Clark, James Dawson Chichester- (1923–2002), Baron Moyola, prime minister of Northern Ireland, was born 12 February 1923 at Moyola Park, near Castledawson, Co. Londonderry, the eldest of three children of James Jackson Lenox Conyngham Chichester-Clark (formerly Clark; 1884–1933), landowner, naval officer, and Westminster MP for South Londonderry 1929–33, and his wife, Marion Carolina Dehra (née Chichester; d. 1976), heir to the Dawson family which had acquired its south Derry estate in the 1630s. Chichester-Clark was educated by governesses, at Selwyn House school at Broadstairs, Kent (1932–6), and at Eton College (1936–41). His brother, Robert Chichester-Clark (b. 1928), was Westminster MP for Londonderry, 1955–74, a conservative whip and junior minister.
Chichester-Clark joined the 1st battalion Irish guards in 1942. He served in north Africa and at Anzio, where he was wounded in the back and left ankle on 23 February 1944 by a mortar shell; for the rest of his life he suffered from intermittent pain, and shrapnel periodically worked its way out of his right leg. After his recovery he trained soldiers at Caterham in Surrey. In late 1945 Chichester-Clark was posted to Germany, where he remained until his appointment as aide-de-camp to Earl Alexander, governor general of Canada, in 1947. He then served in Germany (1950–53) and Egypt (1953–4), before entering the Staff College at Camberley, Surrey, in 1956. In 1960 he retired from the Irish guards when serving as deputy assistant quartermaster general, Northern Ireland command, with the rank of major; he had previously turned down an offer to command his regiment. Chichester-Clarke then set about farming the demesne at Moyola. In July 1960 he was elected to the Northern Ireland parliament as MP for South Derry at an uncontested by-election, succeeding his maternal grandmother, Dame Dehra Parker (qv). He was the ninth member of his family to be an MP within a hundred years. (Terence O'Neill (qv) was a distant cousin; Chichester-Clark was also distantly related to Lord Brookeborough (qv) by marriage.) He retained the seat until the suspension of the Northern Ireland parliament in 1972; it was uncontested in 1962 and 1965, though he was opposed by Bernadette Devlin in 1969 (after facing a contest for the unionist nomination from an anti-O'Neill candidate).
In 1963 Chichester-Clark was appointed assistant whip to the Unionist Party by the new prime minister, Terence O'Neill. Later that year Chichester-Clark became chief whip, an office he retained after his appointment as leader of the house in 1966, when he became a full cabinet member; O'Neill had already increased the importance of the office by giving the whip observer status at cabinet meetings. As chief whip Chichester-Clark organised a ‘Back the Government’ campaign to oppose Ian Paisley's (qv) ‘O'Neill Must Go’ attacks, and rallied support for O'Neill against hardline dissentients. In October 1966 the influential journalist Jack Sayers (qv) noted O'Neill's increasing dependence on Chichester-Clark (‘a nice man but not a politician’) and recorded that some people were speaking of him as a potential prime minister (Sayers disagreed). He became minister of agriculture in 1967.
In autumn 1968 Chichester-Clarke was a strong advocate of reform within the cabinet, calling for the abolition of the company vote and reforms in housing allocation, but resisting an immediate move to universal franchise in local elections. The former senior civil servant Kenneth Bloomfield has argued that, after the suppression of a civil rights march in Derry on 5 October 1968, Chichester-Clark actively encouraged O'Neill to use the resulting pressures on the Stormont government to advance a package of reform proposals aimed at stabilising the situation. Nonetheless, he resigned on 23 April 1969 over the timing of the introduction of the universal franchise in local government, having accepted the principle in cabinet. (Robin Chichester-Clark claims that the real reason for his resignation was that Chichester-Clark had lost confidence in O'Neill's ability to implement further reforms; Bloomfield, similarly, suggests that his motive was a desire to put the terminally wounded O'Neill out of his political misery.)
O'Neill resigned on 28 April, and on 1 May Chichester-Clark was elected Unionist Party leader by 17 votes to the 16 gained by his rival, Brian Faulkner (qv), after J. L. O. Andrews (qv) refused to stand as a unity candidate. ‘I don't think he had any idea what he was in for,’ O'Neill commented in retrospect. To some extent he was ‘drafted’, accepting the leadership from a sense of duty despite his personal reservations and his wife's opposition. He pledged himself to continue O'Neill's policies, and his margin of victory was provided by O'Neill supporters who saw him as closer than Faulkner to the reformist agenda; one, Basil McIvor (qv) (1928–2004), retrospectively regretted this on the (questionable) grounds that Faulkner might have been better at selling reform to the unionist grass roots. It was commonly, though incorrectly, believed that Chichester-Clark and O'Neill had staged the resignation in order to enhance Chichester-Clark's credibility as a leadership contender. Chichester-Clark was widely ridiculed as the last representative of aristocratic nepotism and amateurism – ‘Captain this and major that and general nothing’ as the poet John Montague described the last unionist cabinets – and mockingly dubbed ‘Chi-Chi’ (a reference to the celebrated panda at London zoo). This impression was reinforced by his hesitant manner of speaking, heavy features, and unimpressive appearances on television. Chichester-Clark tried to balance his cabinet by including four of his prominent opponents. He promptly decreed an amnesty for all those convicted of public order offences that had occurred between 5 October 1968 and 5 May 1969 ‘to wipe the slate clean and look to the future’, announced his commitment to fair housing allocation, and instituted a local government ombudsman.
