BY A SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT IN BELFAST THE British Government ordered independent inquiry into startling allegations against the Army of ill-treating some of the 300 people detained in Northern Ireland under the Special Powers Act, has gone some little way towards cooling the tempers of an enraged Catholic minority.
But it is obvious that even this concession will not satisfy minority demands for a replacement of the present Unionistcontrolled Stormont Government.
Apparently what finally frightened Mr. Heath and his close advisers into action was the shock en bloc resignations in Derry of 32 leading Catholics from publicly appointed posts. More than all the shootings and riotings and formal protests against internment, this showed that Catholic disillusion with the present regime had penetrated to the wealthier middle class.
Tho se who immediately cleared their desks include the vice chairman and two other members of the Stormont Government's Derry Develop. ment Commission, members of the local police liaison committee, and seven Justices of the Peace.
The 32 condemned internment as a gross violation of natural justice. and also the glaring partiality with which justice had been applied. the "reign of repression" in Derry itself, and the humiliating treatment meted out to two M.P.s. Mr. John Hume, Mr. Ivan Cooper. and to civil rights leaders who took part in a sitdown in the Bogside area of the city.
`11 he flood of resignations from public life did not halt there. More than 100 nonUnionist councillors from 20 councils also quit their posts, and supported the plan by the Social Democratic and Labour, and Nationalist M.P.s, to set up an alternative assembly to Stormont.
CONFIDENCE Catholic members of the
t Ilster Defence Regiment, which replaced the all-Protestant 'B' Special Force, also began showing unrest over internment, and a number have resigned. General Sir John Anderson. one of the ll.D.R.'s top men, admitted this week that the Regiment now had a two-fold mission — getting recruits and holding on to the Catholics who had joined.
Successful one-day strikes, part of the S.D.L.P.'s campaign of civil disobedience (it includes nonpayment of rent
and rates) have been held in a number of towns.
The Army had little to say about the allegations of illtreatment. But it appears they are confident of the outcome of the inquiry into alleged brutalities. They are confident that when the wheat is sorted from the chaff, there will he little for the Army to answer.
On the Unionist side, the decision met with near horror, and from a number of extremist organisations came howls of "appeasement to the minority." For Stormont premier Mr. Brian Faulkner, it was — and is — a severe body blow. The vocal Unionist extremists in his midst, and their supporters, are calling for his resignation — and have obviously been gathering support at constituency level.
PERTURBED 1 he support Mr. Faulkner reaped from Mr. Heath's "stop meddling in United Kingdom affairs" telegram to Dublin premier Mr. Lynch, is obviously dwindling fast. Mr Lynch's agreement with Opposition M.P.s plan for civil disobedience is far from helping him in his desperate attempt, obviously supported by Mr. Heath and Mr. Maudling, to remain as Northern Ireland's 'Last chance' Prime Minister.
Sombre words about the future of N. Ireland have come from one of Mr. Faulkner'S own government ministers. Mr. David Bleakley. Minister of Community Relations, is perturbed about the continuing movement of both Catholic and Protestant families from what were "mixed" areas with the result — 100 per cent religious ghettoes are being set up.
Mr. Bleakley, the former Labour M.1'. at Stormont — he was co-opted into the government although he does not hold a seat — is fearful of the consequences.
Northern Ireland, he says, is now very close to a "terrible civil war in which thousands can he slaughtered."