Irish history, post-1921

Julian Amery

Conservative MP and ardent imperialist Julian Amery (1919-1996) was a member of the Conservative Party’s Northern Ireland Committee. AMEJ 1/10/11 includes minutes from the committee meetings, as well as material relating to the Maze Prison. Amery’s papers also include press cuttings and speeches covering Northern Irish issues.

Fenner Brockway

Politician and campaigner Fenner Brockway (1888-1988) was born in Calcutta to a Christian missionary family. In adulthood, he became a committed socialist, pacifist, anti-imperialist and anti-racist. Brockway moved from the Independent Labour Party to the Labour Party following their landslide 1945 victory, and became MP for Eton and Slough in 1950, a seat which he held until 1967. Brockway was critical of the British government’s use of police and military force in Northern Ireland and supported the establishment and protection of civil rights in Northern Ireland.

For more on Fenner Brockway, see the Race and Migration subject guide [coming in September 2022].



  • FEBR, Box 47, item 220: Papers relating to the proposed Bill of Rights for Northern Ireland and the activities of various civil rights organisations, including the Campaign for Democracy in Ulster, the Campaign for Social Justice, the Northern Ireland Civil Rights Association and the Association for Legal Justice, 1968-1972.
  • FEBR, Box 51, item no 226: Publications on the Emergency Powers and proposed Civil Rights Bill, 1968-1972.
  • FEBR, Box 54, item 242: Correspondence relating to Ireland and Northern Ireland from 1965.
  • FEBR, Box 5, item 2: Correspondence with Margaret Thatcher relating to IRA detainees in Maze Prison.
  • FEBR, Box 9, item 32: Drafts of the proposed Bill of Rights for Northern Ireland, including copies of Brockway’s Private Members bill.
  • FEBR, Box 12, Item 44: material relating to the Price Sisters, 1974. Dolours and Marian Price were Provisional IRA volunteers, imprisoned in England following their participation in the 1973 Old Bailey bombing. Brockway supported their campaign to be moved to a prison in Northern Ireland, where they would be awarded Special Category status. The Prices went on Hunger Strike until their demands were effected. The sisters were force-fed in a traumatising operation by prison officials during the course of the strike, which lasted for over two hundred days.

Frederick Catherwood

The businessman, politician and evangelical leader Frederick Catherwood (1925-2014) was born in County Derry~Londonderry. Catherwood built a highly successful career in the top echelon of British management. In 1979 he traded industrial power for political influence, becoming a Conservative MEP for Cambridgeshire in 1979. He remained an MEP until 1994. Catherwood was a committed evangelical throughout his life and career; in 1986 he became founding chair of the newspaper Evangelicals Now and served as President of the UK Evangelical Alliance between 1992 and 2001.

Highlights include:


  • CATH 19: Papers on Northern Ireland from Catherwood’s time as an MEP, 1985-1994. Includes correspondence and speeches relating to Catherwood’s plan for Northern Irish devolution, as well as material relating to the Anglo-Irish agreement.
  • CATH 26: Papers on Northern Ireland from the time of the 1985 Anglo-Irish agreement, including notes on a talk by Ian Paisley. Also includes European Parliament papers on Northern Ireland, notes on a meeting with the Taoiseach in July 1988, a 1987 report by the Unionist Task Force and Catherwood’s notes regarding round tables talks between the Unionists, nationalists and the British and Irish governments.

Memoir on the making of the Anglo-Irish Agreement by Sir David Goodall. Goodall was Deputy Under-Secretary of State at the Foreign Office at the time the Anglo-Irish Agreement was signed in 1985. MISC 74.

Robin Chichester-Clark

Ulster politician Sir Robin Chichester-Clark was born in 1928 at Moyola Park, co. Derry~Londonderry. Politics was a family tradition. Chichester-Clark’s grandmother, Dame Dehra Parker, was the only woman to sit in the Northern Irish cabinet between partition and 1972, and Robin’s older brother, James Dawson Chichester-Clark, was the Prime Minister of Northern Ireland 1969-71. In 1955 Robin Chichester-Clark entered the family trade, becoming the Ulster Unionist MP for Derry~Londonderry. He became a close friend to Edward Heath. Initially, this friendship didn’t reap any political rewards: Heath feared potential embarrassment whilst Chichester-Clark’s brother was Prime Minister. The Ulsterman was not appointed Minister of State for Employment until 1972, the last time an MP representing a Northern Irish constituency was a UK government minister.

