Page 9, 8th November 1968

8th November 1968
Page 9
Page 9, 8th November 1968 — Irish civil rights and reunion separate issues
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Locations: Belfast, Londonderry

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Irish civil rights and reunion separate issues

BY A STAFF REPORTER IT was plain in the minds of both Mr. Wilson and Capt. Terence O'Neill, Prime Minister of Northern Ireland, when they met at 10 Downing Street on Monday that a united Ireland and civil rights in Londonderry were two separate issues, and were not to be linked.

Mr. Wilson dissociated the British Government from the statement by Mr. Jack Lynch, Prime Minister of Eire, that the partition of Ireland should be ended, and Capt. O'Neill warned Britain and the Republic of Ireland of the dangers of interfering in his country's internal problems.

The British Prime Mmister . also assured Capt. O'Neill, on the subject of partition, that the British Government reaffirmed the pledge given by Clement Attlee, then Psime Ministe 'n 1948 azaci. 1941 that "no elasnte.: should be made in the constitutional status of Northern Ireland without .Northern Ireland's free agreement."

A statement from Downing Street on Monday night related Mr. Wilson's reaffirmation to "the issue of partition," and Capt. O'Neill is understood to interpret the Attlee pledge in the same sense.

The two statements by Mr. Wilson do not necessarily mean that he has given the Government of Northern Ireland all that it asks. For example, the reform of local government franchise, which was discussed by the Prime Ministers, is regarded as being much more urgent in Whitehall than in Belfast.

REVIEW PLANNED The Northern Irish Government, having brought in legislation to approximate the parliamentary vote to that in Britain, is about to review local government electotai boundaries, but re,aoans that it may be two or three years Cefore the local government franchise can be tackled. Mr. Wilson is understood to have told Captain O'Neill that the timetable was too slow.

The two Prime Ministers also discussed housing-on which Mr. Wilson pressed for non-discrimination between Catholics and Protestantsthe recent disturbances in Londonderry, and the Special Powers Act, under which public disorders are dealt with.

Another subject discussed at the four-hour talks was the appointment of a Parliamentary Commissioner (Ombudsman) to investigate individual citizens' grievances against the Government.

ROW IN COMMONS Mr. Gerard Fitt, Republican Labour M.P. for Belfast West, started a furious row in the House of Commons on Monday with accusations of "jackboot government" in Ulster.

One of the casualties of the Londonderry riots, Mr. Fitt shouted above opposition protests. 'The reason, we are in this position (without civil rights), is because for 48 years we have been subjected w the jackboot of Unionism, not only the Catholic minority but also the working-class protestants who arc of no use to the Unionist party machine."

Mr. Fitt denied the charge of Ulster M.P. Mr. Robert Chichester-Clark "that he had deliberately defied law and order in leading the civil rights protest."

I.iberal leader Mr. Jeremy Thorpe suggested the problem of "nationalism" could be solved by setting up a Cornmission to consider domestic parliaments for Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland and England the Westminster Parliament becoming purely federal, dealing with defence, foreign affairs, economic and social affairs and wider planning.

TEACH-IN

At Belfast's weekend teachin on "Ireland in the Seventies", Professor J. M. Barclay, of the Presbyterian College, called on Churches to speak out strongly against discrimination "in all its forms."

Demanding that politicians should represent "the whole community" Professor Barclay said since the Vatican Council it was now possible for every Church to co-operate in every sphere for all the people.

On Monday more than 100 members of the Connolly Association marched from Hyde Park to 10 Downing Street and handed in a petition calling on Captain O'Neill to introduce a system of democratic government.

The Connolly Association is an amalgamation of left-wing republicans and socialist groups among Irish immigrants. A clash between supporters of Civil Rights and the Rev. Ian Paisley was prevented by police intervention in Londonderry on Saturday. Both groups had planned marches for the same time, but were persuaded by police to parade at different times.




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