamar Greenwood, Bt
MP for Sunderland
Hamar Greenwood (Bain Collection).jpg 2 April 192019 October 1922 Liberal

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  1. The National Archives. "Irish administration". Last retrieved 12 November 2015.
  2. 1 2 Quinlan, Tom. "The Registered Papers of the Chief Secretary's Office". National Archives of Ireland . Retrieved 7 June 2011.
  3. "Local Government Board (Ireland) Act, 1872 sec.2". Irish Statute Book . Retrieved 13 October 2016.
  4. Herbert Wood, The Offices of Secretary of State for Ireland and Keeper of the Royal Privy Seal, in Proceedings of the Royal Irish Academy, Section C: Archaeology, Celtic Studies, History, Linguistics, Literature (1928), p. 51
  5. Herbert Wood, The Offices of Secretary of State for Ireland and Keeper of the Royal Privy Seal, in Proceedings of the Royal Irish Academy, Section C: Archaeology, Celtic Studies, History, Linguistics, Literature (1928), p. 55
  6. Chris Cook and Brendan Keith, British Historical Facts 1830–1900, Macmillan, 1975, pages 45–46
  7. British Political Facts 1900–1994, by David Butler and Gareth Butler (Macmillan Press, 7th edition 1994) Page7.
  8. 1 2 Handbook of British Chronology calls him 'Sir Edward Waterhouse', but he was not knighted until 1584
  9. Handbook of British Chronology calls him 'Sir Richard Cooke', but he was not knighted until 1603 – see History of Parliament – Member Biographies
  10. knighted 1 May 1622 – see History of Parliament – Member Biographies
  11. 'removed from his offices on 20 January 1688' John Miller, ‘Sheridan, Thomas (1646–1712)’, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, Oct 2006, accessed 3 Aug 2014
  12. 'Following Sidney's removal as lord lieutenant in 1693 Wyche was appointed one of three lords justices to take over the chief governorship of Ireland.'C. I. McGrath, ‘Wyche, Sir Cyril (c.1632–1707)’, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, 2004, accessed 3 Aug 2014
  13. In July 1767 he resigned, having quarrelled with his brother over his own continuing attachment to George Grenville. Ruddock Mackay, ‘Hervey, Augustus John, third earl of Bristol (1724–1779)’, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, 2004; online edn, Sept 2010, accessed 3 Aug 2014