Stormont set to be illuminated to mark centenary of NI Parliament opening
Stormont Parliament Building is set to be illuminated on Tuesday night (22 June) to mark the centenary of the opening of Northern Ireland’s first Parliament.
TUV leader Jim Allister, who submitted the application to have the date recognised, welcomed the news.
“I am pleased that my application to have Stormont illuminated tomorrow night to mark the centenary of the official opening of the first Northern Ireland Parliament by King George V has been approved,” said Mr Allister.
“The building will be floodlight in blue from sunset tomorrow to celebrate this significant anniversary.”
Mr Allister continued: “A century ago Northern Ireland was making plans to welcome our Monarch with “unparalleled scenes of enthusiasm”, as Major Shillington put it when describing the scenes in an address to the Northern Ireland House of Commons on 23 June 1921.
“Obviously Covid restrictions have curtailed what should otherwise have been large celebrations this year. However, the reluctance of the powers that be, at the behest of Sinn Fein, to mark the centenary of Northern Ireland in any official way, such as by a visit by Her Majesty the Queen to address the Assembly, is telling and has fed growing Unionist frustration in the last few months.
“Though it is a poor substitute at least the centenary will be marked in this small way after my successful application.”
According to the Parliament Buildings website (www.parliamentbuildings.org), following the Government of Ireland Act 1920 the Parliament of Northern Ireland was inaugurated on 22nd June 1921 in Belfast City Hall. However, the new Parliament of Northern Ireland needed a home of its own.
Three sites in Belfast were considered before the final decision was made; Belfast Castle, Orangefield and Belvoir Park but they were all rejected. Around the same time Stormont Castle and its surrounding demesne came on the market and following the approval of the Parliament it was purchased by the Commissioners of Public Works and Buildings of the Imperial Government in December 1921 for £20,334.
Parliament Buildings was designed by architect Sir Arnold Thornely of Liverpool. His original plans involved three separate buildings to include law courts, a parliamentary building, and an administrative block. The plans were approved in the Autumn of 1922 and preliminary work began in 1923. There were however many delays, technical and practical, but the financial problems caused the most significant problems. This led to the original plans being changed and only one building was constructed. This explains why it is called ‘Parliament Buildings’ (plural) even though it is a single standalone building. The intended sites for the other two buildings are clearly visible today, these are the lower terraces in front, and to either side of Parliament Buildings.
The Foundation Stone for Parliament Buildings was finally laid on 19 May 1928, by the Governor of Northern Ireland the Duke of Abercorn.
During the construction period Parliament met in Assembly’s College in Botanic Avenue, Belfast (now Union Theological College), the theological college of the Presbyterian Church in Ireland. Although it did briefly return to Belfast City Hall in the autumn of 1932 for the last sessions before the formal opening of Parliament Buildings.
On 16 November 1932, The Prince of Wales, Edward Windsor, opened Parliament Buildings. The final cost of constructing Parliament Buildings, came close to £1.7 million, roughly £100 million today.