Ulster Liberal Party

Last updated

Ulster Liberal Party
Founded1929, 1956
Ideology Liberalism
Political position Centre
National affiliation Liberal Party

The Ulster Liberal Party was a liberal and non-sectarian political party in Northern Ireland linked to the British Liberal Party. The party was officially neutral on the constitutional position of Northern Ireland. Members expressed different views on the issue but agreed that Northern Ireland could only join the Republic of Ireland if that was the wish of the majority of the people of Northern Ireland. [1]



Active before the active the First World War, the Ulster Liberal Association sought to avoid a position on the question of Home Rule (the restoration of an Irish parliament in Dublin) which had seen Liberal unionists split and join Conservatives in the Irish Unionist Alliance. In 1908, the Association dismissed the former Independent Orangeman and Liberal candidate for Mid Armagh in the 1906 parliamentary election, R. Lindsay Crawford as editor of its paper, Ulster Guardian, because it could not allow its pages "to be used directly or indirectly in support of devolution or Home Rule". [2]

After the creation of Northern Ireland as a home-ruled division of the United Kingdom in 1921, the Association was restyled the Northern Ireland Liberal Association, and in May 1928 relaunched itself as the Ulster Liberal Party. [3] It nominated candidates in the 1929 UK general election, [4] including future Seanad Éireann member Denis Ireland and Unbought Tenants' Association MP George Henderson, before the party became inactive.

The party was re-founded by Albert McElroy in 1956, as (again) the Ulster Liberal Association. [5] From 1961 to 1969, the party had one seat in the House of Commons of Northern Ireland, when Sheelagh Murnaghan held one of the four seats allocated to Queen's University, Belfast. [5] It was represented on the committee of the Northern Ireland Civil Rights Association in 1967. As a party it sought to end sectarian divisions in Northern Ireland and Murnaghan tried on four occasions to pass a Bill of Rights in the Northern Ireland Parliament to address discrimination. [6]

In 1969 Claude Wilton became a senator for the party in the Senate of Northern Ireland. [7]

After 1970, it suffered the loss of many of its members to the Alliance Party of Northern Ireland. [5] Its last political contest was the 1985 local government election, [8] after which its last remnants joined the Labour '87 group.[ citation needed ] The Liberal Democrats, successor to the British Liberal Party, later formed links with the Alliance Party. There is also a small local party of the Liberal Democrats in Northern Ireland, who do not contest elections.


As of 1971, the party's president was McElroy, while John Quinn was the chair, and Berkley Farr was the secretary. [9] Cecil Bell replaced Farr as secretary, and James Murray took over in 1979. From 1978 until 1982, the chair was Mervyn Cowan, the secretary was James Murray, and the position of president had been abolished. Patricia Cowan was the treasurer throughout. [10]

Electoral performance

Northern Ireland Parliament & Assembly elections

YearNo. of votesShare of votesSeats
1958 7590.3%
0 / 52
1962 11,0053.6%
1 / 52
1965 12,6183.9%
1 / 52
1969 7,3371.3%
0 / 52
1973 8110.1%
0 / 78
1982 650.0%
0 / 78

United Kingdom House of Commons elections

YearNo. of votesShare of votesSeats
1959 3,2530.6%
0 / 12
1964 17,3542.7%
0 / 12
1966 29,1094.9%
0 / 12
1970 10,9291.4%
0 / 12

Related Research Articles

Ulster Unionist Party British unionst political party in Northern Ireland

The Ulster Unionist Party (UUP) is a unionist and conservative political party in Northern Ireland. Having gathered support in Ulster, the northern province in Ireland, during the late-nineteenth and early-twentieth centuries, the party governed Northern Ireland between 1921 and 1972. It was supported by most unionist voters throughout the conflict known as the Troubles, during which time it was often referred to as the Official Unionist Party (OUP). Between 1905 and 1972, its peers and MPs took the Conservative whip at Westminster, in effect functioning as the Northern Irish branch of the Conservative and Unionist Party. This arrangement came to an end in 1972 over disagreements over the Sunningdale Agreement. The two parties have remained institutionally separate ever since, with the exception of the 2009–2012 Ulster Conservatives and Unionists electoral alliance.

Parliament of Northern Ireland Home rule legislature created in 1921

The Parliament of Northern Ireland was the home rule legislature of Northern Ireland, created under the Government of Ireland Act 1920, which sat from 7 June 1921 to 30 March 1972, when it was suspended because of its inability to restore order during The Troubles, resulting in the introduction of Direct Rule. It was abolished under the Northern Ireland Constitution Act 1973.

Unionism in Ireland Political ideology advocating UK sovereignty over Northern Ireland

Unionism in Ireland is a political tradition on the island that professes loyalty to the unifying Crown and constitution of the United Kingdom. Once the overwhelming sentiment of a then-ascendant minority Protestant population, in the decades following Catholic Emancipation (1829) it mobilised to oppose the restoration of an Irish parliament. Resurgent as "Ulster unionism", in the century since Partition (1921), its commitment has been to the retention within the United Kingdom of the six Ulster counties that constitute Northern Ireland. Within the framework of a peace settlement for Northern Ireland, since 1998 unionists have reconciled to sharing office with Irish nationalists in a devolved administration, while continuing to rely on the connection with Great Britain to secure their cultural and economic interests.

