By Eamon O’Buadhachain

Two Irish-born men have served as Prime Ministers of Great Britain since the role was created in 1721. At the time when they were in office their title included Ireland.


Born William Fitzmaurice in the Fingal area of North County Dublin, on the death of his maternal uncle, Sir William Petty, the family inherited the title of The Earl of Shelbourne and later William took the Petty family surname, replacing Fitzmaurice.

He spent many of his early years living near Ardfert in County Kerry. He joined the army and served with distinction in Germany during the Seven Years War. When his military career ended he assumed the family’s seat in the House of Commons for the constituency of Chipping Wycombe. Following the death of his father, he entered the House of Lords.

In Westminster, although seen as a shrewd politician with lofty ambitions, he found himself on the opposition benches and at the time advocated the controversial policies religious tolerance, and free trade. He led the opposite for over a decade and was an outspoken opponent of the war with the future United States of America.

Continue reading in this week’s Ireland’s Own (issue 5589)