Kevin McNamara

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Person.png Dr Kevin McNamara  Rdf-icon.png
Kevin McNamara.jpg
Born Joseph Kevin McNamara
5 September 1934
Died 6 August 2017 (Age 82)
Formby, England
Nationality British
Alma mater University of Hull, University of Liverpool
Party Labour

Employment.png Shadow Secretary of State for Northern Ireland Wikipedia-icon.png

In office
13 July 1987 - 20 October 1994
Preceded by Peter Archer
Succeeded by Mo Mowlam

Employment.png Member of Parliament for Hull North

In office
28 January 1966 - 11 April 2005

Kevin McNamara (5 September 1934 – 6 August 2017) was a British Labour Party politician who served as a Member of Parliament (MP) for almost 40 years.[1]

Early life

Kevin McNamara was educated by the Irish Christian Brothers at St Mary's College, Crosby. He studied for an LLB at the University of Hull. He was head of department in History at St Mary's Grammar School in Hull from 1958–64 and a Law lecturer at Hull College of Commerce from 1964–66.[2]

Parliamentary career

After unsuccessfully contesting Bridlington in the 1964 General Election, Kevin McNamara was elected to the House of Commons as Member of Parliament (MP) for Hull North, in a by-election in January 1966 following the death of sitting Labour MP Henry Solomons. Labour's hold of a former marginal seat with a significantly increased majority is widely considered to have helped to convince the Prime Minister Harold Wilson to call the 1966 General Election and seek a larger majority.

McNamara retained his seat at the 1966 General Election, and at subsequent elections until the constituency was abolished for the February 1974 General Election, when he transferred to the new Hull Central constituency. When that constituency was abolished for the 1983 General Election, McNamara was re-elected for the re-created Hull North constituency.

McNamara campaigned in his last years in parliament on many issues, protesting against the Act of Succession which prohibits a Roman Catholic or the spouse of a Roman Catholic to be the British monarch. He stepped down at the 2005 General Election, with the local Constituency Labour Party choosing Diana Johnson to stand in his place.

During the 2005 General Election campaign McNamara claimed some of the policies regarding illegal travellers' sites of the leader of the Conservative Party, Michael Howard had "whiff of the gas chambers" about them.[3] Howard's grandmother died at Auschwitz.[4]

Northern Ireland

McNamara was known throughout his parliamentary career as a supporter of Irish nationalism who favoured the reunification of Ireland.[5] After entering parliament, he soon became interested in reports of discrimination against the Catholic minority in Northern Ireland and supported the Campaign for Democracy in Ulster (CDU). He served as a frontbench spokesman for the Labour Party, including Shadow Secretary of State for Northern Ireland under Neil Kinnock, 1987–94, an appointment that was widely criticised by Unionists.[6]

After Tony Blair became Labour leader, he replaced McNamara as Northern Ireland spokesman with Mo Mowlam.[7] In 1997, he helped persuade the newly elected Labour government to donate £5,000 (thereby matching the contribution of the Irish government) for the erection of a memorial in Liverpool to the victims of the Great Irish Famine.[8]

McNamara also supported Republicanism in the United Kingdom and joined the All-Party Parliamentary Republic Group.[9]

Personal and later life

Dr McNamara's 2010 book

Kevin McNamara was a Roman Catholic and a Knight of the Pontifical Order of Saint Gregory the Great (KSG).[10] He was married to Nora McNamara, and was the father of four sons and a daughter.

In 2006, McNamara received the honorary degree of Doctor of Laws from Hull University in recognition of his long service in politics.[11]

He graduated with a PhD from the University of Liverpool in 2007 having completed a thesis on the MacBride Principles[12] at the Institute of Irish Studies, where he gave the 2008 John Kennedy Lecture in Irish Studies, "Perhaps It will all go away – An examination of the British Response to the Civil Rights movement in Northern Ireland."

Dr McNamara's book "The Macbride Principles: Irish America Strikes Back" was published in March 2010.[13]

Illness and death

In 2017, McNamara was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer while on holiday in Spain. On 6 August, it was reported that he had died, aged 82.[14]


Related Document

TitleTypePublication dateAuthor(s)Description
Document:Has the media ignored good news about Jeremy CorbynBlog post11 December 2017Patrick WorrallNo-platforming Jeremy Corbyn: Tories and Unionists have a visceral hate of Seán MacBride


  1. "Kevin McNamara obituary"
  2. "BBC biography Kevin McNamara". BBC News. Retrieved 6 August 2017.

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  3. Hurst, Greg (22 March 2005). "Tories reject racism accusation over plans to curb travellers". The Times. Retrieved 6 August 2017.

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    Template:Subscription required
  4. Jones, George (22 March 2005). "'Gas chambers' row over Tory gipsy law". The Daily Telegraph. Retrieved 6 August 2017.

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  5. "Kevin McNamara, politician and advocate for Irish unity"
  6. Melaugh, Dr Martin. "CAIN: People: Biographies of People Prominent During 'the Troubles' - Mc". Retrieved 6 August 2017.

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  7. Henry Patterson, Ireland since 1939: The persistence of conflict (Dublin: Penguin Ireland, 2006) p. 334
  8. Christine Kinealy, The Great Irish Famine, (Basingstoke: Palgrave, 2002), p. 12
  9. Watt, Nicholas (24 January 2002). "Secret meeting unites republican MPs". The Guardian. Retrieved 6 August 2017.

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  10. "Papal Knights of Great Britain" Archived 6 February 2012 at the Wayback Machine.
  11. "University of Hull, News Archive". Retrieved 6 August 2017.

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  12. J. K. McNamara, "The MacBride Principles", unpublished PhD thesis, (University of Liverpool, 2006)
  13. "The MacBride Principles: Irish America Strikes Back"
  14. "Former Shadow NI Secretary McNamara dies". Retrieved 6 August 2017.

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