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Kevin McNamara (politician)

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Kevin McNamara
Shadow Secretary of State for Northern Ireland
In office
13 July 1987 – 20 October 1994
Preceded byPeter Archer
Succeeded byMo Mowlam
Member of Parliament
for Kingston upon Hull North
In office
27 January 1966 – 11 April 2005
Preceded byHenry Solomons
Succeeded byDiana Johnson
Personal details
Joseph Kevin McNamara

(1934-09-05)5 September 1934
West Derby, Merseyside, England
Died6 August 2017(2017-08-06) (aged 82)
Formby, Merseyside, England
Political partyLabour
EducationSt Mary's College, Crosby
Alma materUniversity of Hull

Joseph Kevin McNamara KCSG (5 September 1934 – 6 August 2017) was a British Labour politician who served as a Member of Parliament (MP) for almost 40 years.[1]

Early life[edit]

Born in West Derby,[2] Merseyside, he was educated by the Irish Christian Brothers at St Mary's College, Crosby. He studied for an LLB at the University of Hull. He was head of department in History at St Mary's Grammar School (now called St Mary's College) in Hull from 1958–64 and a Law lecturer at Hull College of Commerce from 1964–66.[3]

Parliamentary career[edit]

After unsuccessfully contesting Bridlington in 1964, McNamara was elected to the House of Commons as Member of Parliament (MP) for Kingston upon Hull North, in a by-election in January 1966 following the death of sitting Labour MP Henry Solomons. Labour's hold of a former marginal seat with a significantly increased majority is widely considered[by whom?] to have helped to convince the prime minister Harold Wilson to call the 1966 election to seek a larger majority.[citation needed]

McNamara retained his seat at the 1966 general election, and at subsequent elections until the constituency was abolished for the February 1974 general election, when he transferred to the new Kingston upon Hull Central constituency. When that constituency was abolished for the 1983 election, McNamara was re-elected for the re-created Kingston upon Hull North constituency.[3]

McNamara campaigned in his last years in parliament on many issues, protesting against the Act of Succession which prohibits a Roman Catholic or the spouse of a Roman Catholic to be the British monarch. He stepped down at the 2005 general election, with the local Constituency Labour Party choosing Diana Johnson to stand in his place.[citation needed]

During the 2005 general election campaign McNamara claimed some of the policies regarding illegal travellers' sites of the leader of the Conservative Party, Michael Howard had a "whiff of the gas chambers" about them.[4] Howard's grandmother was murdered at Auschwitz.[5]

Northern Ireland[edit]

McNamara was known throughout his parliamentary career as a supporter of Irish nationalism who favoured a United Ireland.[6] After entering parliament, he soon became interested in reports of discrimination against the Catholic minority in Northern Ireland and supported the Campaign for Democracy in Ulster (CDU). He served as a frontbench spokesman for the Labour Party, including Shadow Secretary of State for Northern Ireland under Neil Kinnock, 1987–94, an appointment that was widely criticised by Unionists.[7]

After Tony Blair became Labour leader, he replaced McNamara as Northern Ireland spokesman with Mo Mowlam.[8] In 1997, he helped persuade the newly elected Labour government to donate £5,000 (thereby matching the contribution of the Irish government) for the erection of a memorial in Liverpool to the victims of the Great Irish Famine.[9]

McNamara also supported Republicanism in the United Kingdom and joined the All-Party Parliamentary Republic Group.[10]

Personal life[edit]

McNamara was a Roman Catholic, a Knight Commander of the Pontifical Order of Saint Gregory the Great[11] and recipient of the Order of Merit of the Italian Republic.[12] He was married to Nora McNamara, and was the father of four sons and a daughter.[3]

In 2006, McNamara received the honorary degree of Doctor of Laws from the University of Hull in recognition of his long service in politics.[13] He graduated with a PhD from the University of Liverpool in 2007 having completed a thesis on the MacBride Principles[14] at the Institute of Irish Studies, where he gave the 2008 John Kennedy Lecture in Irish Studies, Perhaps It Will All Go Away – Aspects of British Labour Policy Towards Northern Ireland, 1964 – 1970.[15]

Illness and death[edit]

In 2017, McNamara was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer while on holiday in Spain. On 6 August, it was reported that he had died at his home in Formby, Merseyside, aged 82.[16]


  1. ^ McKittrick, David (8 August 2017). "Kevin McNamara, politician and advocate for Irish unity | The Independent". The Independent. Retrieved 29 May 2024.
  2. ^ "Index entry". FreeBMD. ONS. Retrieved 16 April 2023.
  3. ^ a b c "Vote 2001 - candidates". BBC News. Retrieved 6 August 2017.
  4. ^ Hurst, Greg (22 March 2005). "Tories reject racism accusation over plans to curb travellers". The Times. Retrieved 6 August 2017. (subscription required)
  5. ^ Jones, George (22 March 2005). "'Gas chambers' row over Tory gipsy law". The Daily Telegraph. Retrieved 6 August 2017.
  6. ^ David McKittrick (8 August 2017). "Kevin McNamara, politician and advocate for Irish unity". The Independent. Retrieved 13 January 2018.
  7. ^ Melaugh, Dr Martin. "CAIN: People: Biographies of People Prominent During 'the Troubles' - Mc". cain.ulst.ac.uk. Retrieved 6 August 2017.
  8. ^ Henry Patterson, Ireland since 1939: The persistence of conflict (Dublin: Penguin Ireland, 2006) p. 334
  9. ^ Christine Kinealy, The Great Irish Famine, (Basingstoke: Palgrave, 2002), p. 12
  10. ^ Watt, Nicholas (24 January 2002). "Secret meeting unites republican MPs". The Guardian. Retrieved 6 August 2017.
  11. ^ "Lists of Members – Association of Papal Orders in Great Britain". 29 September 2023. Archived from the original on 29 September 2023. Retrieved 29 September 2023.
  12. ^ "Lists of Members – Association of Papal Orders in Great Britain". 29 September 2023. Archived from the original on 29 September 2023. Retrieved 29 September 2023.
  13. ^ "University of Hull, News Archive". Archived from the original on 10 November 2008. Retrieved 6 August 2017.
  14. ^ McNamara, Kevin (2009). The Macbride Principles: Irish America Strikes Back (1 ed.). Liverpool University Press. doi:10.2307/j.ctt5vjgmq. ISBN 978-1-84631-217-5. JSTOR j.ctt5vjgmq.
  15. ^ "The Dr John Kennedy Lecture - John Kennedy CBE, KSG, KMCO, DL". 29 September 2023. Archived from the original on 29 September 2023. Retrieved 29 September 2023.
  16. ^ "Former Shadow NI Secretary McNamara dies". Retrieved 6 August 2017.

External links[edit]

Parliament of the United Kingdom
Preceded by Member of Parliament for Kingston upon Hull North
1966Feb 1974
Constituency abolished
New constituency Member of Parliament for Kingston upon Hull Central
Feb 19741983
Member of Parliament for Kingston upon Hull North
Succeeded by
Political offices
Preceded by Shadow Secretary of State for Northern Ireland
Succeeded by