Pundling holes in the border
THE BORDER between Ireland trIcl the North lias been punched as full of holes as a Gruyere cheese. Last week alone, Capt. Terence O'Neill. the Northern Prime Minister, took up Mr. .Lemass's invitation and made a trip to Dublin.
He was preceded by his Minister of Commerce (and main rival) Mr. Brian Faulkner. and succeeded by his Minister of Agriculture, Mr. Harry West.
The near-informality of this
series of visits was clearly shown in the lack of tension which surrounded them. Admittedly, Capt. O'Ncill's departure was kept secret, but he drove his own car doss n.
And the visitors posed for photographs with their w i‘es (and, on one occasion, with a bottle of champagne) rather than submit to the unhappy posing that is a feature of so many official photographs. Now that .so many steps have been taken So quickly, it is surprisingly easy to forget that the Border exists at all. Mr. Lemass' trip to Belfast was sensational in most senses of the word; but Irishmen in all parts of the country arc forgetting the hate and suspicion that has existed for years as they would forget a depressing dream.
There is even a certain element of shame in it--a faint but easily discernible sense of self-reproach that such a situation was allowed to exist for so long.
Both Prime Ministers, have, it is true. been busily issuing disclaimers about thc constitutional importance of what has happened, but a surprising amount of concrete work has been done as well. Four new Customs posts, for instance, have just been opened on cross-Border roads-a move for which the Irish Tourist Board has been campaigning for years and w hich will make cross-Boider traffic of all kinds flow a great deal more smoothly.
The "faceless men" of the Civil Service, too, are hard at work, particularly in the Department of Industry and Commerce. and con
cessions for many kinds of goods are already on the cards. Officials may well tind, in the near future, that their field of operations is more limited than they thought it would be. Northern Ireland is after all, an integral part of the United K ingdom and any major changes would have to be, authorised in London as v, ell as in Belfast and Dublin.
And it is unlikely that London will take any initiative without being prodded by Stormont. The next few months, therefore, will be the real test of how far the newfound goodwill can be translated into practical terms.
Fight for university ALL IS NOT AS WELL in Northern Ireland itself, on the other hand. The Lockwood Committee on Higher Education has finally issued its report, in which it named Coleraine as the site for the North's new university, thus angering both Armagh and Derry.
The Northern Ireland Government has already announced that it accepts the basic principles of the Lockwood report, but is finding itself up against some very strong opposition, particularly ft om Derry, where people of all denominations and different political persuasions have found themselves united in the most unlikely alliance in their fight for a university during the past five years.
It already has a university college -Magee, which is affiliated to Queen's-hut the Lockwood report pays little attention to Magee, and Derry Unionists and Nationalists alike are saying that the Government's decision represents another deliberate attempt to centralise population in the extreme NorthEastern (and most heavily Protestant) part of the country.
Contact. the Magee University College paper, put the grouses of the entire area succinctly when it stated: "Unionist policy is to withdraw from the uncertain political fringe of the West and the North and by their attitude they are forcing the seccesion of these counties to the Republic of Ireland. If we project this trend, it will be seen that Northern Ireland can only draw in her borders until eventually none exist".
The choice of Coleraine is. however, 'far less politically suspect than the Northern Ireland Government's decision to build a new urban complex between Lurgan and Portadown which will clearly shore up the present demographic situation and accentuate the Catholic-Protestant division in the Six Counties.
A new centre of. population was clearly needed, but its siting was obviously a matter of prime political importance. The Government eventually left little to chance, and a team of planners was given quite clear instructions about the nature of its task.
One of them, Mr. Geoffrey Copcult (who has, as it happens, no religious axe to grind and in fact comes from England) worked to orders for as long as he felt he could and finally, with a 70,000 word broadside, resigned., a strange freak of chance, he s now working for the United Nations in the new National Institute of Physical Planning and Construction Research-in Dublin, and the international Civil Service code has sealed his lips.
Against all these charges of discrimination-several of which can be substantiated without too much difficulty-can also be placed the fact that it has, in many cases, been a case of discrimination by default. and Catholics in Northern Ireland have only recently come to realise the value of their positive role.
The Nationalist Party's acceptance, a week ago, of the role of the official Opposition party in Stormont is art adequate symbol of this. Hands across the Border ate all very well, but Capt. O'Neill must realise, in his heart of hearts, that he has some house-cleaning to do at home.
ON TIIE SOUTHERN SIDE of the Border, too, there are litany things that strike terror into a Protestant heart.Ondeis our censorship, variously described as priest-ridden. narrowminded and puritanical.
Much of this it undoubtedly is,
but it was refreshing to hear Fr. Peter Connolly, the Professor of English in Maynooth, making a strongly-reasoned plea last week for a more flexible and fairer system.
Fr. Connolly first of all made the very valtd point that the Censorship Board should include a practising writer or, failing that, a literary editor, journalist or critic who would press the point of view of the contemporary writer in difficult borderline cases. The board. he pointed out, had always represented legal, ecclesiastical, academic and family interests, but the new writer and his generation had no voice in it.
One of his most revealing statements was to the effect that over the last 30 years Irish thinking on censorship has been almost as static as the censorship system itself. and has not really evolved in any \North
hile way. This did not, at the same time, blind him to the obvious shortcomings of the system itself, and he stressed:
"Leaving aside the whole issue of pornography, much modern fiction of high quality" [later he mentioned Salinger, Faulkner, Lawrence, Orwell and Mary McCarthy] "embodies ideas and attitudes, conceptions of man's nature and destiny, which challenge our traditional outlook on life.
"The formal protection and the formal morality which has excluded such work has to be replaced by a living morality which faces its challenge."
FOR THE FIRST TIME in the history of the State, a man who has risen through the ranks of the police has been named Chief Commissioner. He is Mr. William P. Quinn, and. he succeeds Mr. Daniel Costigan, a former civil servant in the Department of Justice wlw has now gone back to his old desk.
It is no secret that Commissioner Quinn's appointment was a popular one and it was no secret that the force as a whole resented Civil Service domination for so many years.