STORMONT ESTATE – NORTHERN IRELAND PARLIAMENT BUILDINGS
I made three visits during my week long stay in Belfast mainly because of the nature trails and because the weather was really good even though there was some snow on the grass. I did not visit the actual building because of time constraints.
Parliament Buildings, often referred to as Stormont because of its location in the Stormont Estate area of Belfast, is the seat of the Northern Ireland Assembly, the devolved legislature for the region. The Executive or government is located at Stormont Castle.
The need for a separate parliament building for Northern Ireland emerged with the creation of the Northern Ireland Home Rule region within Ulster in the Government of Ireland Act 1920. Pending the construction of the new building, Parliament met in two locations, in Belfast City Hall, where the state opening of the first Parliament by King George V took place on 22 June 1921, and in the nearby Presbyterian Church in Ireland’s Assembly’s College. In 1922, a design by Sir Arnold Thornely of Liverpool was chosen and preparatory work on the chosen site, east of Belfast, began. These plans were for a large domed building with two subsidiary side buildings, housing all three branches of government: legislative, executive and judicial, giving rise to the plural in the official title still used today.
These plans were found to be too costly, and it was decided to build only the Parliament Building, without the dome, in a Greek classical style and the foundation stone was laid on 19 May 1928. It was built by Stewart & Partners and opened by Edward, Prince of Wales (later King Edward VIII), on 16 November 1932.
Additional changes to the building and its environs include the erection of a statue to Edward, Lord Carson, in dramatic pose (on the drive leading up to the building) in 1932, a rare example of a statue to a person being erected before death, and the erection of a statue to Lord Craigavon in the Great Hall, half way up the Imperial Staircase. Craigavon and his wife are buried in the estate grounds.