Prior to his appointment, Chichester-Clark had been asked to join William Whitelaw at the Northern Irish Office following the prorogation of Stormont. However, he declined, fearing the consequences for himself as an Ulster MP. In 1972, following news of talks between members of the government and the Provisional IRA, Chichester-Clark considered resigning, only to be dissuaded by Whitelaw. As a reformist Unionist, Chichester-Clark found himself caught between Irish nationalism and populist Protestantism. He was a vociferous critic of Ian Paisley, but could also be biting towards republican opponents, such as Bernadette Devlin. In 1974, Chichester-Clark decided not to seek re-election. The political difficulties in Ireland meant that despite his ministerial experience, he was unsuccessful in obtaining the nomination for an English seat, effectively ending his political career.



  • CCLK 3/9: Chichester-Clark’s copy of an Opinion Research Centre poll on ‘Religion and Politics in Northern Ireland’, 1969.
  • CCLK 3/13: material (including correspondence) relating to proposed designs for the new five pence piece during decimalisation, which included options featuring a shamrock and the red hand of Ulster.
  • CCLK 3/1718: material relating to Bernadette Devlin’s appearance on the BBC TV programme ’24 Hours’ and Thames Television’s ‘Today’ programme during her contestation of Chichester-Clark’s seat, including Chichester-Clark’s correspondence with supporters.
  • CCLK 3/19-29: Chichester-Clark’s subject files relating to the Battle of the Bogside and other violent disturbances at the beginning of The Troubles, including the Scarman report.
  • CCLK 6/1-2: Press cuttings collected by Chichester-Clark relating to Northern Irish politics (6/1) and political protests and violence in Northern Ireland (6/2).

Gerald Gardiner

Legal reformer and Lord Chancellor Gerald Austin Gardiner (1900-1990) was a key figure behind the liberalization of English law in the postwar years. Gardiner advocated for the provision of legal aid, the rehabilitation of offenders, and helped establish ‘irretrievable breakdown’ as the sole ground for divorce. Gardiner was also a passionate critic of the death penalty and successfully aided its abolition in 1969.

In 1972 Gardiner was one of three privy councillors appointed to investigate British interrogation procedures in Northern Ireland. The brutal abuse of prisoners justified as ‘interrogation techniques’ had begun to be known in Britain and Ireland, and the outrage prompted a government inquiry. The majority of investigators approved the controversial practices, subject to safeguards. However Gardiner’s minority report, which found these practices illegal and immoral, was accepted by Edward Heath’s government. Gardiner was not always so uncompromising in his views: as chairman of another committee on Northern Ireland in 1975 he approved the continuation of detention without trial.



GARD 13: Papers relating to Northern Ireland from 1981, when the Emergency Provisions Act was passed through Parliament. Includes a statement by the Labour Party’s Northern Ireland Group setting out Labour’s policy for a United Ireland, and papers relating to justice and Human Rights in Northern Ireland.

Andrew Graham Gilchrist

Andrew Gilchrist (1910-1993) entered the Consular Service in 1933, embarking upon a storied diplomatic career. During WWII Gilchrist was interned as a POW in Bangkok for 8 months in 1941, returning to Bangkok four years later as First Secretary in the British Embassy. After tumultuous postings in Iceland during the ‘Cod Wars’ and Indonesia in the midst of a conflict with British-backed Malaysia (which saw Gilchrist’s diplomatic car and the British Embassy in Jakarta torched), Gilchrist was appointed Ambassador to Ireland (1966-70) as a final posting before retirement. This posting was not without excitement, however, coinciding with the beginning of the ‘Troubles’. In his first year of posting, Irish Republican Dissidents exploded Dublin’s Nelson’s Pillar.

