Calvert, (Lilian) Irene Mercer (1909–2000), public servant and MP, was born 10 February 1909 in Belfast, third child and second daughter of John Earls , principal of the Belfast Municipal College of Technology and professor of mathematics at QUB, and his wife Mary (‘Minnie’) Arnold. At the age of 9 she almost died as a result of contracting pleural pneumonia and for health reasons did not take any public examinations when she attended Methodist College, Belfast (1919–25). She later entered QUB (1933), where she studied economics and philosophy, graduating in 1936. In late 1939 she was appointed chief welfare officer in the NI Ministry of Home Affairs, working in 1940 with evacuees from wartime Gibraltar and with Belfast people who had fled their homes because of the air raids of April 1941. Organising care for these groups gave her insight into social deprivation and convinced her to enter politics. Having unsuccessfully contested a by-election in 1944 for a Queen's University seat in the NI house of commons, the following year she won a university seat as an independent non-party candidate in the NI general election. Although she remained an MP until 1953, she decided in 1951 not to seek reelection and in 1952 she joined the Ulster Weaving Company as an economist, becoming managing director the following year. In 1956 she was chosen as a group chairman for the duke of Edinburgh's study conference on industry, the members of which had been nominated for their special promise within their respective fields. She became in 1956 the first woman to be president of the Belfast Chamber of Commerce. Active in the Irish Association for Economic, Social and Cultural Relations, which promoted better north–south relations, she was for a time the association's secretary; she served too on a number of NI public bodies, including the standing Conference of Women's Organisations (which she chaired), the BBC's advisory council, the Advisory Council for Education (vice-chair), and the Mental Health Service Committee of the Hospitals Authority.
In 1965 she gave up her position at the Ulster Weaving Company to take up a position in Dublin. becoming executive manager of Ostlanna Iompair Éireann (OIÉ), a subsidiary of CIÉ, which managed and operated the Great Southern Hotels chain and CIÉ's catering services. Under her leadership OIÉ enjoyed a period of growth and profitability. In 1970 she left Ireland to become head of households to the millionaire Doris Duke of New Jersey, USA, but resigned after three months. Living in Dublin in retirement, she worked well into her eighties for the Labour Party in the Dún Laoghaire constituency.
Her lifelong commitment to public service was underlined by membership of a wide range of organisations. She pursued successful careers in the male-dominated worlds of private business, public service, and politics. She once referred to ‘our two-sex world in which womanhood was needed in every sphere’ (Ir. Times, 7 May 1965). She died on 19 May 2000 at the Royal Hospital, Donnybrook, Dublin, survived by her son, Peter. Her committal service took place at Knockbreda cemetery, Belfast.
Her husband was Raymond Colville Calvert (1906–59), whom she met in 1926 at the QUB Dramatic Society, some years before she herself enrolled as a QUB student. A stockbroker on the Belfast exchange (he succeeded as principal of his firm on his father's death in 1952), he was author of 'The ballad of William Bloat', which he wrote while a QUB undergraduate for a Dramatic Society supper, and subsequently published in a students' humorous magazine. So well known throughout Ulster and Ireland generally so as to have achieved the status of folk poetry, 'William Bloat' has been recited, sung, reprinted, and recorded in its original form and in altered versions. Calvert's other writings include poems, ballads, and radio plays. He died suddenly 11 July 1959 at the family home, Banchory House, Helen's Bay, Bangor, Co. Down.