The Alliance Party of Northern Ireland (APNI) is a liberal and centrist political party in Northern Ireland. It is Northern Ireland's fifth-largest party, currently holding seven seats in the Northern Ireland Assembly, but has made recent breakthroughs to place third in first preference votes in the 2019 European Parliament election and third highest-polling regionally at the 2019 UK general election. The party won one of the three Northern Ireland seats in the European Parliament, and one seat, North Down, in the House of Commons.

Arthur Brian Deane Faulkner, Baron Faulkner of Downpatrick,, was the sixth and last Prime Minister of Northern Ireland, from March 1971 until his resignation in March 1972. He was also the chief executive of the short-lived Northern Ireland Executive during the first half of 1974.

Vanguard Unionist Progressive Party Political party

The Vanguard Unionist Progressive Party (VUPP), informally known as Ulster Vanguard, was a unionist political party which existed in Northern Ireland between 1972 and 1978. Led by William Craig, the party emerged from a split in the Ulster Unionist Party (UUP) and was closely affiliated with several loyalist paramilitary groups. The party was set up in opposition to power sharing with Irish nationalist parties. It opposed the Sunningdale Agreement and was involved in extra-parliamentary activity against the agreement. However, in 1975, during discussions on the constitutional status of Northern Ireland in the constitutional convention, William Craig suggested the possibility of voluntary power sharing with the nationalist Social Democratic and Labour Party. In consequence the party split, with dissenters forming the United Ulster Unionist Party. Thereafter Vanguard declined and following poor results in the 1977 local government elections, Craig merged the remainder of Vanguard into the UUP in February 1978.

The Northern Ireland peace process includes the events leading up to the 1994 Provisional Irish Republican Army (IRA) ceasefire, the end of most of the violence of the Troubles, the Good Friday Agreement of 1998, and subsequent political developments.

Northern Ireland Labour Party Political party in Northern Ireland

The Northern Ireland Labour Party (NILP) was a political party in Northern Ireland which operated from 1924 until 1987.

Irish Unionist Alliance Political party in Ireland

The Irish Unionist Alliance (IUA), also known as the Irish Unionist Party or simply the Unionists, was a unionist political party founded in Ireland in 1891 from the Irish Loyal and Patriotic Union to oppose plans for home rule for Ireland within the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland. The party was led for much of its existence by Colonel Edward James Saunderson and later by William St John Brodrick, Earl of Midleton. In total, eighty-six members of the House of Lords affiliated themselves with the Irish Unionist Alliance, although its broader membership was relatively small.

Naomi Long Leader of the Alliance Party of Northern Ireland

Naomi Rachel Long MLA is a politician in Northern Ireland, who has served as Minister of Justice in the Northern Ireland Executive since January 2020 and leader of the Alliance Party since 2016. She has served as a Member of the Legislative Assembly (MLA) for Belfast East since 2020.

Sheelagh Mary Murnaghan, was an Ulster Liberal Party Member of Parliament (MP) in the House of Commons of Northern Ireland at Stormont.

Events during the year 1924 in Northern Ireland.

The Northern Ireland Conservatives is a section of the United Kingdom's Conservative Party that operates in Northern Ireland. The party won 0.3% of the vote in the 2017 Northern Ireland Assembly election and 0.7 of the vote in the 2019 United Kingdom General election in Northern Ireland.

Albert Horatio McElroy was a minister of religion and politician in Northern Ireland.

2017 Northern Ireland Assembly election Election in Northern Ireland

The 2017 election to the Northern Ireland Assembly was held on 2 March 2017. The election was held to elect members (MLAs) following the resignation of deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness in protest over the Renewable Heat Incentive scandal. McGuinness' position was not filled, and thus by law his resignation triggered an election. It was the sixth election since the Assembly was re-established in 1998, and the first to implement a reduction in size to 90 MLAs.

The Liberal Party of Ireland, sometimes also referred to as the "Irish Liberal Party", was a minor political party in Ireland, formed in 1967 and lasting briefly until roughly 1969.


  1. Illingworth, Ruth (2019). Sheelagh Murnaghan: Stormont's only Liberal MP. Ulster Historical Foundation. pp. 13, 24.
  2. Phoenix, Eamon (5 June 2014). "From Orangeman to republican envoy". Irish News. Retrieved 14 December 2020.
  3. "Ulster Liberals", Manchester Guardian , 1 March 1928, p.8
  4. "Ulster's General Election", Manchester Guardian , 15 April 1929, p.14
  5. 1 2 3 Fionnuala O'Connor, "Pride of the Ulster Liberals", The Guardian , 16 September 1993
  6. Illingworth, Ruth (2019). Sheelagh Murnaghan: Stormont's only Liberal MP. Ulster Historical Foundation. pp. 26, 66.
  7. Illingworth, Ruth (2019). Sheelagh Murnaghan: Stormont's only Liberal MP. Ulster Historical Foundation. p. 63.
  8. Abstracts on Organisations – 'U', CAIN Web Service
  9. "Ulster Liberal Party". The Political Companion (8): 53. July–September 1971.
  10. "Ulster Liberal Party". The Political Companion (32): 64. Spring 1982.