Kevin McNamara (politician)

Kevin McNamara
Shadow Secretary of State for Northern Ireland
In office
13 July 1987  20 October 1994
Leader Neil Kinnock
John Smith
Margaret Beckett
Preceded by Peter Archer
Succeeded by Mo Mowlam
Member of Parliament
for Hull North
Hull Central (Feb 1974–1983)
In office
28 January 1966  11 April 2005
Preceded by Henry Solomons
Succeeded by Diana Johnson
Personal details
Born Joseph Kevin McNamara
(1934-09-05) 5 September 1934
Nationality British
Political party Labour
Spouse(s) Nora McNamara; 5 children
Religion Roman Catholic

Joseph Kevin McNamara, KSG (born 5 September 1934) is a British Labour Party politician who served as a Member of Parliament (MP) for almost 40 years.

Early life

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) on Cranbrook Avenue, Hull from 1958-64. He was a Law lecturer at Hull College of Commerce from 1964-6.[1]

Political career

After unsuccessfully contesting Bridlington in 1964, McNamara was elected to the House of Commons as Member of Parliament (MP) for Hull North, in a by-election in January 1966 following the death of sitting Labour MP Henry Solomons. Labour's hold of a marginal seat in a mid-term by-election is widely considered to have helped convince the Prime Minister Harold Wilson to call the 1966 election to seek a stronger majority.

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 Hull Central constituency. When that constituency was abolished for the 1983 election, McNamara was re-elected for the re-created Hull North constituency.[1] He stepped down at the 2005 general election, with the local Constituency Labour Party choosing Diana Johnson to stand in his place.

In parliament

McNamara was known throughout his parliamentary career as a supporter of Irish republicanism who favoured the reunification of Ireland. After entering parliament, he soon became interested in allegations 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.[2]

After Tony Blair became Labour leader, he replaced McNamara as Northern Ireland spokesman with Mo Mowlam.[3] 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.[4]

McNamara also supported Republicanism in the United Kingdom and joined the All-Party Parliamentary Republic Group.[5]

Personal life

McNamara is a Roman Catholic and is a Knight of the Pontifical Order of Saint Gregory the Great.[6] During the 2005 general election campaign he claimed some of the policies regarding illegal travellers' sites of the Jewish leader of the Conservative Party, Michael Howard had "whiff of the gas chambers" about them.[7] He 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.

In 2006, McNamara received the honorary degree of Doctor of Laws from Hull University in recognition of his long service in politics.[8] He graduated with a PhD from the University of Liverpool in 2007 having completed a thesis on the MacBride Principles[9] at the Institute of Irish Studies, where he gave the 2008 John Kennedy Lecture in Irish Studies, Perhaps It will all go away – An examination of the British Response to the Civil Rights movement in Northern Ireland.


He is married to Nora McNamara, and is the father of four sons and a daughter.[1]


  1. 1 2 3 BBC Vote 2001, candidate biographies
  2. Conflict Archive on the Internet (CAIN), Biographies of Prominent People
  3. Henry Patterson, Ireland since 1939: The persistence of conflict (Dublin: Penguin Ireland, 2006) p. 334
  4. Christine Kinealy, The Great Irish Famine, (Basingstoke: Palgrave, 2002), p. 12
  6. Papal Knights of Great Britain
  7. The Times, 22 March 2005
  8. University of Hull, News Archive
  9. J. K. McNamara, "The MacBride Principles", unpublished PhD thesis, (University of Liverpool, 2006)
Parliament of the United Kingdom
Preceded by
Henry Solomons
Member of Parliament for Hull North
1966Feb 1974
Constituency abolished
New constituency Member of Parliament for Hull Central
Feb 19741983
Constituency abolished
New constituency Member of Parliament for Hull North
Succeeded by
Diana Johnson
Political offices
Preceded by
Peter Archer
Shadow Secretary of State for Northern Ireland
Succeeded by
Paul Murphy

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