William McMullen (politician)

William McMullen (1888–1982), sometimes known as Billy McMullen, was an Irish trade unionist and politician.

Born into a Protestant family in Belfast, McMullen began working in the shipyards and became an active trade unionist. He met James Connolly in 1910, and was thereafter Connolly's most prominent supporter in Belfast, acting as the first Chairman of the Irish Labour Party in the city. Becoming a full-time official for the Irish Transport and General Workers Union (ITGWU), McMullen was a strong opponent of the partition of Ireland.[1]

At the 1925 Northern Ireland general election, McMullen stood in Belfast West for the Northern Ireland Labour Party.[2] Despite coming bottom of the poll, he was elected on transfers from Joe Devlin, the only Nationalist Party candidate. In Parliament, he challenged the Ulster Unionist Party over unemployment, and in 1928, he joined the rest of the party in walking out, earning themselves suspensions from the body. For 1927–28, he was the President of the Irish Trades Union Congress.[1]

Following the restructuring of constituencies, McMullen stood in Belfast Falls in 1929. The Nationalist Party stood Richard Byrne, a publican and landlord. Devlin offered to secure McMullen a seat in the Senate of Northern Ireland should he stand down, but McMullen refused the offer. He produced a newspaper, the Northern Worker, claiming that Byrne was a slum landlord. Byrne secured an injunction to stop distribution two days before the election, and beat McMullen by around 1,400 votes.[1]

In 1934, McMullen was a supporter of the Republican Congress movement, a left-wing split from the Irish Republican Army, unsuccessfully contesting Belfast Central in a by-election. He later moved to Dublin to take up a post as the President of the ITGWU. After the 1951 Irish general election he was elected to Seanad Éireann on the Labour Panel.[3] He was declared bankrupt in the High Court on 18 October 1952, which ipso facto vacated his seat, despite his having promptly discharged his bankruptcy.[4] He was re-elected on 25 February 1953 to fill the vacancy.[5] On 1 September 1953 he resigned to join the board of Córas Iompair Éireann.[6]


  1. Michael Farrell, Northern Ireland: The Orange State
  2. Northern Ireland Parliamentary Elections Results: Biographies
  3. "Prelude". Seanad Éireann debates. Oireachtas. 14 August 1951. Retrieved 2 October 2018.
  4. Seanad Committee on Procedure and Privileges (29 October 1952). "Report - Question of the Effect of Senator William McMullen's bankruptcy on his membership of the Seanad". Archive: Committee Reports. Oireachtas. Retrieved 2 October 2018.; "Report of Committee on Procedure and Privileges—Motion". Seanad Éireann debates. Oireachtas. 10 December 1952. Retrieved 2 October 2018.
  5. "Introduction of Senator". Seanad Éireann debate. Oireachtas. 11 March 1953. Retrieved 2 October 2018.
  6. "Mr. William McMullen". Members Database. Houses of the Oireachtas. Archived from the original on 4 June 2011.
Parliament of Northern Ireland
Preceded by
Thomas Henry Burn
Joseph Devlin
Philip James Woods
Robert Lynn
Member of Parliament for Belfast West
With: Joseph Devlin
Philip James Woods
Robert Lynn
Constituency abolished
Party political offices
Preceded by
Sam Kyle
Chair of the Northern Ireland Labour Party
Succeeded by
Matthew Courtney
Trade union offices
Preceded by
J. T. O'Farrell
President of the Irish Trade Union Congress
Succeeded by
Luke Duffy
Preceded by
Tom Kennedy
President of the Irish Transport and General Workers' Union
Succeeded by
John Conroy
Preceded by
Walter Beirne
President of the Congress of Irish Unions
Succeeded by
Gerald Doyle
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