The Archives Centre holds papers relating to Gilchrist’s time at the British Embassy in Dublin (GILC 14). Material relates to Gilchrist’s creative spirit: including correspondence with the self-styled Irish dramatist Micheál Mac Liammóir about his play ‘The Importance of Being Oscar’, a draft of a radio play written by Gilchrist in 1992 to educate a British audience about the Troubles and ‘An Imaginary Conversation at No. 10’ between PM Margaret Thatcher and Taoiseach Jack Lynch.

Gilchrist’s papers also include material relating to the political situation in Northern Ireland, as well correspondence regarding speeches he gave and articles he wrote as Ambassador.

The collection contains Embassy telegrams, reports and dispatches, as well as Gilchrist’s handwritten notes from meetings. There is also correspondence regarding Ian Thain, the first British soldier to be found guilty of murder while on patrol duty in Northern Ireland. Thain was sentenced to life for murdering twenty-two year old Thomas Rielly. Thain served less than two years of his sentence, and was quietly reinstated into the British Army following his release.

Quintin Hogg

Quintin McGarel Hogg, second Viscount Hailsham (1907-2001) started his career as a lawyer but quickly entered Parliament, joining as the Conservative MP for Oxford City in 1938. In 1963. He disclaimed his peerage for life, and was elected Conservative MP for St Marylebone, 1963-1970. He made an unsuccessful bid for the premiership after Harold Macmillan retired due to ill health. In 1964 he was appointed Secretary of State for Education and Science and between 1966 and 1970 he served as opposition spokesman on Home Affairs. Hailsham also served as Lord Chancellor between 1970-1974 and 1979-87.

Lord Hailsham’s grandfather was also named Quintin Hogg, a merchant who consolidated his fortune in the tea and sugar industries during the mid-nineteenth century. Hogg’s brother-in-law, slave-owner and merchant, Charles McGarel was a major beneficiary of the British government’s scheme to compensate slave-owners following Abolition. McGarel, having no children to leave his fortune to, bequeathed it to Hogg, on the condition he integrate McGarel into the family name.

Hailsham, who was descended from Ulster Protestants, deplored the Anglo-Irish treaty’s creation of an Irish Republic in 1921. His belief that the partition of the British islands could have been spared if the British government had pursued a federalist approach, went on to shape his commitment to regional devolution later in life.

For more on Lord Hailsham, see the Race and Migration subject guide [coming September 2022].

Relevant material from the collection includes:


  • HLSM 1/1/3: Hogg’s diary between 2nd August 1971 and 17th January 1972, which includes a letter to Lord Peter Carrington about British Army casualties in Northern Ireland, 27th November 1971.
  • HLSM 1/1/5: Hogg’s diary between 1st May 1970 and 22nd December 1972, which includes a note from William Whitelaw about Northern Ireland which has been torn into pieces and sellotaped together again.
  • HLSM 1/1/19: Hogg’s diary between 1st March and 16th July 1982, which includes a letter from Robert Lowry, Lord Chief Justice of Northern Ireland, about surviving an IRA attack.
  • HLSM 1/1/20: Hogg’s diary between 17th July and 30th November 1982, which includes a letter about the Regent’s Park bombing which took place on 24th July 1982.
  • HLSM 2/26/5: Correspondence between Hailsham and James Callaghan, Robin Chichester-Clark and Mark Carlisle regarding Northern Ireland, 1969. Also see HLSM 2/31/23 for a letter from Hailsham about Enoch Powell and Northern Ireland, 28th September 1974.
  • HLSM 2/30/10: Correspondence between Hailsham and Cardinal William Conway, Archbishop of Armagh and Primate of All Ireland, about the political situation in Northern Ireland, July 1970-October 1972.
  • HLSM 2/30/22: Correspondence with Reader’s Digest about Lord Hogg cycling to the Old Bailey in the wake of the IRA bomb attack in November 1973.
  • HLSM 2/41/127, 2/41/174 and 2/41/175: Parliamentary business mainly relating to Northern Ireland, 1966-1974. Also see HLSM 2/41/185 for Parliamentary business relating to the Northern Irish courts, 1974-1978.
  • HLSM 2/41/171: Hailsham’s copy of the Cameron report, the results of a British inquest into causes of unrest in Northern Ireland in 1969. Also includes a Conservative Party memorandum on ‘The Police and the Ulster Riots’.
  • HLSM 3/3/106: Hailsham’s notebook of speeches for October 1969, including a draft speech during a visit to Northern Ireland between the 4th and 8th October 1969 and a speech Hailsham gave about Northern Ireland at the Conservative Party Conference in Brighton on 8th October 1969.
  • HLSM 3/6/40: transcript of an interview with Quintin Hogg about Northern Ireland for the ‘World at One’ on BBC Radio 4, 7th October 1969, with research material on Ian Paisley. Also see HLSM 3/7/17 for an extract from an interview about Northern Ireland on ‘Ten O’Clock’ on BBC Radio 4, 22nd April 1969.

