`C.H.' Political Correspondent
CATHOLIC M.P.s are ex pected to press for greater afeguards for the Catholic ninority in Six Counties when he Northern Ireland Bill comes )efore the House of Commons oon. The Bill will give new
■ owers to the Northern Ireland iovernment at Stormont to cquire by compulsory purchase roperty belonging to religious nd educational bodies.
Although it was amended in the louse of Lords following protests rom the Northern Ireland Hierrchy, some M.P.s on both sides of le House still believe it gives too inch power to the Stormont uthorities.
One suggestion being considered that details of all Church proerty which the Stormont Governtent wishes to acquire under the ew Bill should be placed before le Westminster Parliament for nal approval. Mr. Hugh Delargy, Catholic Labour M.P. for Thurrock, told me this week, however, that he did not think this was administratively possible.
The Stormont Government is expected to resist strongly any attempts to amend the Bill further. It claims that the new power is necessary to enable it to proceed with slum clearance and housing schemes. It has also given an assurance that the power will not be used as an instrument of religious discrimination.
Catholics in the Six Counties, however, are reluctant to accept this assurance unless it is accompanied by specific statutory guarantees. They point out that some Unionist controlled bodies in Northern Ireland have abused their powers to discriminate against Catholics in the past.
In its original form, the Bill would have enabled the Stormont Government to take over any pro perty from a religious or educational body, except the fabric of a Cathedral church. Catholics in Northern Ireland feared that this new power, specifically excluded in the 1920 Ireland Bill in order to prevent discrimination against Catholics, might be used against them by the Stormont Government.
Before the Bill was given its third reading in the Lords, two Northern Ireland bishops flew to London to express their misgivings to the Lord Chancellor, Lord Kilmuir. As a result, Lord Kilmuir tabled an amendment exempting from compulsory purchase buildings used exclusively for religious or educational purposes.
Leaders of the principal Protestant churches in Northern Ireland, who also protested against the Bill, agreed to accept the compromise. But Catholics are still not entirely happy about it and Lord Longford summed up their feelings when he told the Lords : "Half a loaf is better than no bread, and I think we have got three-quarters of this loaf'.