Chief Secretary for Ireland

Chief Secretary for Ireland
Arms of the Kingdom of Ireland
StyleThe Right Honourable
as a member of the Privy Council
ResidenceChief Secretary's Lodge (from 1776)
AppointerThe Lord Lieutenant
Term lengthAt the pleasure of the Lord Lieutenant
Inaugural holderEdward Waterhouse
Formation20 January 1566
Final holderSir Hamar Greenwood
Abolished19 October 1922
The Chief Secretary's office in Dublin Castle.
The Chief Secretary's residence was the Chief Secretary's Lodge in the Phoenix Park, next to the Viceregal Lodge.

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.

History of the office

Chief Sectretary's Lodge, Phoenix Park, now the Deerfield Residence of the U.S. Ambassador

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.[citation needed] 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 legislation.

Chief Secretary Viscount Castlereagh played a key role in the enactment of the Act of Union which passed in the Irish Parliament on its second attempt in 1800 through the exercise of patronage and direct bribery.[citation needed] Upon the Union on 1 January 1801, the Kingdom of Ireland was merged into the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland and 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 to represent an Irish constituency while in office was Chichester Parkinson-Fortescue, MP for County Louth, who served from 1868 to 1871.

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.

Kingdom of Ireland


Name Portrait Term of office Served under
Edward Waterhouse 20 January 1566 9 October 1567 Sir Henry Sidney
Edward Waterhouse
(second time)
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
John Davis 1690 1692
Sir Cyril Wyche 1692 1693 The Viscount Sydney
Sir Richard Aldworth 1693 1696 The Lord Capell
William Palmer 1696 1697
Matthew Prior 1697 1699
Humphrey May 1699 1701


Name Portrait Term of office Served under
Francis Gwyn 1701 1703 The Earl of Rochester
Edward Southwell 1703 1707 The Duke of Ormonde
George Dodington 1707 1708 The Earl of Pembroke
Joseph Addison 1708 1710 The Earl of Wharton
Edward Southwell 1710 1713 The Duke of Ormonde
Sir John Stanley, Bt 1713 1714 The Duke of Shrewsbury
Joseph Addison 1714 1715 The Earl of Sunderland
Martin Bladen and
Charles Delafaye
1715 1717
Edward Webster 1717 1720 The Duke of Bolton
Horatio Walpole 1720 1721 The Duke of Grafton
Edward Hopkins 1721 1724 The Duke of Grafton
Thomas Clutterbuck 1724 1730 The Lord Carteret
Walter Cary
(also spelt 'Carey')
1730 1737 The Duke of Dorset
Sir Edward Walpole 1737 1739 The Duke of Devonshire
Thomas Townshend 1739 1739 The Duke of Devonshire
Hon. Henry Bilson Legge 1739 1741 The Duke of Devonshire
Viscount Duncannon 1741 1745 The Duke of Devonshire
Richard Liddell 1745 1746 The Earl of Chesterfield
Sewallis Shirley 1746 1746 The Earl of Chesterfield
Edward Weston 1746 1750 The Earl of Harrington


Name Portrait Term of office Served under
Lord George Sackville 1750 1755 The Duke of Dorset
Hon. Henry Seymour Conway 1755 1757 The Duke of Devonshire
Richard Rigby 1757 1761 The Duke of Bedford
William Gerard Hamilton 1761 1764 The Earl of Halifax;
The Earl of Northumberland
The Earl of Drogheda 1764 1765 The Earl of Northumberland
Sir Charles Bunbury 1765 1765 The Viscount Weymouth
Viscount Conway 1765 1766 The Earl of Hertford
Hon. Augustus Hervey 1766 1767 The Earl of Bristol
Theophilus Jones 1767 1767 The Earl of Bristol
Lord Frederick Campbell 1767 1768 The Viscount Townshend
Sir George Macartney 1769 1772 The Viscount Townshend
Sir John Blaquiere 1772 1776 The Earl Harcourt
Sir Richard Heron 1776 1780 The Earl of Buckinghamshire
William Eden 1780 1782 The Earl of Carlisle
Hon. Richard FitzPatrick 1782 1782 The Duke of Portland
William Grenville 1782 1783 The Earl Temple
William Windham 1783 1783 The Earl of Northington
Hon. Thomas Pelham 1783 1784 The Earl of Northington
Thomas Orde 1784 1787 The Duke of Rutland
Alleyne FitzHerbert 1787 1789 The Marquess of Buckingham
Hon. Robert Hobart 1789 1793 The Marquess of Buckingham;
The Earl of Westmorland
Sylvester Douglas 1793 1794 The Earl of Westmorland
Viscount Milton 1794 1795 The Earl FitzWilliam
Hon. Thomas Pelham 1795 1798 The Earl Camden
Viscount Castlereagh 1798 1801 The Marquess Cornwallis

