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Text and Research: Brendan Lynn ... Edited and Compiled: Martin Melaugh
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Surname: A B C D E F G H I J K L M Mc N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z

| Sands | Scott | Shillington | Stephen | Smyth,H. | Smyth,M. | Spence | Spring |

Sands, ('Bobby') Robert (b. 1954)
Republican Activist; 1981 Hunger Strike; Anti-H-Block MP April 1981 - May 1981

Bobby Sands was born in Belfast and lived with his family in the Rathcoole estate in north Belfast until 1972 when they were forced from their home and then moved to the Twinbrook estate in west Belfast. Soon after these events he joined the Irish Republican Army (IRA). In 1973 Sands was arrested on arms charges and went onto serve five years in the Maze Prison. Following his release in 1976 he soon became involved once again in paramilitary activity and in 1977 Sands was re-arrested having been found in possession of weapons. After his trial he received a 14 year sentence and returned the Maze Prison. By this time however the prison regime in Northern Ireland had undergone a radical change with the British government having abolished in 1976 special category status for anyone convicted of terrorist activities after that year. As a consequence in the autumn 1976 republican prisoners had begun to take action in protest at the move and as a result on his arrival in the Maze in 1977 Sands joined in this action.

However these initial efforts made little headway and as a result the decision was taken to escalate the action in October 1980 when a number of prisoners began a hunger strike. During this time Sands had assumed the position of leader of IRA prisoners in the jail and when the first hunger strike ended in December 1980 without a clear settlement, he chose to lead another hunger strike which commenced on 1 March 1981. On 5 May 1981, the 66th day of his fast, he became the first of ten hunger strikers who were to die without immediately securing their demands from the British government. Instead Sands was to leave a more important legacy in that in March 1981 he had been nominated to stand as an "Anti-H-Block" candidate in the Westminster by-election for the constituency of Fermanagh and South Tyrone. His subsequent victory in April 1981 not only gave impetus to the prison protests but provided a boost to certain elements within the Republican movement. In particular it strengthed the hands of those who were anxious for it to engage in a sustained effort to develop an electoral base in order to sustain their strategic goal of securing Irish unification.

Book References:
Beresford, David. (1987), Ten Men Dead: The Story of the 1981 Irish Hunger Strikes. London: Grafton.
Elliott, Sydney. and Flackes, W.D. (1999), Northern Ireland: A Political Directory 1968-1999. Belfast: Blackstaff Press.
McRedmond, Louis. (ed.) (1998), Modern Irish Lives: Dictionary of 20th-century Biography. Dublin: Gill & Macmillan.
Web Sources:
[Entry written by B. Lynn - 5 January 2003]

Scott, Nicholas Paul (b. 5 August 1933)
Politician; Conservative Party MP; Under Secretary at the Northern Ireland Office (NIO) 1981-86; Minister of State at NIO and Deputy Secretary of State for Northern Ireland 1986-1987

Nicholas Scott was elected as Conservative MP in 1966 for Paddington South (1966-74) and later represented the constituency of Chelsea (1970-97). He served in a number of junior ministerial positions before being appointed in 1981 as Under Secretary at the Northern Ireland Office (NIO). At the NIO his responsibilities were to include education and later security. In his security role, Scott managed to survive the political fall out from the mass escape from the Maze Prison in September 1983 by 38 Irish Republican Army (IRA) prisoners. As Deputy Secretary of State for Northern Ireland (1986-87) he angered Unionist opinion with his strong support for the 1985 Anglo-Irish Agreement (AIA) and they largely welcomed his departure from the NIO following a government reshuffle in June 1987. Over the next few years Scott continued to serve as a junior minister but prior to the 1997 election he was deselected by the Conservative Party Association in his constituency.

Book References:
Elliott, Sydney. and Flackes, W.D. (1999), Northern Ireland: A Political Directory 1968-1999. Belfast: Blackstaff Press.
[Entry written by B.Lynn - 26 March 2003]

Shillington, Graham (b. 2 April 1911)
Police Officer; Chief Constable of the RUC 1970-73

A native of Portadown, County Armagh Graham Shillington was the son of Major David Shillington, a former Stormont Unionist MP and Northern Ireland Minister for Labour. He was educated in Dublin, Sedberg Public School in England, and graduated from Cambridge before joining the Royal Ulster Constabulary (RUC) in 1933. Shillington then rose through the ranks and at the outbreak of civil unrest in Northern Ireland at the end of the 1960s, had reached the position of Deputy Inspector General (Deputy Chief Constable). In this role he was also responsible for beginning the task of implementing the reorganisation of the RUC as envisaged by the 1969 Hunt Report. Then towards the end of 1970 Shillington was appointed as the new Chief Constable of the RUC (1970-73) succeeding Sir Arthur Young. Whilst his appointment was broadly welcomed by Unionist opinion given his background and involvement in recent events, the response of civil rights activists was more hostile. Over the next few years he had to deal with a worsening security situation as sectarian violence escalated across Northern Ireland. During his term as Chief Constable Shillington also had to deal with the security implications of events in the early 1970s, such as the introduction of Internment in August 1971 and the abolition of Stormont in 1972.

