Ireland, Denis Liddell (1894–1974), journalist, writer, and senator, was born 29 July 1894 in Belfast, son of Adam Liddell Ireland, linen manufacturer, of Lurgan, Co. Armagh, and Isabella Ireland (née McHinch). He was educated at RBAI and the Perse School, Cambridge; his medical studies at QUB were interrupted by the first world war, during which he served as a captain in the Royal Irish Fusiliers, seeing action in France, Flanders, and Macedonia, where he was injured. Invalided home with the rank of captain, he was sent to recuperate in Glengarriff, Co. Cork, where his chance reading of P. W. Joyce's Irish names and places inspired his conversion to Irish nationalism. Though he returned after the war to his studies at QUB, he soon decided to abandon medicine, worked for a time in the family business, and travelled widely in Europe, Canada, and the USA. Leaving the business in his mid thirties, he worked briefly as a talks assistant for the BBC's Northern Ireland region, before becoming a freelance writer and journalist, contributing to a number of periodicals, including The Bell (and its successor Envoy), Blackwood's Magazine, Capuchin Annual, Dublin Magazine, Hibernia, Irish Bookman, and Ulsterman.
An unsuccessful liberal candidate for Belfast East in the 1929 general election, he was the first resident of Northern Ireland to become a member of the oireachtas when he was nominated by the taoiseach, John A. Costello (qv) to Seanad Éireann in 1948. This came at the instigation of the Clann na Poblachta leader, Seán MacBride (qv), who was supposedly keen to use his Ulster background as a means of symbolically uniting north and south, protestant and catholic. Throughout Ireland's three years in the senate (he did not secure a second nomination when Éamon de Valera (qv) returned to power in 1951) he spoke mainly on partition, and did nothing to advance the aims of Clann na Poblachta. While a senator he was nominated as an Irish representative at the Council of Europe (1949–51). Raised a presbyterian in Belfast, as a nationalist he regarded unionism as a regrettable break from the presbyterian tradition of radical republicanism. He was founder and first president of the Ulster Union Club, an association of Northern Ireland protestants who supported a united and independent Ireland. An anti-imperialist, he retained use of his military rank of captain from the first world war, which he saw as a war against imperialism. As a senator he favoured reform of Irish monetary policy, by removing parity with sterling, and supported the Republic of Ireland bill.
He left formal politics in 1951 and resumed writing. His principal publications include Creative responsibility (c.1930); An Ulster protestant looks at his world (1930); Ulster today and tomorrow (1931); Portraits and sketches (1935); From the Irish shore: notes on my life and times (1936); Patriot adventurer (1936), on T. W. Tone (qv); Statues round the City Hall (1939); Eamon de Valera doesn't see it through (1941); The age of unreason (1944); Six counties in search of a nation (1947); Unionism or unity? (1948); Ireland and North Atlantic defence (1950); and From the jungle of Belfast (1973).
He married (4 October 1957) at Elmwood presbyterian church, Belfast, Mary (1911–97), daughter of Dr John Hawthorne, a distinguished academic scientist, and Edith Frances Hawthorne (née Russell). Throughout his life he lived in Belfast, where his principal addresses were 69 Eglantine Avenue, 49 Malone Road, and 17 Wellington Park Terrace. He died 23 September 1974 in a Belfast nursing home. His papers are in the PRONI and the Linenhall Library, Belfast.