Kinahan, Sir Robert George Caldwell (‘Robin’) (1916–97), businessman and politician, was born 24 September 1916 in Belfast, second son of Henry Kinahan, Belfast businessman, and his wife Ula, daughter of the Rt Rev. C. T. P. Grierson, bishop of Down and Connor and Dromore. He was educated at Stowe School, Buckinghamshire, England, before joining the family firm of wine merchants, Lyle & Kinahan, becoming its managing director; he was later succeeded in this position by his brother Charles (qv). During the second world war he served in the Royal Artillery and acted as adjutant of the 8th Belfast Heavy AA Regiment. Later he became involved in a number of prominent companies, most notably as chairman of Inglis & Company Ltd (1962–82); E. T. Green Ltd; and the Ulster Bank Ltd (1970–82), where he also served as a director (1963–85). Other directorships included Bass Ireland (1958–78); Gallaher Ltd (1967–82); the Northern Ireland branch of Eagle Star (1970–91); National Westminster Bank (1973–82), Abbey Life (1981–7); Standard Telephones (Monkstown, Co. Antrim) (1984–7); York Street Flax Spinning Co.; Rank, Hovis & McDougall; and Mundet (Bangor, Co. Down) Ltd, which manufactured products for the cigarette market. He was also a president of the Institute of Management's Belfast branch and served a term as chairman of the Confederation of British Industry in Northern Ireland.
Outside his business career, he first entered public life in 1948 with his election as a unionist councillor on Belfast corporation, representing a ward in the north of the city, and held a number of positions before standing for election for the constituency of Clifton, Belfast, in the Northern Ireland parliament at the general election in March 1958. His opponent was the sitting MP, Norman Porter (qv), an independent unionist who had won the seat from the official unionist party candidate at the 1953 election. On this occasion, however, Kinahan, highlighting his status as the unionist party candidate and with support from leading party figures, secured a narrow victory by forty-five votes. It appears that this role was not entirely to Kinahan's liking, as just over a year later (April 1959) he resigned his seat in order to accept nomination as lord mayor of Belfast (1959–61), a position that also automatically entitled the holder to a seat in the Northern Ireland senate (1959–61). Replying to critics of his decision, Kinahan maintained that he felt he could represent his constituents better in his new role, as there were more opportunities to exercise real power at local-government level than as a backbench MP at Stormont. Furthermore his experiences in parliament highlighted the negative aspects of unionist domination, and he commented on the poor quality of speeches and the frequently empty benches during debates. For Kinahan another attraction of his new position was the opportunity it presented to follow in a family tradition: his great-great-great-uncle Robert Kinahan (1799–1861) had been first sheriff and then lord mayor of Dublin (1853).
In other areas he also acted as a public servant on bodies such as the Northern Ireland Hospitals Authority and the Royal Victoria management committee; and in 1972, following the introduction of direct rule from Westminster, he was appointed to the advisory committee to the new secretary of state for Northern Ireland, William Whitelaw (qv). He was also appointed JP for Co. Antrim (1950), high sheriff of Belfast (1956), high sheriff of Co. Antrim (1969), and deputy lord lieutenant (1976–85) and lord lieutenant (1985–91) of the county borough of Belfast. In 1946 he was awarded the Emergency Reserve Decoration; in 1962 an honorary doctorate from QUB; and his service to local government was recognised in 1961 with a knighthood. With an interest in opera, he served as a president of the Ulster Operatic Company and contributed to the work of charities such as Abbeyfield, the Samaritans, Help the Aged, and the Burma Star Association, and attempted to highlight the concerns of ex-servicemen.
He married (1950) Coralie, daughter of Capt. C. de Burgh, DSO, RN; they had three daughters and two sons. He and his wife (a prominent painter) restored the family home, Castle Upton in Templepatrick, Co. Antrim. After a long period of illness he died at home on 2 May 1997.