James Kilfedder

Sir James Alexander Kilfedder (16 July 1928 – 20 March 1995) was a Northern Ireland unionist politician.

Sir James Kilfedder
Member of Parliament
for North Down
In office
18 June 1970  20 March 1995
Preceded byGeorge Currie
Succeeded byRobert McCartney
Member of Parliament
for Belfast West
In office
15 October 1964  10 March 1966
Preceded byPatricia McLaughlin
Succeeded byGerry Fitt
Personal details
James Alexander Kilfedder

(1928-07-16)16 July 1928
Kinlough, Ireland
Died20 March 1995(1995-03-20) (aged 66)
London, England
Political partyUlster Unionist Party
Ulster Popular Unionist Party
Spouse(s)Never married
Alma materTrinity College Dublin
King's Inns
Gray's Inn

Early life

James Kilfedder, born in Kinlough, County Leitrim to a family from Enniskillen, was educated at Portora Royal School, Enniskillen and Trinity College Dublin.[1] During his time in college he acted as Auditor of the College Historical Society, one of the oldest undergraduate debating society in the world. He became a barrister, called to the Irish Bar at King's Inns, Dublin, in 1952 and the English Bar at Gray's Inn in 1958. He practised law in London.

Political career

At the 1964 general election, Kilfedder was elected as an Ulster Unionist Party (UUP) Member of Parliament for West Belfast. During the campaign there were riots in Divis Street when the police removed an Irish flag from the Sinn Féin offices of Billy McMillen after a complaint by Kilfedder in the form of a telegram to the Minister of Home Affairs, Brian McConnell. It read "Remove tricolour in Divis Street which is aimed to provoke and insult loyalists of Belfast."[2] Kilfedder lost his seat at the 1966 election to Gerry Fitt. He was elected again in the 1970 general election for North Down, and held the seat until his death in 1995.

Kilfedder was elected for North Down in the 1973 Assembly election, signing Brian Faulkner's pledge to support the White Paper which eventually established the Sunningdale Agreement but becoming an anti-White Paper Unionist[3] after the election. In 1975 he stood for the same constituency in the Constitutional Convention election, polling over three quotas as a UUP member of the United Ulster Unionist Coalition (UUUC) although he refused to sign the UUUC's pledge of conduct.

He left the UUP in 1977[4] in opposition to the party's policies tending to integrationism,[clarification needed] preferring to advocate the restoration of the Stormont administration. For a time he sat as an "Independent Ulster Unionist". He contested the 1979 European Parliament Election under that label, finishing fourth in the count for the three seats, having overtaken the UUP leader Harry West on transfers.[5]

In 1980 he formed the Ulster Popular Unionist Party (UPUP) and was re-elected under that label in all subsequent elections. He again topped the poll in the 1982 Assembly election and was elected as Speaker of the Assembly[6] (to 1986). He generally took the Conservative whip at Westminster.[7] Whilst Speaker he was paid more than the Prime Minister.[1]

Death and legacy

On 20 March 1995, while travelling by train into London from Gatwick airport, Kilfedder died of a heart attack. This was the same day that the Belfast Telegraph carried a front-page story saying that an Ulster MP had been targeted as one of twenty MPs invited by the LGBT rights organisation OutRage! in a letter to come out.[8]

He died unmarried, survived by two sisters. Kilfedder was described as

"a phenomenon or perhaps a left-over from a remote era of Northern Irish politics when Ulster was represented by such figures as Lord Robert Grosvenor, Major Robin Chichester-Clark, Stratton Mills, and Rafton Pounder."[1]

Kilfedder was described by Democratic Unionist Party MLA Peter Weir as "the best MP North Down ever had."[9] The UPUP did not outlive him, and the by-election for his Commons seat was won by Robert McCartney standing for the UK Unionist Party. He had fought the seat in the 1987 general election as a "Real Unionist" with the backing of the Campaign for Equal Citizenship.

At the 1987 election count, in his victory speech, Kilfedder had "attacked his rival's supporters as 'a rag tag collection of people who shame the name of civil rights.' He said they included communists, Protestant paramilitaries and Gay Rights supporters and he promised to expose more in future."[10] McCartney lost North Down in 2001 to Lady Hermon of the UUP.

Kilfedder's personal and political papers (including constituency affairs) are held at the Public Record Office of Northern Ireland, reference D4127.

Kilfedder is buried in Roselawn cemetery in East Belfast.[11]


  1. "Obituary". The Independent. ESI Media. Retrieved 21 May 2020 via FindArticles.[dead link]
  2. Andy Boyd: Holy War in Belfast
  3. Nicholas Whyte (25 March 2003). "North Down 1973–1982". ARK Online Research. Retrieved 21 May 2020.
  4. Nicholas Whyte (13 March 2000). "The 1995 North Down by-election". ARK Online Research. Retrieved 21 May 2020.
  5. Nicholas Whyte (18 April 2004). "The 1979 European Election". ARK Online Research. Retrieved 21 May 2020.
  6. Robert Waller, Almanac of British Politics, 3rd edition
  7. Waller and Criddle, Almanac of British Politics, 6th edition
  8. Angus McLaren, Sexual Blackmail: A Modern History, Harvard University Press, 2002 and the Belfast Telegraph of that date
  9. "DUP.org.uk". Archived from the original on 9 June 2008. Retrieved 15 June 2008.
  10. Co. Down Spectator, 18 June 1987
  11. "Hundreds pay their respects to MP". HeraldScotland. Herald & Times Group. 28 March 1995. Retrieved 21 May 2020.