Stormont Castle

Stormont Castle

Dame Dehra Parker was the most successful female M.P. in the parliament of Northern Ireland (which met in Stormont Castle). She was one of two women first elected in 1921 and she retained her seat until 1960. She was the only woman to hold a senior ministerial office in the parliament, serving as parliamentary secretary for education in 1937 and minister for health and local government in 1949. Her outstanding achievement was the introduction of the national health service to Northern Ireland.

Parker was a staunch unionist and opposed any measure that she thought would strengthen nationalists. She led the campaign to abolish proportional representation, defended legislation that encroached upon civil liberties and supported the introduction of promissory oaths for those employed by the government. When she retired in 1960, she was succeeded by her grandson and future prime minister of Northern Ireland, James Chichester-Clark.