From our Belfast Correspondent
CATHOLIC voters will play a more important part than ever before in Northern Ireland's General Election next Thursday (May 31). For the first time the election to return 52 M.P.s to the Stormont Parliament looks like being fought more on political and economic issues than on the old religious controversy.
Three of the parties are actively canvassing Catholic support. They are the Nationalist, Labour and Liberal parties. Traditionally the Nationalists, who advocate abolition of Partition, rely on Catholic support. The Labour Party depended on Catholic votes to return at least two of its present four members to the last parliament and will need similar support if it is to increase its representation.
The recently-revived Liberal Party looks like getting a large measure of Catholic support. Its only M.P. is the Irish hockey international, Miss Sheelagh Murnaghan, a Catholic. Its other candidates include a Protestant clergyman and a Jewish journalist.
Even the rigidly Protestant Unionist Party — which had a large majority at the last election — is treating Catholics with caution. The Party leaders recognise that the Catholic vote could be decisive for their candidates in marginal seats.