Murphy, Edward Sullivan (1880–1945), politician and lord justice of appeal for Northern Ireland, was born 3 February 1880 in Dublin, fourth son of James Murphy (1826–1901), MP and judge, and his wife Mary Josephine, eldest daughter of William Keogh (qv), MP and judge. He attended St Stephen's Green school, Dublin, and Charterhouse, where he was a scholar and a school exhibitioner. His uninterrupted academic success continued at TCD, where he took a scholarship in classics in 1899 and graduated with a senior moderatorship in classics (large gold medal) and logics and ethics (gold medal) in 1901. He was also appointed the vice-chancellor's prizeman and was a gold medallist of the College Historical Society.
Although it was expected that he would embark on an academic career, he decided to follow in his father's footsteps and was called to the Irish bar in 1903. He took silk in 1918 and was called to the Inner Temple in 1921. On the establishment of a separate judiciary for Northern Ireland he left his practice on the north-west circuit and moved north to reside and practise in Belfast. He was admitted as a bencher at the Inn of Court of Northern Ireland in 1926 and succeeded Sir Anthony Babington (qv) as NI attorney general in December 1937. Widely recognised as the leading barrister in Northern Ireland, he was appointed a lord justice of appeal in March 1939. Although he presided over many important cases, the best known was the trial of the IRA man Tom Williams (qv), whom he sentenced to death in 1942.
He first entered politics in March 1929, when he became a member of the NI senate. Two months later, however, in the first general election since the abolition of proportional representation, he was returned unopposed to the NI house of commons as the unionist member for the city division of Londonderry. In 1933 he defeated independent unionist C. J. Millar by a large majority, and held the seat until his appointment to the bench in 1939.
In parliament he strongly defended the economic interests of Derry and was particularly concerned about the political and economic repercussions of what he believed to be a constant influx of migrants from Donegal. He was strongly in favour of increasing the period of residence for qualifying voters to seven years, and stated that he was glad that he no longer lived in the south of Ireland. A staunch defender of the B specials, he protested at the flying of the tricolour in Derry city and expressed complete confidence in Basil Brooke (qv) after his controversial remark that loyalists should not employ catholics.
A devoted member of the Church of Ireland, Murphy strongly supported the Church of Ireland Mission to Seamen and was keenly interested in youth movements such as the Sea Cadets. His interest in the Boys’ Brigade also extended over many years, and as a vice-president of the Belfast Battalion he was a regular visitor to the camps and annual demonstrations.
A proud member of Eldon LOL No. 7, he served as worshipful master from 1932 to 1934. He also regularly attended district and county grand lodge meetings and was subsequently elected a deputy grand master of Ireland. A vice-president of the Belfast Loyal Orange Widows’ Fund, a member of the ‘No Surrender’ parent club of the Apprentice Boys of Derry, and Past King of Royal Arch Chapter no. 154, he was also a member of the Masonic Order, the Lodge of Good Counsel no. 553, the Ulster Club, Belfast, the Northern Counties Club, Derry, and the Friendly Brother House, Dublin. He was admitted to the NI privy council in 1939.
He married first (1905) Alice Louisa, youngest daughter of Hugh Holmes (qv), MP and judge. She died in 1942 and the following year he married Mary Craig, third daughter of the late John Buchanan of Kilmarnock. He died 3 December 1945 at his residence in Belfast after a serious illness.