United Kingdom


Name Portrait Term of office Political party
Charles Abbot
MP for Helston
1801 1802 Tory
William Wickham
MP for Cashel
1802 1804 Tory
Sir Evan Nepean, Bt
MP for Bridport
1804 1805 Tory
Nicholas Vansittart
MP for Old Sarum
1805 1805 Tory
Charles Long
MP for Wendover
1805 1806 Tory
William Elliot
MP for Peterborough
1806 1807 Whig
Sir Arthur Wellesley
MP for Tralee (1807)
MP for Mitchell (1807)
MP for Newport (1807–09)
1807 1809 Tory
Robert Dundas
MP for Midlothian
1809 1809 Tory
William Wellesley-Pole
MP for Queen's County
1809 1812 Tory
Robert Peel
MP for Chippenham (1812–17)
MP for Oxford University (1817–29)
1812 1818 Tory
Charles Grant
MP for Inverness-shire
1818 1821 Tory
Henry Goulburn
MP for West Looe (1818–26)
MP for Armagh City (1826–31)
29 December 1821 29 April 1827 Tory
William Lamb
MP for Bletchingley
29 April 1827 21 June 1828 Whig
Lord Francis Leveson-Gower
MP for Sutherland
21 June 1828 30 July 1830 Tory
Sir Henry Hardinge
MP for St Germans
30 July 1830 15 November 1830 Tory
Edward Smith-Stanley
MP for Windsor (1831–32)
MP for North Lancashire (1832–44)
29 November 1830 29 March 1833 Whig
Sir John Hobhouse, Bt
MP for Westminster
29 March 1833 May 1833 Whig
Edward Littleton
MP for South Staffordshire
May 1833 14 November 1834 Whig
Sir Henry Hardinge
MP for Launceston
16 December 1834 8 April 1835 Conservative
Viscount Morpeth
MP for West Riding of Yorkshire
22 April 1835 30 August 1841 Whig
Lord Eliot
MP for East Cornwall
6 February 1841 1 February 1845 Conservative
Sir Thomas Fremantle, Bt
MP for Buckingham
1 February 1845 14 February 1846 Conservative
The Earl of Lincoln
MP for Falkirk Burghs
14 February 1846 June 1846 Conservative
Henry Labouchere
MP for Taunton
6 July 1846 22 July 1847 Whig
Sir William Somerville, Bt
MP for Drogheda
22 July 1847 21 February 1852 Whig


Name Portrait Term of office Political party
Lord Naas
MP for Coleraine
1 March 1852 17 December 1852 Conservative
Sir John Young, Bt
MP for Cavan
6 January 1853 30 January 1855 Peelite
Edward Horsman
MP for Stroud
1 March 1855 27 May 1857 Whig
Henry Arthur Herbert
MP for Kerry
27 May 1857 21 February 1858 Whig
Lord Naas
MP for Cockermouth
4 March 1858 11 June 1859 Conservative
Edward Cardwell
MP for Oxford
24 June 1859 29 July 1861 Liberal
Sir Robert Peel, Bt
MP for Tamworth
29 July 1861 7 December 1865 Liberal
Chichester Parkinson-Fortescue
MP for County Louth
7 December 1865 26 June 1866 Liberal
The Earl of Mayo
MP for Cockermouth
10 July 1866 29 September 1868 Conservative
John Wilson-Patten
MP for North Lancashire
29 September 1868 1 December 1868 Conservative
Chichester Parkinson-Fortescue
MP for County Louth
16 December 1868 12 January 1871 Liberal
Marquess of Hartington
MP for Radnor
12 January 1871 17 February 1874 Liberal
Sir Michael Hicks-Beach, Bt
MP for East Gloucestershire
27 February 1874 15 February 1878 Conservative
James Lowther
MP for City of York
15 February 1878 21 April 1880 Conservative
William Edward Forster
MP for Bradford
30 April 1880 6 May 1882 Liberal
Lord Frederick Cavendish
MP for West Riding of Yorkshire North
6 May 1882 6 May 1882 Liberal
George Trevelyan
MP for Hawick Burghs
9 May 1882 23 October 1884 Liberal
Henry Campbell-Bannerman
MP for Stirling Burghs
23 October 1884 9 June 1885 Liberal
Sir William Hart Dyke, Bt
MP for Mid Kent
25 June 1885 23 January 1886 Conservative
William Henry Smith
MP for Strand
23 January 1886 28 January 1886 Conservative
John Morley
MP for Newcastle-upon-Tyne
6 February 1886 20 July 1886 Liberal
Sir Michael Hicks Beach, Bt
MP for Bristol West
5 August 1886 7 March 1887 Conservative
Arthur Balfour
MP for Manchester East
7 March 1887 9 November 1891 Conservative
William Jackson
MP for Leeds North
9 November 1891 11 August 1892 Conservative
John Morley
MP for Newcastle-upon-Tyne
22 August 1892 21 June 1895 Liberal
Gerald Balfour
MP for Leeds Central
1895 1900 Conservative


Name Portrait Term of office Political party
George Wyndham
MP for Dover
9 November 1900 12 March 1905 Conservative
Walter Long
MP for Bristol South
12 March 1905 4 December 1905 Conservative
James Bryce
MP for Aberdeen South
10 December 1905 23 January 1907 Liberal
Augustine Birrell
MP for Bristol North
23 January 1907 3 May 1916 Liberal
Henry Duke
MP for Exeter
31 July 1916 5 May 1918 Conservative
Edward Shortt
MP for Newcastle upon Tyne West
5 May 1918 10 January 1919 Liberal
Ian Macpherson
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

See also

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