Churchill’s glowing tribute to outgoing Ulster premier (1943)
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The announcement read: “The King has been pleased to approve that the Right Honourable J M Andrews, MP, be appointed a member of the Order of the Companions of Honour.”
Accompanying the announcement was the text of a letter sent by Mr Churchill from No 10 Downing Street, on May 6, 1943, to Mr Andrews on the occasion of his relinquishing the office of Prime Minister of Northern Ireland.
It read: “My Dear Mr Andrews – I am indeed sorry that the ties which have been so warmly established between us in our public work should have to be broken. After your long services to Northern Ireland as Minister of Labour and as Minister of Finance you became Prime Minister in December, 1940.
“That was a dark and dangerous hour. We were alone, and had to face single-handed the full fury of the German attack raining down death and destruction on our cities and, still more deadly, seeking to strangle our life by cutting off the entry to our ports of the ships which brought us our food and the weapons we so sorely needed.
“Only one great channel of entry remained open. That channel remained open because loyal Ulster gave us the full use of the Northern Irish ports and waters, and thus ensured the free working of the Clyde and the Mersey.”
Mr Churchill continued: “But for the loyalty of Northern Ireland and its devotion to what has now become the cause of thirty governments or nations we should have been confronted with slavery and death, and the light which now shines so strongly throughout the world would have been quenched.
“To you fell the honour of being at the head of the government of Northern Ireland not only during the supreme crisis, but throughout the two and a half years which have led us steadily forward to safety and final deliverance.
“I have always found you a faithful and helpful colleague and comrade and a man who had no thought but to do his duty.
“During your premiership the bonds of affection between Great Britain and the people of Northern Ireland have been tempered by fire and are now, I firmly believe, unbreakable.
“You carry with you in your retirement the regard and respect of all who have worked with you, including in a grateful spirit, yours very sincerely, Winston S Churchill.”