THE Getterdammerung of traditional Ulster Unionism has not been averted by the change of leadership within the party. This is perhaps one of the few certainties to emerge from the confused and stormy events of the past ten days.
The overall situation remains essentially unchanged. It is merely O'Neillism in another guise minus a good deal of charisma. And the party is if anything even more at odds with itself than heretofore.
Talk of a "caretaker Premier" still abounds, yet this would be an apt label for any leader of Ulster Unionism at this point in history. The re. shuMe has not altered the basic ingredients.
The ascent of Major James Chichester-Clark does not represent, as Mr. Quintin Hogg, MP, hoped in an interview on Radio Telefis Eireann, "a thaw after the long winter". Comments from prominent members of the Civil Rights movement are pertinent—it is traditional Unionism that needs changing, they say. And can Chichester Clark do what O'Neill failed to do? The general feeling in informed circles is that he cannot.
The new Premier has inherited -a legacy of nearly fifty years of "manipulated success", of planned discrimination and division, of gerrymandering and the politics of unreason.
Yet for all that he has displayed chameleon qualities, his commitment to the system is very real. And the facade of liberalism which he hastily erected ever since O'Neill's fortunes began to wane will cut little ice with the Civil Rights movement.
The leaders of the latter, in fact, have made it quite clear that they will not call a truce with any premier until their demands for basic justice have been met. Ulster's tragedy is that this cannot happen without the demise of traditional Unionism.
Whether this can come about without setting Irishment against Irishmen in fratricidal strife is something that is clearly weighing heavily on many minds. Politicians, leaderwriters and commentators continue to emphasise that the threat of civil war has not abated.
IN Dublin, meanwhile, amid -5speculation that a General Election is "imminent", blatant attempts to make political cap
ital out of the crisis in the North have been much in evidence.
With what was described as "unseemly haste", Mr. Frank Aiken, the Republic's Minister for External Affairs, dashed off to the U.N. to confer with U Thant. restating the traditional anti-partition stand and his Government's persistent faith in O'Neillite liberalism.
That has since come unstuck. But the significance of the visit was strictly for domestic consumption anyway. With the Government on the defensive and an election forthcoming, the timing of the crisis in the North is something of a godsend. That's what is being said anyway.
Not to be outdone. Mr. Brian Lenihan, Minister for Education. was soon on the bandwagon. reiterating that partition was a "fundamental evil of the country" and that this had always been a basic tenet in the philosophy of Fianna Fail. He even managed to pull the name of James Connolly in on that one.
The going. however, has not been all one way. Both Opposition parties—Fine Gael and Labour—have got their oars in. There is of course an anomaly in all of this, and one which has been spotlighted by the Civil Rights people.
On the whole. they are resentful of interference from Dublin, since the Fianna Failengineered system in the Republic is not exactly a paragon.
It is true that an attempt to extend the CR campaign southwards did not meet with any great success. But, in view of the continued upheaval in the North, the effort was halfhearted anyway. In any case, it is unlikely that the lessons of Derry will be entirely lost on the Dublin Government. However, we must wait and see.
The new Dail, when it assembles after the next General Election, will be without the formidable figure of 76-yearold Mr. John A. Costello who has announced his intention of retiring from politics.
As head of the first InterParty Government in 1948-51, he broke the 16-year monopoly of Fianna Fail.
--During his term of office, he was confronted with the now famous Mother and Child Health Scheme controversy. Disunity within Clann na Pob lacta, one of the parties of the coalition, undermined t h e efforts of the Government and it finally succumbed to pressure from the Irish hierarchy.
This resulted in the forced resignation of Dr. Noel Browne, then Minister for Health and now a prominent member of the Labour party. and the scrapping of the major health, reform which he had championed.
In his valedictory address Mr. Costello made an appeal for co-operation between Fine Gael (his cos n party) and Labour after the next General Election. The effects of this will no doubt be watched with interest, especially in view of Labour's recent resolute "go-italone" policy.
Belated gesture Belated gesture
THE recent belated ecumenical gesture in Derry—a tour of the troubled city by Dr. Farren, the Roman Catholic bishop. and Dr. Charles Tyndall. his Protestant counterpart —received considerable coverage in the news media. During the interim, however, it has caused a good deal of critical comment.
The disenchanted on all sides have pointed out that it took the threat of civil war to bring about this manifestation of concern and involvement. Where. they want to know. have the Churchmen been for the last forty-odd years?
it is not an entirely ground. less question. The long silence of the Christian Churches in the North is the suspect silence of "establishment Christianity." a Christianity which has eschewed its prophetic role, conveniently vacating the stage for the wholly unchristian and shameful masquerades of Paisleyism. It is a silence which has cost Ireland dear.
Praise for novel
JAMES PLUNKETT'S long novel, "Strumpet City" (booksellers have reported that customers asked for "Trumpet City" and even "Crumpet City") continues to be the main talking point in literary circles here.
Set in Dublin during the period 1907-14, the 230.000word book has been described as a compassionate study of the struggles of the working-classes, central to which were the stalwart efforts of Jim Larkin, founder of the modern Irish trade union movement and a man who has never received the recognition he deserves.
Reviews have ranged from favourable to fulsome in their praise of the work but, on the whole. they have tended to deflate the pre-publication buildup which ranged the book with "How Green Was My Valley" and "Gone With the Wind." At any rate, I have resolved to read it and decide for myself.