Neil Kinnock

Leader of the Labour Party Neil Kinnock (b. 1942) led the party in opposition between 1983 and 1992, a period which saw the Troubles spill into IRA and state violence both within Northern Ireland and without.



  • KNNK 12/1: File on Labour policy in Northern Ireland. Sub-files include material relating to the Enniskillen bombings, the presence of British troops on the streets of Northern Ireland, the shooting of IRA members in Gibraltar, the Anglo-Irish agreement, as well as papers relating to the British-Irish Inter Parliamentary Body (1989) and the Labour Party’s support for a united Ireland.
  • See also KNNK 19/2/85, 19/2/88, 19/2/9596, 19/2/114115, 19/2/128 and 19/2/135 for material relating to Kinnock’s visits to Dublin and Belfast in the 1980s and 1990s.

Lord Plowden

Baron Edwin Noel Plowden (1907-2001), industrialist and civil servant, served as the chief planning officer for the Central Economic Planning Staff and Economic Planning Board during post-war reconstruction. Among his many commitments, he chaired the committee on Northern Ireland Police between 1980 and 1983 (PLDN 5/32).

Enoch Powell

The politician Enoch Powell (1912-1998) started his career as a loyal Conservative MP. However, Powell’s frank racist and anti-immigration rhetoric brought censure from the Party, fearing reputational damage. Following multiple disagreements between Powell and the party whips, Powell eventually refused to seek re-election as a Conservative during the 1974 campaign. He was approached by Northern Irish Unionists, who encouraged him to stand as a Unionist MP. He was successful in winning the South Down seat and re-entered Parliament in October 1974.

Powell was committed to maintaining British rule in Northern Ireland. He wanted to strengthen British power in the region, calling for the end of devolution and for Northern Ireland to be ruled as an integrated part of the United Kingdom. He remained staunchly opposed to Catholic or Nationalist political representation, even while other conservatives came to accept the need for compromise. In 1985, he publicly accused Margaret Thatcher of treachery for signing the Anglo-Irish agreement on the basis that it gave the Republic of Ireland an advisory role in Northern Irish government, despite the fact that it restated Northern Ireland’s constitutional position as part of the United Kingdom. In 1987 Powell lost his seat to a Social Democratic and Labour candidate.

For more on Enoch Powell, see the race and migration research guide [coming September 2022].

Relevant material on Ireland includes:

