Belfast Telegraph

Friday 18 April 2014

Obituary - Sir Ivan Neill

Former Speaker

SIR Ivan Neill, a former Minister of Education and Speaker of the Northern Ireland Parliament, has died. He was aged 95.

SIR Ivan Neill, a former Minister of Education and Speaker of the Northern Ireland Parliament, has died. He was aged 95.

Born in 1906, he went into business, heading up a building contractors in east Belfast.

During World War Two he served in the Army, attaining the rank of Major.

He entered public life in 1945 by being elected as a councillor in Belfast and in the 1949 election he was returned as Unionist MP for Ballynafeigh.

He acted as Minister of Labour from 1950 to 1962, and as Minister of Education from then until 1968, when he was appointed Speaker.

In October 1971 he was in the headlines when the Official IRA made an abortive bid to kidnap him at his country house near Rostrevor. Two months later, the house was burnt down in a terrorist arson attack.

Sir Ivan resigned from the post of Speaker and stood down as an MP in March 1973 after the Government published plans for a power-sharing Assembly to replace the Stormont Parliament, which had been prorogued in 1972.

Sir Ivan was knighted in 1973 and withdrew from active politics.

But in 1995 he wrote a book in which he appealed to unionists to end divisions and face reality.

Sir Ivan's wife Margaret, who held office with the St John's Ambulance Brigade, died in 1993. The couple had no children.

Sir Ivan was a dedicated member of the Baptist Church and a memorial service is to be held in Windsor Baptist Church on Sunday at 3pm.

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