Book References:
Elliott, Sydney., and Flackes, W.D. (1999), Northern Ireland: A Political Directory 1968-1999. Belfast: Blackstaff Press.
Ryder, Chris. (2000), The RUC 1922-2000: A Force Under Fire. London: Arrow.
[Entry written by B.Lynn - 28 March 2003]

Stephen, Ninian (b. 15 June 1923)
Australian Governor-General 1982-89; Chairman of All-party Talks on the Political Future of Northern Ireland 1991-92

A long and successful legal career in Australia had seen Ninian Stephen appointed as Governor- General of Australia (1982-89). As a figure acceptable to politicians in London, Dublin, and Belfast, he was approached in the early 1990s to chair the North-South strand of the talks in 1992 involving the British and Irish governments as well as a number of the political parties in Northern Ireland. He was to be involved for some six months and chaired the sessions in a manner which won him praise from all the participants. Although these broke up without any agreement in 1992, Stephen stated his interest in returning to take up a similar role in the future if invited to do so.

Book References:
Elliott, Sydney. and Flackes, W.D. (1999), Northern Ireland: A Political Directory 1968-1999. Belfast: Blackstaff Press.
Hennessey, Thomas.(2000), The Northern Ireland Peace Process: Ending the Toubles? Dublin: Gill & Macmillan.
[Entry written by B.Lynn - 25 March 2003]

Smyth, Hugh (b. 1941)
Politician; Loyalist Activist
[Entry to be included at a later date]

Smyth, Martin William (b. 15 June 1931)
Politician; Ulster Unionist Party (UUP) MP 1982-present

Martin Smyth was born in Belfast and educated at Methodist College Belfast, and Trinity College Dublin before going onto to train as a Presbyterian Minister at Magee University College, Londonderry, and the Presbyterian College, Belfast. After his ordination in 1957 he served in a number of churches in the Greater Belfast area. Smyth's first involvement in politics came in the 1960s when he joined the Ulster Unionist Party (UUP) and he went onto become a member of its ruling body, the Ulster Unionist Council (UUC). He later served on its executive including spells as Chairman and Vice President (1972-2000). In May 1975 he was elected as a member of the UUP representing the constituency of Belfast South in the Constitutional Convention (1975-77). During this period he was a member of a UUP delegation which met with members of the Social Democratic and Labour Party (SDLP) in secret discussions which attempted to end the political stalemate at that time. When the Convention was wound up in 1977 he returned to his work as a Presbyterian Minister as well as maintaining his association with the Orange Order in Ireland. He had joined the Order as a young boy and had gradually moved through the ranks to assume the position of Grand Master of the Grand Orange Lodge of Ireland (1973-82 and 1993-2000).

Following his election in February 1982 as MP for the Westminster constituency of Belfast South (1982-present) he gave up his church ministry to become a full-time politician. In October 1982 he was also returned as a representative of Belfast South in the Northern Ireland Assembly of 1982-86. With the signing of the 1985 Anglo-Irish Agreement (AIA) he participated in the unionist campaign against it. Smyth also resigned his parliamentary seat in January 1986 in order to use the subsequent by-elections to highlight the extent of the opposition within unionism to the AIA. During the period 1991 to 1992 he was a member of the UUP's delegation to the all-party talks which were later to end without success.

During political developments, in what was to become the 'Peace Process' in the early to mid 1990s, Smyth did express a willingness to consider the possibility of the UUP dealing with republicans but he stressed this could only be done under certain terms. When the Good Friday Agreement (GFA) was signed in April 1998 he felt these terms had not been met and he immediately became associated with the anti-GFA element within the UUP. This led to him campaigning for a 'No' vote in the May 1998 referendum. Since then he has remained a prominent critic of the policies of his party leader, David Trimble, concerning the implementation of the GFA and in particular the move to participate with republicans in the Northern Ireland Executive. In March 2000 this led to him challenging Trimble for the leadership of the UUP at a meeting of the UUC and although he was to fail, Smyth did poll well and secured over 43% of the votes cast. In spite of this personal setback he has continued to oppose the GFA and to advocate that the UUP should pull out of the Executive in the absence of the complete decommissioning by republican paramilitary groups. He continued however to voice criticism of his party leader, David Trimble, and this has taken different forms. For instance aong with two of his fellow Westminster MPs, Smyth resigned from the party's group at Westminster from June 2003 until October 2003.