  • POLL 2/1/7-20 and POLL 2/2/30-43: Powell’s personal and desk diaries for the years he was Unionist MP for South Down (1974-1987).
  • POLL 3/2/1/26: Material regarding the scheme for building a reservoir at Kinnahalla, County Down. Including correspondence, mostly in protest, with various political figures, 1975-1980.
  • POLL 3/2/1/27: Correspondence, mainly with the public, regarding proposed reforms in the law regarding homosexuality and divorce, 1977-8. Also see POLL 9/2/4 for papers regarding the Homosexual Offences (Northern Ireland) Order, including letters and a statement by the Presbyterian Church.
  • POLL 3/2/1/31: Papers and correspondence regarding the Emergency Provisions (Northern Ireland) Bill, 1987, which modified certain state powers regarding the investigation and detainment of suspected terrorists instituted by the 1978 Act.
  • POLL 3/2/1/33: Correspondence with the public regarding the Anglo-Irish Agreement, 1985. Also see POLL 9/2/38-41 for papers regarding the Agreement, including copies of speeches and correspondence with political figures and notes of the Ulster Unionist meeting in which they resolved to reject the agreement.
  • POLL 3/2/1/96: Press cuttings on Anglo-Irish relations, including relating to the Northern Ireland Assembly in 1982.
  • POLL 3/2/2: Material relating to Powell’s election campaigns, including press cuttings, draft manifestos, good luck wishes and congratulations.
  • POLL 4/1/10-22: Annotated texts of Powell’s speeches related to Northern Ireland. Also see recordings of speeches Powell gave to the Castlereagh Society in 1982 (POLL 5/1718) and a recording of Powell on the Ulster Schools Programme, 1988 (POLL 5/31).
  • POLL 6/1/3-5: Cuttings of articles by Powell written during the period in which he sat as Unionist MP for South Down.
  • POLL 9: Boxes within this series include political correspondence with Powell’s Ulster Unionist colleagues and correspondence with constituents and the press, regarding homosexuality, embryo research, terrorism and Northern Irish devolution.
  • POLL 12/2/1-9: Scrapbooks of press cuttings concerning Powell’s South Down constituency.

Peter Rawlinson

Peter Rawlinson was born in 1919 in Birkenhead, but spent his childhood in Sussex. He was educated at Downside School in Somerset, grounding him in the Catholic faith that he would retain a lifelong commitment to. When World War Two broke out, Rawlinson served in the Irish Guards. He was demobilized in 1946, the same year he was called to the bar. In 1951 he stood unsuccessfully for the Conservative Party in Hackney South; between 1955 and 1978 he served as MP for Epsom (later Epsom and Ewell). When a Conservative government returned in 1970, Rawlinson was appointed Attorney-General. In this capacity, Rawlinson represented the Crown in many of the cases against members of the Provisional IRA, including after the Aldershot and London bombings. With the establishment of Direct Rule in Ulster from March 1972, Rawlinson became the Attorney-General in Northern Ireland, placing the Catholic Englishman in a challenging position.

Highlights of the collection include:


  • RWSN 2/11: Peter Rawlinson’s papers from his time as Attorney-General on the subject of Northern Ireland.
  • RWSN 3/25: Rawlinson’s legal notebooks and trial documents from the prosecution of members of the Provisional IRA for the London bombings, 1973.
  • RWSN 3/52: Letters to Rawlinson from John Tate, the Cabinet Office and the Attoney-General’s Office regarding the Bloody Sunday Inquiry, 2002-2003.

Margaret Thatcher

Margaret Thatcher (1925-2013) served as Prime Minister between 1979 and 1990, a period of intense political and sectarian violence in Northern Ireland.  

Highlights of the collection include: 


