Page 6, 24th June 1977

24th June 1977
Page 6
Page 6, 24th June 1977 — Mr Gerry Fitt, SDLP

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Mr Gerry Fitt, SDLP

I believe that the recent Loyalist strike has brought about a significant change of attitude on the part of the Loyalist Unionist population. Here we had an itttempt by Baird and paisley, representing an extreme loyalist position, trying to bring about a confrontation with the British Government.

These were entirely different circumstances to those which we had at the time of the strike in 1974 When there was a target for the strike in the form of the executive. It is obvious that the executive was not accepted by the majority of loyalist opinion.

Some sections of the loyalist population believed that the executive was going to establish a council of Ireland which would lead to the coercion of Northern Ireland people into the Republic of Ireland. Others believed that as they had full

and absolute control of the affairs tit State that they should

not be called upon to share power wilh at minority population.

Paisley and Baird miscalculated in 1977 when they believed they would have the same support for their extremism that they had in 1974.

It is nov, clear to anyone who understands the situation that the British Government would not be dictated 10 he a inilitant Minority sviihin the United kingdom.

In these circumstances it could deal,. 1-)y seen that far

from dictating to the British Government they were in danger of losing everything by a British withdrawal.

Paisley said he was prepared to withdraw from politics anti resign from Westminster if the

strike which lie it his colleagues engineered was not a

success. fhe fact is that the strike was not n success but no one who knows Mr Paisley ex pected him to withdraw, although he -has suffered a major defeat.

Since then the local Government elections have taken piece. I he results can he

-described :is dramatic. The of. Tidal unionist Party have lost

control of a number of seats in the six Counties. The Social Democratic and Labour Party has emerged as the second largest party in relation to local representation.

The Democratic Unionist Party did win a number of seats in intensely loyalist areas and

Mr Gerry Fitt: Unionists must reject Paisleyism indeed took control in Ballymena in Mr Paisley's own Westminster constituency.

We are now in the position where the Official,Unionist Par ty will be dependent on DUP support to maintain control of the majority of councils in Northern Ireland, The big question which faces the British Government and the people of Northern Ireland is what way will the Official Unionist party jump? It will appear that during the strike the official Unionist party was cutting its links with Paisley and the DUP and some members have said that it would not be impossible for the party to engage in dialogue with the Alliance party SDLP and the others in finding a structure in Northern Ireland which would be accepted by the whole community.'

At this moment in time the SOLI'. the Alliance, the

Vanguard and to some extent the Unionist Parts u! Northern Ireland, the late Lord

Faulkner's party, have all expressed an interest in finding an agreement to allow some form of government to be set up in Northern Ireland.

The supporters of Mr Paisley and Mr Baird have voiced their opposition to such moves,

The question 110V. IN whether the Official Unionist Party will

take its courage in its hands and reject Paislevism. If they could see'a happy political future for Northern Ireland and all its people. in the meantime I oppose any move to set up a form of parlia ment which w ill not have ex ecutive power. the agreement about power sharing must come first. Otherwise we would he giving power to the Unionists again through the hack door.

Agreement cannot he imposed on political parties in Northern Ireland but I have suf.

ficient confidence in the people of Northern Ireland to believe that Official I Mionist Party will not lose this opportunity. If they do one enn only forsec a continuation of the present 'tragedy for many years to come and those politicians who have

allowed this to happen will not be readily. forgiven by this generation 01 Northern Ireland or the generations to come,

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