Book References:
Elliott, Sydney. and Flackes, W.D. (1999), Northern Ireland: A Political Directory 1968-1999. Belfast: Blackstaff Press.
Web Sources:
[Entry written by B. Lynn 5 January 2003; updated 10 June 2004]

Spence, ('Gusty') Augustus (b. 28 June 1933)
Loyalist Activist; Community Activist

He was born in the Shankill Road area of Belfast and was educated locally before leaving school at an early age to take up employment in various manual occupations. In 1957 Spence joined the British Army and served in the Royal Ulster Rifles until ill-health forced him to leave in 1961 to return to civilian life. Later he became involved in the loyalist paramilitary group, the Ulster Volunteer Force (UVF), which was to be reformed in Belfast in 1965. A year later in October 1966 he was sentenced to life imprisonment for the murder of a young Catholic barman, a charge he was always to deny, outside a public house in the Shankill Road area. Within the Maze Prison Spence assumed the position of UVF commander and on the outside he emerged as something of a hero to militant loyalists.

By 1977 however his views had undergone a dramatic change and in a public statement he called for reconciliation in Northern Ireland and condemned the use of violence to secure political objectives on the grounds that it was counter-productive. Having resigned as the UVF leader in the Maze in 1978 Spence was finally released in December 1984. Although he had also by this stage severed his links with the UVF he still maintained an association with it through his involvement with the Progressive Unionist Party (PUP) which offered political advice to the UVF. In addition Spence devoted much of his time to in encouraging the growth of community politics in Protestant working class communities such as the Shankill. In doing so he was also to be highly critical of the established unionist parties arguing that, in his view, they had failed to properly represent such areas. His standing within loyalism was clearly established in October 1994 when he was chosen to read out a statement from the Combined Loyalist Military Command (CLMC), representing the main loyalist paramilitary groups, which announced the calling of an immediate ceasefire. After this development he went on to support the emerging 'Peace Process' and backed the Good Friday Agreement (GFA) of April 1998 in the subsequent referendum campaign of May 1998.

Book References:
Elliott, Sydney. and Flackes, W.D. (1999), Northern Ireland: A Political Directory 1968-1999. Belfast: Blackstaff Press.
Garland, Roy. (2001), Gusty Spence. Belfast: Blackstaff Press.
McRedmond, Louis. (ed.) (1998), Modern Irish Lives: Dictionary of 20th-century Biography. Dublin: Gill & Macmillan.
Web Sources:
[Entry written by B. Lynn 5 January 2003]

Spring, ('Dick') Richard (b. 29 August 1950)
Politician; Labour Party TD; Tánaiste (deputy Taoiseach) 1982-87 and 1993-97 and Irish Foreign Minister 1993-97

Dick Spring was born in Tralee, County Kerry, and educated at the Christian Brothers' School, Tralee, before graduating from Trinity College Dublin. Spring then chose to enter the legal profession and after attending King's Inn, Dublin, he became a barrister. A keen sportsman he went onto represent his county at Gaelic football and hurling in the 1970s as well as later winning a number of international rugby union caps with Ireland. His first electoral contests came in 1979 as a Labour Party candidate in the local government elections and he was to be returned as a member of Kerry County Council (1979-1982 and 1991-1993) as well as Tralee Urban District Council (1979-1981). Then at the general election of 1981, Spring was elected as a TD for Kerry North (1981-2002) and thereby followed in the footsteps of his father, Dan, who had held a seat in the constituency for almost thirty years (1943-81). Within a short period of time he began to make further progress in his political career and with Labour now in a coalition government with Fine Gael (FG), he was immediately awarded a junior ministerial position at the Department of Justice (1981-82). In 1982 following the resignation of the Michael O'Leary, then party leader, Spring decided to enter the subsequent leadership contest and went onto win the position (1982-1997). With a FG-Labour coalition in power he was also to hold the posts of Tánaiste (deputy Prime Minister) from 1982 to 1987 as well as those of Minister for the Environment (1982-83) and Minister for Energy (1983-87).

