Craigavon, James Craig, 1st Viscount

Craigavon, James Craig, 1st Viscount

▪ prime minister of Northern Ireland
born Jan. 8, 1871, Sydenham, Belfast, County Antrim, Ire. [now in Northern Ireland]
died Nov. 24, 1940, Glencraig, County Down, N.Ire.
 soldier and statesman, a leading advocate of maintaining the union between Ireland and Great Britain, and the first prime minister of Northern Ireland (from June 22, 1921, until his death).

      Craig became a stockbroker, served with an Irish unit in the South African (Boer) War, and in 1906 entered Parliament as a Unionist. In the acute Irish Home Rule controversy after 1910, he emerged as a leader of the Ulster Unionists and worked with Sir Edward Carson for the exclusion of Ulster from Home Rule. In addition to his part in the threats to establish a provisional government of Ulster, Craig was involved in gunrunning and in the organization of an Ulster volunteer force.

      During World War I Craig recruited and organized the 36th (Ulster) Division. He held various British government offices until 1920, when the Government of Ireland Act came into force and he became prime minister. For 19 years he led the Unionist Party to large majorities in every general election.

      The civil war in the Irish Free State spread into Northern Ireland to some extent; bombings, political murders, and incendiary acts were common, and in 1922 more than 200 persons were killed. In 1925 the Craig government signed an agreement with the Free State and Britain to preserve the Irish frontier. His government also reformed the lower courts, nationalized road transport, and introduced new systems of education and agricultural marketing.

      Craig was created a baronet in 1918 and a viscount in 1927.

Additional Reading
St. John G. Ervine, Craigavon, Ulsterman (1949); and Patrick Buckland, James Craig: Lord Craigavon (1980), cover his life and work.

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Universalium. 2010.

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