Oliver Napier

Last updated
Sir Oliver Napier
Oliver Napier.jpg
Leader of the Alliance Party
In office
1970–1972
Servingwith Bob Cooper
Preceded byCreated
Succeeded by Phelim O'Neill
In office
1972–1984
Preceded by Phelim O'Neill
Succeeded by John Cushnahan
Personal details
Born(1935-07-11)11 July 1935
Belfast, Northern Ireland
Died2 July 2011(2011-07-02) (aged 75)
Belfast, Northern Ireland
NationalityNorthern Irish
Political party Alliance
Spouse(s)Briege Barnes
Children9
Alma mater Queen's University Belfast
Occupation Solicitor

Sir Oliver Napier (11 July 1935 – 2 July 2011 [1] ) was the first leader of the Alliance Party of Northern Ireland. In 1974 he served as the first and only Legal Minister and head of the Office of Legal Reform in the Northern Ireland power-sharing executive set up by the Sunningdale Agreement.

The Alliance Party of Northern Ireland (APNI) is a liberal and centrist political party in Northern Ireland. It has long been Northern Ireland's fifth-largest party overall, with eight seats in the Northern Ireland Assembly, but placed third in first preference votes in the most recent election, winning one of the three Northern Ireland seats in the European Parliament.

The Sunningdale Agreement was an attempt to establish a power-sharing Northern Ireland Executive and a cross-border Council of Ireland. The Agreement was signed at Sunningdale Park located in Sunningdale, Berkshire, on 9 December 1973. Unionist opposition, violence and a loyalist general strike caused the collapse of the Agreement in May 1974.

Contents

Early life

Napier was educated at St. Malachy's College, Belfast and the Queen's University of Belfast before starting work as a solicitor.

St. Malachys College

St. Malachy's College, in Belfast, Northern Ireland, is the oldest Catholic diocesan college on the island of Ireland. The College motto is 'Gloria Ab Intus', 'Glory from within'.

Belfast City in the United Kingdom, capital of Northern Ireland

Belfast is the capital and largest city of Northern Ireland, standing on the banks of the River Lagan on the east coast of Ireland. It is the largest city in Northern Ireland and second-largest on the island of Ireland, after Dublin. It had a population of 333,871 as of 2015.

Political career

Napier joined the Ulster Liberal Party, rising to become Vice President by 1969. That year, he led a group of four party members who joined the New Ulster Movement, accepting the post of joint Chairman of its political committee. The Liberal Party promptly expelled him, but, working with Bob Cooper, he used his position to establish a new political party, the Alliance Party of Northern Ireland, which sought to become a political force that could command support from across the divided communities of the province, but remaining pro-union. [2] This aimed to offer an alternative to what Napier described as the sectarianism of the Ulster Unionist Party. Despite his faith he was a supporter of the Union.

The Ulster Liberal Party was a liberal political party in Northern Ireland, supporting a unionist position and linked to the British Liberal Party.

The New Ulster Movement (NUM) was a political pressure group in Northern Ireland which aimed to promote moderate and non-sectarian policies and to help candidates who supported Terence O'Neill, the Northern Ireland Prime Minister, in the election on 24 February 1969.

Sir Robert George Cooper CBE, popularly known as Sir Bob Cooper, was a politician and equal opportunities activist in Northern Ireland.

He served as the party's joint leader from 1970 until 1972, then as its sole leader from 1973 to 1984. [3] Under his leadership Alliance participated in successive assemblies that sought to solve the debate on the province's position, including the Northern Ireland Assembly, 1973 in which Napier was a minister in the power-sharing Executive. In 1979 he came closer to winning a seat in the Westminster Parliament than any other Alliance candidate up to that point when he was less than a thousand votes behind Peter Robinson's winning total in Belfast East in a tight three-way marginal. This record was beaten in 2010, when Naomi Long ousted Robinson from the same seat. When Napier stepped down as leader in 1984 he received many plaudits for his work. The following year he was knighted and in 1989 he stood down from Belfast City Council, seemingly to retire.

A minister is a politician who heads a government department, making and implementing decisions on policies in conjunction with the other ministers. In some jurisdictions the head of government is also a minister and is designated the "prime minister", "premier", "chief minister", "Chancellor" or other title.

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Belfast East (UK Parliament constituency) Parliamentary constituency in the United Kingdom

Belfast East is a parliamentary constituency in the United Kingdom House of Commons. The current MP is Gavin Robinson of the Democratic Unionist Party elected in 2015. Historically, the constituency has generally elected Unionist MPs, but was represented by the Alliance Party of Northern Ireland between 2010 and 2015.

However, in 1995 he returned to the political fray when he contested the North Down by-election for the Alliance, standing again in the 1997 general election.

The 1995 North Down by-election, in the North Down constituency, was held on 15 June, following the death of James Kilfedder, who had represented the constituency since the 1970 general election. Kilfedder had formed the Ulster Popular Unionist Party in 1980, but the party disintegrated on his death.

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In 1996 he was elected to the Northern Ireland Peace Forum for North Down.

North Down (UK Parliament constituency) Parliamentary constituency in the United Kingdom

North Down is a parliamentary constituency in the United Kingdom House of Commons. The current MP is Sylvia Hermon, first elected in the 2001 general election. Hermon represented the constituency on behalf of the Ulster Unionist Party until 2010, subsequently sitting as an Independent.

Prior to his death Oliver Napier was the last prominent member of the Ulster Liberal Party.

Public positions

Napier served on the Board of Governors of the first integrated school in Northern Ireland, Lagan College.

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References

  1. https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-northern-ireland-14001215
  2. Thomas G. Mitchell, Indispensable Traitors, pp.10–11; 34–35
  3. Thomas G. Mitchell, Indispensable Traitors, p.64
Northern Ireland Assembly (1973)
New assembly Assembly Member for East Belfast
1973–1974
Assembly abolished
Northern Ireland Constitutional Convention
New convention Member for East Belfast
1975–1976
Convention dissolved
Northern Ireland Assembly (1982)
New assembly MPA for East Belfast
1982–1986
Assembly abolished
Northern Ireland Forum
New forum Member for North Down
1996–1998
Forum abolished
Party political offices
New title Joint Leader of the Alliance Party of Northern Ireland
1970–72
With: Bob Cooper
Succeeded by
Phelim O'Neill (acting)
Preceded by
Phelim O'Neill (acting)
Leader of the Alliance Party (NI)
1973–1984
Succeeded by
John Cushnahan