Harry Midgley

(1892—1957) politician

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(1892–1957), politician and trade unionist. Apprenticed in a Belfast shipyard in 1906, Midgley soon became involved with the emergent Independent Labour Party. After service in the First World War he became a full-time union official. Having stood unsuccessfully in West Belfast as an anti-partitionist Labour candidate, he was instrumental in 1924 in forming the disparate labour groups in Northern Ireland into the Northern Ireland Labour Party (NILP). Representing the Dock ward, Midgley was elected to Belfast city council in 1925, and in 1929 to the more powerful city corporation. Becoming chairman of the NILP in 1932, he gained a Stormont seat in 1933. In 1937, disillusioned by the social conservatism of the Irish Free State, and the growing influence of the Catholic church there, he stated that the NILP's future lay within the United Kingdom. The following year, largely deprived of Catholic electoral support, he lost his seat. He re-entered Stormont in 1941, as member for an East Belfast constituency. In 1942 Midgley split from the NILP over the issue of partition and, forming the pro-Union Commonwealth Labour Party, held cabinet office in the wartime Unionist administration (1943–5), before taking the Unionist whip in 1947. His career highlights the innate sectarianism of Northern Ireland politics, and the dominance of the constitutional issue.

From The Oxford Companion to Irish History in Oxford Reference.

Subjects: European History.

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