James Chichester-Clark, former PM of NI, dies


The death has occurred of Maj James Dawson Chichester-Clark, who was Northern Ireland's prime minister in the early period of the Troubles. Later titled Lord Moyola, he was unionist prime minister at Stormont from May 1969 until March 1971.

Maj Chichester-Clark died on Friday aged 79 after a short illness. He defeated Brian Faulkner by 17 votes to 16 when Terence O'Neill stood down as prime minister on May 1st, 1969.

He took control at a time of escalating violence and political turmoil. Following serious rioting that climaxed in Derry and Belfast in August 1969, he was forced to ask Harold Wilson's Labour government to send in the British army to try to maintain civil order.

There were tensions and angry exchanges between the Stormont and Fianna Fáil administrations in 1969, after the Taoiseach, Jack Lynch, called for UN intervention in Northern Ireland, moved Army field hospitals to the Border and organised special camps to accommodate Northern nationalists forced from their homes.

Maj Chichester-Clark accused Mr Lynch of "inflammatory and ill-considered" comments.

His leadership position was put under pressure when the British government disbanded the B-Specials in 1970. As the Provisional IRA began to emerge in 1970 and 1971, he called for a dramatic security initiative from Ted Heath's Tory administration.

He resigned in March 1971 over what he believed was the inadequacy of the British government's response to the growing violence. Brian Faulkner replaced him.

Eton-educated, he joined the Irish Guards, serving in north Africa in the second World War. He was wounded at Anzio in 1944. He was a direct descendent of Thomas Dawson, who purchased the Moyola estate at Castledawson, Co Derry, in the 1630s.

After a 20-year British army career, Maj Chichester-Clark returned to the Moyola estate in 1959 and was elected Stormont MP for South Derry the following year. He was returned unopposed in 1965. He maintained a low political profile after he resigned as prime minister.

His funeral takes place at Christ Church in Castledawson at 2 p.m. tomorrow.