In August 1969 he requested that the Westminster government send in troops when the police were no longer able to control rioting in Derry and Belfast. This contingency had been discussed at intergovernmental level in advance; Chichester-Clark had resisted Westminster suggestions that such a deployment should trigger a ‘temporary’ suspension of the Stormont government, a stance that probably affected nationalist perceptions of the move for the worse. The cession of control over security policy was formalised on 20 August, and brought Chichester-Clark under increasing pressure from unionist backbenchers and party activists. He ruled out suggestions of a unity government involving some non-unionists. Further reforms were implemented under pressure from Westminster. At first Chichester-Clark resisted the conclusion of the Hunt committee report that the Ulster special constabulary (USC) should be abolished, claiming that precipitate disarmament or disbandment of the USC would worsen the situation; but when told that the government would not accept responsibility for all the actions that might be undertaken by individual members of the force he gave in. His capitulation led to his being attacked as ‘the man who gave away the B Specials', and his O'Neill-like attempts to argue that the government could solve the violence by addressing the long-standing problems of housing and unemployment were met by hardliners who pointed to the increasingly visible activities of nationalist paramilitaries and the deteriorating security situation. These problems were exacerbated by the election of two DUP members (one of whom was Ian Paisley) in Stormont by-elections; one of the elections was precipitated by O'Neill's resignation of his seat, which some commentators regarded as a betrayal of Chichester-Clark. Some liberal unionists further weakened the prime minister's position by defecting to the New Ulster Movement (later the Alliance Party).
On 26 August 1970 Chichester-Clark took over responsibility for home affairs after the resignation of the home affairs minister on health grounds. This proved a mistake, both because it added to the burden of his responsibilities and because the junior minister whom he appointed to share the task, John Taylor, was widely seen as a hardliner – ‘Mr. John Taylor kicks the O'Neillites in the teeth and Major Chichester-Clark politely offers the services of his dentist to effect the repairs’ (Hennessy, 322). Chichester-Clark, who from the earliest days of his premiership had called for the removal of the barricades which had sprung up around catholic areas in Belfast and Derry, grew particularly concerned about the persistence of ‘no-go areas’ in the two cities, which he believed encouraged recruitment to the IRA. The official British view that removal of the barricades would cause an unacceptable level of bloodshed was to prove unfounded when this was undertaken some months after Chichester-Clark's resignation. At the same time he privately opposed internment, increasingly favoured by Faulkner and elements at Westminster as a ‘kill or cure’ measure.
Chichester-Clark resigned on 20 March 1971 in protest at the failure of the Westminster government to send in more troops and impose wide-ranging security measures in response to the deteriorating situation, marked by renewed rioting and the murder of policemen and soldiers by the IRA. His departure fended off the growing opposition from backbenchers and party activists, including those in his own constituency, where he faced repeated votes of ‘no confidence’ and had only narrowly avoided deselection in August 1970. On 20 July 1971 Chichester-Clark received a life peerage and became Baron Moyola of Castledawson. He took little further part in the Northern Ireland parliament (which was suspended in March 1972) and on 31 October 1972 announced that he would not seek election to any future Northern Ireland assembly. He supported the Sunningdale agreement (December 1973) and the power-sharing executive (January–May 1974), and was a member of the Unionist Party of Northern Ireland, 1974–81. On its dissolution he took the conservative whip in the house of lords, though he did not apply for party membership; he believed the UUP made a mistake in severing its ties with the conservatives.
Chichester-Clark took relatively little interest in house of lords business, though he spoke against the ratification of the 1985 Anglo-Irish agreement. In retirement he constructed an eighteen-hole golf course on the Moyola estate (the labourers employed on this task included the future IRA hunger-striker Thomas McIlwee) and developed a rhododendron garden; he was also fond of fishing. He was a DL for Co. Londonderry from 1954, and deputy lord lieutenant in 1975–93. Chichester-Clark became a freeman of the City of London in 1978. He last intervened in public affairs in 1998 when he urged unionists to vote in favour of the Belfast agreement at the subsequent referendum.
Chichester-Clark married on 14 March 1959 Moyra Maud Haughton (née Morris), a widow from Donegal with one son (her first husband, Captain Thomas Haughton, had run a family linen firm and was son of a unionist MP for South Antrim). The Chichester-Clarks had two daughters. He died 17 May 2002.
Most assessments of Chichester-Clark have been unfavourable, a tendency encouraged by his role as belated representative of a style of amateurish gentry politics soon to be abandoned even by the Ulster Unionist Party, by his failure (unlike O'Neill and Faulkner) to write self-justificatory memoirs, and by the fact that admirers of both O'Neill and Faulkner found him a convenient scapegoat. More recently, encouraged by the release of Stormont cabinet documents, he has found defenders (notably Clive Scoular in his slight though semi-official biography and Colin Armstrong in the Oxford DNB) who argue that he had a genuine commitment to reform, that the measures he implemented (and O'Neill did not) were not simply the product of Westminster pressure but also reflected his own convictions, and that none of his rivals would have done much better in handling a situation which derived from the long-term failings of Stormont-style devolution. While Chichester-Clark ultimately lacked the ability and the will to master the situation, he should not be seen as devoid of ability. His civil service adviser Kenneth Bloomfield recalled him as ‘not openly impressive [but] a man of forthright honesty and common sense, a firm and businesslike chairman of cabinet discussions, and altogether a most likeable ministerial chief . . . the best kind of simple soldier’.