Chief Secretary for Ireland
|Chief Secretary for Ireland|
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|
|Formation||20 January 1566|
|Final holder||Sir Hamar Greenwood|
|Abolished||19 October 1922|
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", 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. The Chief Secretary was ex officio President of the Local Government Board for Ireland from its creation in 1872.
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.
The office before 1801
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". The appointment of a Secretary was intended to both improve Irish administration, and to keep the Lord Lieutenant in line. 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.
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 key legislative measures.
In 1800 the Act of Union was passed by the Irish parliament, merging the kingdom into the new United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland with effect from 1 January 1801. The Chief Secretaryship was of particular importance in the run-up to the eventual enactment, on the second attempt, of the Act of Union, when Viscount Castlereagh held the post. The Chief Secretary's exercise of patronage and direct bribery were central to delivering a parliamentary majority for the Union.
Upon the Union 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 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. 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, 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.
|Name||Portrait||Term of office||Served under|
|Edward Waterhouse||20 January 1566||9 October 1567||Sir Henry Sidney|
|28 October 1568||Sir Henry Sidney|
|Edmund Tremayne||15 July 1569||31 March 1571||Sir Henry Sidney|
|Philip Williams||post March 1571||17 September 1575||Sir William Fitzwilliam|
|Edmund Molyneux||18 September 1575||Sir Henry Sidney|
|Edmund Spenser||7 September 1580||30 August 1582||The Lord Grey de Wilton|
|Philip Williams||21 June 1584||10 August 1594||Sir John Perrot|
Sir William FitzWilliam
|Richard Cooke||11 August 1594||21 May 1597||Sir William Russell|
|Philip Williams||22 May 1597||13 October 1597||The Lord Burgh|
|Henry Wotton||15 April 1599||4 September 1599||The Earl of Essex|
|Francis Mitchell||28 February 1600||March 1600||The Lord Mountjoy|
|George Cranmer||March 1600||Died 16 July 1600||The Lord Mountjoy|
|Fynes Moryson||14 November 1600||31 May 1603||The Lord Mountjoy|
|John Bingley||1 June 1603||2 February 1605||Sir George Carey|
|Henry Piers||3 February 1605||10 February 1616||Sir Arthur Chichester|
|Henry Holcroft||30 August 1616||3 May 1622||Sir Oliver St John|
|Sir John Veele||8 September 1622||25 October 1629||The Viscount Falkland|
|George Lane||21 January 1644||April 1646||The Marquess of Ormonde|
|Name||Portrait||Term of office||Served under|
|Matthew Locke||1660||1660||The Lord Robartes|
|Sir Thomas Page||1662||1669||The Duke of Ormonde:|
The Earl of Ossory
|Henry Ford||1669||1670||The Lord Robartes|
|Sir Ellis Leighton||1670||1672||The Lord Berkeley of Stratton|
|Sir Henry Ford||1672||1673||The Earl of Essex|
|William Harbord||1673||1676||The Earl of Essex|
|Sir Cyril Wyche||1677||1682||The Duke of Ormonde|
|Sir William Ellis||1682||1685||The Duke of Ormonde|
|Sir Paul Rycaut||1686||1687||The Earl of Clarendon|
|Thomas Sheridan||1687||1688||The Earl of Tyrconnell|
|Bishop Patrick Tyrrell||1688||1689||The Earl of Tyrconnell|
|Sir Cyril Wyche||1692||1693||The Viscount Sydney|
|Sir Richard Aldworth||1693||1696||The Lord Capell|
|Name||Portrait||Term of office||Political party|
MP for Dover
|9 November 1900||12 March 1905||Conservative|
MP for Bristol South
|12 March 1905||4 December 1905||Conservative|
MP for Aberdeen South
|10 December 1905||23 January 1907||Liberal|
MP for Bristol North
|23 January 1907||3 May 1916||Liberal|
MP for Exeter
|31 July 1916||5 May 1918||Conservative|
MP for Newcastle upon Tyne West
|5 May 1918||10 January 1919||Liberal|
MP for Ross and Cromarty
|10 January 1919||2 April 1920||Liberal|
|Sir Hamar Greenwood, Bt
MP for Sunderland
|2 April 1920||19 October 1922||Liberal|
- The National Archives. "Irish administration". Last retrieved 12 November 2015.
- Quinlan, Tom. "The Registered Papers of the Chief Secretary's Office". National Archives of Ireland. Retrieved 7 June 2011.
- "Local Government Board (Ireland) Act, 1872 sec.2". Irish Statute Book. Retrieved 13 October 2016.
- 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
- 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
- Chris Cook and Brendan Keith, British Historical Facts 1830–1900, Macmillan, 1975, pages 45–46
- British Political Facts 1900–1994, by David Butler and Gareth Butler (Macmillan Press, 7th edition 1994) Page7.
- Handbook of British Chronology calls him 'Sir Edward Waterhouse', but he was not knighted until 1584
- Handbook of British Chronology calls him 'Sir Richard Cooke', but he was not knighted until 1603 – see History of Parliament – Member Biographies
- knighted 1 May 1622 – see History of Parliament – Member Biographies
- '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
- '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
- 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