As Tánaiste, he was to be closely involved with Garret Fitzgerald, then Taoiseach (Prime Minister) in the negotiations with the British government which were to culminate in November 1985 with the signing of the Anglo-Irish Agreement (AIA). When the FG-Labour government lost the 1987 general election, Spring continued to lead his party from the opposition benches. Then following the indecisive election of November 1992, when Labour had achieved one of its best ever performances, after a lengthy period of negotiations he agreed to form a new administration with Fianna Fáil (FF). Spring was again appointed as Tánaiste in addition to accepting the position of Minister of Foreign Affairs (1993-94). In this latter role he assumed responsibilities of a department in which the issue of Northern Ireland was one of its main concerns. Given the political developments surrounding the emergence of the 'Peace Process' he had a much higher profile than he had previously enjoyed. For instance along with Albert Reynolds, then Taoiseach, Spring played a prominent role in the process of talks with the Westminster authorities which were to lead in December 1993 to the publication of the Downing Street Declaration (DSD).

When the DSD failed to produce an immediate political breakthrough he expressed some impatience at the failure of others, such as republicans, unionists and the British government, to seize the initiative to move the process forward rapidly. With the announcement of an Irish Republican Army (IRA) ceasefire in August 1994 it appeared as if this was a realistic prospect but problems soon began to emerge. To begin with there were to be major differences between Dublin and London as to whether the statement by the IRA represented a permanent end to its campaign. Further problems were then to arise in November 1994, when a political dispute with Reynolds, led to Spring withdrawing his support and thereby forcing the FF-Labour government to collapse. After a fresh round of negotiations however he agreed to form a new coalition with FG and Democratic Left which took office in December 1994. Once again he assumed the positions of Tánaiste and Foreign Minister (1994-97).

With regards to the 'Peace Process' the new administration in Dublin was immediately faced with a difficult situation. This centred on disagreement with others as to how and when all-party talks including Sinn Féin (SF) could begin. For unionists and the British government these could only get underway when republican paramilitaries had adequately addressed the issue of disposing of their weaponry. On this point in June 1994 Spring had warned that some arms would have to be decommissioned in order for Republicans to clearly indicate to others the complete cessation of violence. At the same time however he was anxious to avoid the problem from becoming a stumbling block to further political progress. The way in which this then might be done was revealed by the two governments when they published the Framework Document in February 1995.

However the question of decommissioning continued to dominate proceedings and as a result, throughout 1995, Spring was to frequently clash with Sir Patrick Mayhew, then Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, over the issue. No consensus on the question however could be found and in February 1996 the IRA cease-fire broke down. In the wake of that development he participated in series of initiatives aimed at breaking the political stalemate. These began to focus on a proposal to allow for a separate body to deal with decommissioning whilst all-party negotiations got underway. After a further round of discussions between London and Dublin, it was agreed to set a date in June 1996 for talks to begin. But from the outset it appeared as if Spring was sceptical as to whether these would succeed without the presence of SF. In any case in the wake of the general election of June 1997, the coalition government was to lose office and after his party's poor showing Spring soon stepped down as Labour leader. As a backbench TD he continued to play an active political role and was to take a close interest in Northern Ireland affairs. This continued to be the case until he lost his seat at the general election of May 2002.

Book References:
Elliott, Sydney. and Flackes, W.D. (1999), Northern Ireland: A Political Directory 1968-1999. Belfast: Blackstaff Press.
Hennessey, Thomas. (2000), The Northern Ireland Peace Process: Ending the Troubles. London: Gill & Macmillan.
McRedmond, Louis. (ed.) (1998), Modern Irish Lives: Dictionary of 20th-century Biography. Dublin: Gill & Macmillan.
Web Sources:
[Entry written by B. Lynn - 5 January 2003]

The information has been compiled from numerous primary and secondary sources.
The best general sources for additional information are:
  • Elliott, Sydney. and Flackes, W.D. (1999), Northern Ireland: A Political Directory, 1968-1999. Belfast: Blackstaff Press.
  • McRedmond, Louis. (ed.) (1998), Modern Irish Lives: Dictionary of 20th-century Biography. Dublin: Gill & Macmillan.
  • Ramsden, John. (ed.) (2002), The Oxford Companion to Twentieth-Century British Politics. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
    For related and background information see also:
  • The list of acronyms associated with 'the Troubles'
  • The glossary of terms related to the conflict
  • The abstracts on prominent organisations
  • The chronology of the conflict

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