  • THCR 1/10/13 and THCR 1/10/14: papers relating to Thatcher’s visit to Ireland following the assassination of Earl Mountbatten by the IRA, including a joint statement by made Thatcher and Taoiseach John Lynch in September 1979. 
  • THCR 1/12/10: Notes of a meeting between Thatcher, Ian Gow and Enoch Powell to discuss Northern Ireland, on 10th February 1981, following the announcement of a second hunger strike by republican prisoners in HM Prison Maze.  
  • THCR 2/1/1/18: Thatcher’s correspondence with John Biggs-Davison, Conservative MP and Catholic unionist. 
  • THCR 2/6/1/101: Includes Thatcher’s correspondence with Taoisigh Liam Cosgrave and Taoiseach John Lynch and papers relating to Thatcher’s meeting with Dr Garrett Fitzgerald and Ambassador O’Sullivan, 1975-1977. 
  • THCR 2/6/1/180 and THCR 2/6/1/181: Thatcher’s correspondence with Philip Goodhart, Airey Neave, Gordon Reece and Ian Threthowan regarding Northern Ireland, and circular from Shorts Aircraft and Missiles on ‘The Northern Ireland Situation’, 1975-1978. Also see THCR 2/6/2/115-117: Thatcher’s correspondence and records of meetings with Ian Gow, Eamon Kennedy and Enoch Powell regarding Northern Ireland, 1981-1983. 
  • THCR 2/6/2/46: copy of the Ulster Unionist Council’s paper on ‘Northern Ireland future terrorist trends’, July 1979. 
  • THCR 2/6/2/66: Papers relating to the European Parliament and Northern Ireland, March 1980-March 1983. 
  • THCR 2/6/3/115 and THCR 2/6/3/116: Including papers relating to the Northern Ireland Assembly, HM Prison Maze, minutes from the Parliamentary Northern Ireland Committee and papers relating to the Anglo-Irish Agreement, 1983-6. For Thatcher’s papers on Northern Ireland 1987-1990, including material relating to the privatization of Harland and Wolff, see THCR 2/6/4/68. 
  • THCR 2/7/1/16: Preparations for Thatcher’s 1978 election manifesto, including papers relating to the draft of the section for Northern Ireland. 

Speeches, including: 


  • THCR 1/17/80: Speech given by Margaret Thatcher in Belfast on 28th May 1981, following the death of Bobby Sands in Maze Prison. 
  • THCR 5/1/2/202: Speech given by Thatcher to businessmen, organised by The Ulster Unionist Council, 19th June 1978. 
  • THCR 5/1/5/360: Papers relating to Margaret Thatcher’s speech to open the debate in the House of Commons on the Anglo-Irish Agreement, 26th November 1985. 

Press cuttings, including: 


  • THCR 1/16/25: Press cuttings relating to the IRA’s bombing of the Enniskillen Remembrance Day service in November 1987. 
  • THCR 1/16/31 and THCR 1/16/45: Press cuttings relating to Margaret Thatcher’s visit to Northern Ireland on 28th September 1988 and 12th September 1989, during which she expressed her support for members of the Ulster Defence Regiment. 

William Whitelaw

As Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, Conservative politician William Whitelaw (1918-1999) played a unique role in navigating the region’s political troubles. Whitelaw was appointed Secretary of State in 1972, after Heath suspended Stormont and enacted Direct Rule. Whitelaw found it hard to balance sectarian tensions in Northern Ireland with apathy in Westminster. Furthermore, several of his Tory colleagues, including Enoch Powell, had strong Unionist sympathies that left little room for compromise with the Catholic community. When it was made public that Whitelaw had secretly met with the Provisional IRA in July 1972, the outrage was such that he offered to resign.

Following the Provisional IRA’s bombing of Belfast in July 1972, Whitelaw authorized Operation Motorman, which established trials without jury for those suspected of terror offences. However, Whitelaw also worked towards getting compromises from the Unionist Prime Minister, Brian Faulkner. Faulkner agreed to a power-sharing executive that would concede several key posts to the mostly Catholic Social Democratic and Labour party, whilst still maintaining the majority in government. In December 1973 Whitelaw was appointed Secretary of State for Employment, just in time to face another crisis: the oil crisis and the Winter of Discontent. The 1974 election returned none of the Unionist MPs that were prepared to accept power-sharing, scuppering the agreement.

Highlights include:


  • WLAW 3: Personal messages received by Whitelaw on being appointed Secretary of State for Northern Ireland and on his return, including from colonial enthusiast, Conservative MP and Guinness Managing Director, Viscount Boyd of Merton.
  • WLAW 3A: Personal messages received by Whitelaw on his return from Northern Ireland, including from Edward Heath MP.

Michael Wolff

Journalist and political adviser Michael Wolff (1930-1976) joined the Conservative Research Department in 1966, which had special responsibility to advise the Leader of the Conservative Party, and then Prime Minister, Edward Heath.

For more on Michael Wolff, see the Race and Migration research guide [coming September 2022].

Relevant material from his work at the Conservative Research Department:


  • WLFF 3/3/46: subject papers on Northern Ireland, 1972-1974.


February 2022