Page 8, 22nd February 1974

22nd February 1974
Page 8
Page 8, 22nd February 1974 — Invaluable lessons for Ulster's future

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Invaluable lessons for Ulster's future

This work is indispensable for a comprehensive understanding of the political and social background to present-day Northern Ireland and the tragic civil strife which erupted in the summer of 1969 and is still conti n u ing. In a splendidly documented study, the author, who is a lecturer in history at Liverpool University, traces the emergence and course of Ulster Unionism as a powerful political force in the north until the Parliament at Stormont Was effectively established in 1922.

Besides the Cabinet papers in London. which are now open, Mr. Buekland has used a wide range or official and private collections which have been deposited in the Public Record Office of Northern Ireland in Belfast and include those of Lord Cairene Lord Craigavon, Lord Charlemont, Colonel Fred Crawford, and Sir Wilfred and Lady Spender, besides the minute books of the Ulster Unionist Council from its inception.

Half a century of unbroken Protestant and Unionist ascendancy came to ac end in 1972 with the abolition Of the Stormont Parliament and its replacement by a measure of direet rule from Westminster, followed by a completely' novel power sharing experiment in the province. This has had the effect of dividing the Ulster Unionists among themselves, just as they were split three-quarters of a century earlier. They were only united when the threat of Home Rule being imposed by a Liberal Ciovernment became a reality.

Although the Ulster Unionists first began to sink their internal differences, under the stimulus of Lord Randolph Churchill's exuberant oratory in the 1850's and the Conservative Party in England decided to hack them in opposing Home Rule. it was nut until the Formation oldie Lister Uniouist Council in 1905 and the election of Sir Naar(' Carson as the leader of the

Irish Unionists shorif, afterwods that the Conservative-Unionist alliance became a reality in British PS rly polities. lit:tore Gladstone introduced his first Home Rule Bill in I586, the average Ulsterman was Liheoll and Whig by tradition; it was only the landlord class and better-to-do industrialists who habitually voted Conservative. Independent !animists like the Belfast shipyard ,ii ker Tom Sloan, who was Master al' an Orange Lodge, sometimes defeated the official candidate at Parliamentary elections in the city, while in die country districts the aneteoinsm hetsveen the Conservative loodlords and their Unionist tenant farmers lasted iirtil the passing of Wyndham's generous 1 and Purchase Act, by which the landlords were bought out.

Indeed at a by-election in North 1-ormanagh in 1903. just before the ternle of the Wyndham measure were announced, a Protestant farmer Sldndine. AS an Independent Unionist defeated the official candidate, who happened to be the rich whiskey distiller and future Prime Minister of Northern Ireland, James Craig.

It is not generally realised how the motives of the English Conservatives and the Ulster Unionists in opposing Home Rule differed. The Conservat ives n 'shed to retain li eland in the British Empire, and felt that an all-fielaiel Parliament in Dublin might well take the island out of the imperial fold, thus pointing the way to the break-up or the Empire. The Ulster Unionists, on the other hand. being solidly Protestant, ere it_ one inced that Horne Rule kwulil. mean "Rome rule."

Their motives were primarily religious. Lind therr case was greatly strengthened by the application of the Ne Temere decree to a Belfast

"mixedmerriege in NW. In stiratccl, by his parish priest, Mr. Alcsander McCann left his Protestant wile. taking their children with him.

The Irish Methodists in conferenee pessed a resolution condemning such "encroachments of the Papal power in the United Kingdom," and the case served to

confirm i hi Li I st cr Prue:slants in their belief that under an Irish Parliament a deliberate and sustained attempt woutd he made to drive them out ol tiro thus, in the vi.ords of Joseph Del, lin, the Catholic and Nationalist MP for West Belfast, Mrs. McCann flecame "the greatest asset of the t sier I ore party since the days of King V1/4 Ldiam It K only when Mr. Rockland leaves the documented field and resorts to conjecture, as he (-lccasionally does. that I am inclined to join issue a ith him. For instance, he gives as the reason why the Catholie minority tended to be concentreled in the Falls district ol West Belfast, between the strongly Protestant Sandy Row and the Shankill. the alleged fact that Belfast was originally a walled and "planted" town and the immigrant Catholic working men lived outside the walls. settling along one of the main roads leading into Belfast. I know of no evader-lee to support this assumption. and I think that MT. H a ek land may well he c Oftrusit'll; Belfast with Londonderry where the Catholics were (and still are) ex• t ram u ral.

I have always understood that when Belfast was first divided into a four-member constituency in 1885, the boundaries were deliberately drawn by the Liberal Government of the day so as to embrace as many Catholics and Nationalists as possible in a single parliamentary division so as to .1.7iice I hem a good opportunity id velpturine one seat, whereas I liev were bound to be outvoted in the other three.

On the other hand, Mr. Buckland narrates vividly and accurately the sion, or how the Ulster Unionists, ii Ii the help of their Conservative across die Irish Sea, stepped up their anti-lion-lc Rule campaign. To do this, they took advantage of the Unionist dubs villich had sprung up throughout Ulster to promote the signing of the Solemn League and Coveriam in Belfast's City Hall in Septemher 1912. and to form the Ulster Volunteer Force in the following year pledged to resist I tome Rule hy force of arms if llOCossit .

heir iLctivity, wider 'Carson's leadership. succeeded in obtaining speciiil I realment for the six northeastern counties of Ulster under the Government of Ireland Act. 1V2fl, re loch t.c1 n seperale Parliament for Nirrthern irceind eifine the

framework of he United Kingdom, with certain departments mach as de lenee, foreign affairs and posts and telegraphs reserved to the im perial government at Westminster.

"We here are prepared in %,,cirk in friendly rivalry V. all our fellow Lout& y Men in the south and west,-' Ntiid Sir James Craig, speaking in Belfast in 1921, shortly after King George V had opened the first Parliament of Northern Ireland. "We are prepared to work for the betterment of the people of Ireland. not to quarrel, not to continue political strife. 11 hat he and his Unionist Government at Stormont failed to do so wi_is not altogether their fault. as Mr. Ft ackland shows in his conchiding chapter. The Catholic Nationalists boycotted the new legislative assembly and the proportion of places in the new civil service and police force reserved for Catholics. one thircl of the total strength, was deliberately left unfilled. The tendency was to regard the minority of Catholics who did enroll ',Le much BS "Castle Catholicswere viewed by the majority of Irish , Nationalists in the days of British rule in Dublin.

Unfortunately, too. the IRA carried their campaign into the north, so that the early days of the Stormont administration were marked by rioting and terrorism on the pattern with which we have been lately so horrifyingly familiar. Thus the high hopes expressed by Craig came tel nothing. The Council of Ireland as provided for in the Government of Ireland Act was never set up. and StomilloIll developed into what the first Ulster Prime Minister correctly described as "it Protestant Parliament for a Protestant people."

Meanwhile the Ulster Catholics were treated more and more a, second-class citizens. particulaily in such fields as jobs and housirie, wade i Special Powers Act was in

t rod to enable those considered especkily dangerous MenIbers of the cournuility to he interned svithout trial.

11 those charged with the working of Northern Ireland's new e(institution wish to avoid these mistakes and pitfalls of their predecessors, they cannot do better than ponder Its.ilLr essons of this valuable survey of history, so cic.irly expounded liv Mr. Buekland.

H. Montgomery Hyde

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