Hanna, George Boyle (1906–64), MP and county court judge, was born 3 June 1906 at Ballymena, Co. Antrim, the only son of George Boyle Hanna (1877–1938), unionist MP and county court judge, and his wife, Sunnie, daughter of Redmond Mack, of Lisburn. He was educated at Ballymena Academy, the RBAI, and QUB . Hanna was called to the bar in 1927, when he was only 21, and took silk in 1946, extending an already busy practice. He was engaged in many important cases, the most notable of which was the Taylor murder trial, in which he led for the defence. After his client had been sentenced to death, Hanna won an appeal on the grounds that a juryman had discussed the case with outsiders during an evening outing under police guard. When Armagh urban council was suspended by the government in 1934 he was appointed by the Ministry of Home Affairs to act as commissioner, and held this position till 1941.
In November 1949 he was elected to Stormont in a by-election for Belfast (Duncairn). Although he was ill for most of the campaign he defeated the NILP candidate, James Morrow, by a comfortable majority. In 1953 Hanna was returned unopposed for Duncairn, the first occasion in the history of the seat when there had been no contest. Keenly interested in health services, he served for a time on the general health services board and was later appointed vice-chairman of the hospitals authority. In October 1953 he was appointed minister of home affairs in succession to Brian Maginess (qv), who had become minister of finance.
Hanna took over the Ministry of Home Affairs at a difficult time, as a section of the government's supporters had become dissatisfied with the way in which relations between the nationalist and unionist communities were being handled. The rerouting of a parade at Annalong, Co. Down (1952), and the curtailment of a coronation parade in Dungiven, Co. Londonderry (1953), had precipitated the formation of the Ulster Orange and Protestant Committee, an organisation set up to protest at such perceived ‘appeasement’ of nationalists. Within the first few months of taking office, Hanna was forced to pilot the flags and emblems bill through parliament in an attempt to curb this groundswell of discontent within the party.
In April 1956, as a result of cabinet changes precipitated by the resignation of Edmond Warnock (qv), he became minister of finance. A month later he was also appointed chairman of the standing committee on salaries, allowances and other matters affecting teachers in all types of schools recognised by the Ministry of Education. After presenting one budget, however, he tendered his resignation to the prime minister, Lord Brookeborough (qv) in April 1956. Although Hanna cited health warnings as the reason for his decision to retire from politics, Terence O'Neill (qv) states in his autobiography that, as a lawyer, Hanna had not been happy in finance, and that when a vacancy occurred in the county court of Down he was glad of the opportunity to retire from the political scene (O'Neill, 34).
A prominent member of the Masonic order, Hanna became deputy to Maj. Rupert Stanley, provincial grand master of the masonic province of Antrim, in 1960. He was also a member of the grand lodge of Ireland, a member of the supreme council of the 33rd degree, vice-president of the grand chapter of prince masons, and prior of the priory of East Ulster. He was admitted to the privy council of Northern Ireland in 1953.
Outside law and politics, Hanna was an international bridge player and a past president of both Glentoran and Cliftonville football clubs. He died suddenly at his residence, Massey Park, Belfast, on 1 March 1964. He was survived by his wife, Patricia (née McIntaggart), of Greystones, Co. Wicklow, and by three children: a son, Gordon, and two daughters, Sancia and Anna-Marie.