Stewart, George Francis (1851–1928), land agent, unionist, and governor of the Bank of Ireland, was born 1 November 1851, the eighth son of the nine sons and three daughters of James Robert Stewart, JP and DL, of Gortleitragh, Co. Dublin, and Mount Blakeney, Co. Limerick, and his wife, Martha Eleanor, the daughter of Richard Benson Warren, serjeant-at-law. His father's family ran the firm of Stewart and Kincaid, one of the most extensive land agencies in Ireland throughout the nineteenth century, which continued operations well into the third quarter of the twentieth century. The Clements family, which produced the earls of Leitrim, were his cousins. Educated at Marlborough College (1865– 8), Stewart entered TCD in September 1868. A bright and diligent student, he graduated BA, as senior moderator and gold medallist, in 1872 and MA in 1875.
Stewart joined the family land agency, J. R. Stewart and Sons, of 6 Leinster Street, Dublin, and in time became the senior partner and one of the principal land agents in Ireland. The practice had extensive agencies in Co. Leitrim, of which county he was JP, deputy lieutenant, and high sheriff (1893 and 1913). He was a member of the Irish Landowners’ Convention, the landlords’ representative body. Like his father before him, he became a prominent figure in banking, and he served as director (1902–28) and governor (1916–17) of the Bank of Ireland; as a result, he was a distinguished member of the Dublin business world and a member of many boards of public companies and hospitals. He also sat on the Cunliffe commission on currency (1918–19).
A unionist, Stewart was keenly aware, as a businessman, of the importance of Ulster in the economy of Ireland. He was vice-chairman of the Southern Unionist Association and a member of the Irish Unionist Alliance (IUA). He participated in the successful southern unionist attempt to block proposals for a partition-based home rule settlement in the aftermath of the Easter rising by lobbying cabinet ministers sympathetic to southern unionism. However, when elected as a representative of southern unionists to the Irish convention (1917–18) he entered talks ready to compromise, having decided that southern unionists had really been abandoned long before the war. The willingness of the southern unionist delegates to strike a deal with John Redmond (qv) led to a quarrel with the Ulster unionists and to a grassroots revolt by IUA hard-liners. In 1919 Stewart, with other leading southern unionists headed by John Brodrick, 1st earl of Midleton (qv), withdrew from the IUA and formed the unionist Anti-Partition League (APL). The APL's stated aims were to fight for complete union and against home rule, but in the event of home rule taking place to work to safeguard the interests of unionists in the ‘South and West’.
Stewart, a fellow of the Surveyor's Institution, became chairman of the institution's Irish branch in 1899 and was the first Irish president of the UK-wide body (1916–17). In 1921 he was created a member of the Irish privy council. His affability made him popular in Dublin social circles. He loved to travel and sail, and was a member of the Royal St George Yacht Club.
On 28 June 1881 Stewart married Georgiana Lavinia Quin, the daughter of Rear Admiral Richard Quin and the granddaughter of Lord George Quin; the couple had two sons and two daughters. Stewart died at his residence, Summerhill, Killiney, Co. Dublin, on 12 August 1928. His correspondence with Walter Long (qv) is in the Long Papers in the Wiltshire Record Office at Trowbridge.