CAIN Web Service

'The Way Forward' by New Ulster Movement (1971)



[CAIN_Home]
[Key_Events] [KEY_ISSUES] [Conflict_Background]
POLITICS: [Menu] [Reading] [Articles] [Government] [Political_Initiatives] [Political_Solutions] [Parties] [Elections] [Polls] [Sources] [Peace_Process]

Text: New Ulster Movement ... Page Compiled Brendan Lynn

The following pamphlet was published by the New Ulster Movement in November 1971. The views expressed in this pamphlet do not necessarily reflect the views of the members of the CAIN Project. The CAIN Project would welcome other material which meets our guidelines for contributions.

Northern Ireland

'The Way Forward'
November 1971

 

A New Ulster Movement Publication

 



 

The Way Forward in Northern Ireland

 

Introduction:

Our community has reached a point of despair and misery unparalleled in the turbulent history of Northern Ireland.

Government here is divided; it consistently tends to respond to pressures and situations instead of taking the initiative itself. Parliament is largely discredited as an institution because, to the shortcomings of government, we must add now the negative, abstentionist policies of the main opposition parties - the Nationalists and the S.D.L.P.

We have argued elsewhere (N.U.M. publication, ‘The Reform of Stormont’ June 1971), in any case, that the imposed model of Stormont is entirely unsuited to our needs and must be radically re-structured.

The people, in our judgement, have become increasingly cynical at the prospect of any kind of truly representative "solution" being sparked off by government decision, parliamentary debate or even by political ideas generated from within the body politic. We are caught in a political trap, which we do not seem to have the strength, or the will, to spring ourselves.

In this despairing situation there are, nonetheless, stuns of hope and optimism. In a word we would claim that the political institutions of this province have failed badly and will continue to fail -. but that the people of this community have not failed. The people have shown remarkable resilience and common sense.

For many months now we have spent the greater part of our time exploring virtually every aspect of the political spectrum in Northern Ireland. We have held private discussions not only with politicians and representatives of practically every political party here, but also with that wide range of political groups. movements and associations which impinge directly on the political scene. Very often the latter are the mote closely identified with "grass root" opinion.

Although we have been disheartened at the common, negative features running through almost all our discussions - especially those of tear, mistrust and misunderstanding we have been greatly encouraged to discover substantial areas of common ground and "parallel thinking" between what are quite diverse groups and individuals.

We believe this common ground offers real and substantial prospects for a new spirit of political reconciliation. Two elements, however, are currently missing. Both are essential if "good government" for all our people is to be created. The first involves the calibre and quality of political leadership - leadership which can fasten on this area of common ground 2nd exploit it to the benefit of the whole community. The second, concerns the capacity of given political, and especially parliamentary structures and institutions to provide the climate and conditions in which good government, for all our people, can thrive and prosper. This paper sets out to deal with these issues.

 

THE WAY FORWARD FOR THE PEOPLE OF NORTHERN IRELAND

The proposals which follow were broadly formulated in a memorandum to the Home Office in November, 1970, placed before the Home Secretary again in March, 1971 and then reiterated in greater detail in our submission to the round of "talks" initiated by the Home Secretary in September, 1971.

However, there is a crucial distinction to be made between the first two formulations and the third. In the former we saw our proposals in terms of contingency plans, which we hoped would never be used! We committed ourselves, as a Movement, to bring influences to bear in Ulster which, if successful, would ensure that it would never be necessary to implement such proposals. We have now reversed that policy. As from September, 1971, we have urged Westminster to take the initiative and vigorously pursue the policy we now advocate.

Three factors have lead to this change in policy.

No Will:

Following our talks across the political spectrum, we believe that few, if any, Stormont politicians have the will to break with the past, or to build a "New Ulster". Distrust and historic intransigence is so widespread and so all embracing that no "reshuffling of the cards" by coalitions or re-alignments is likely to unite the middle ground, isolate the extremists or produce the will for political reconciliation and social reconstruction which our community so desperately needs.

No Change of Heart:

There is an almost complete failure to understand, and certainly an unwillingness to implement, the concept of ‘equality of citizenship", let alone Westminster’s new formula of "a permanent, active and guaranteed role" for Northern Ireland minorities in the running of our affairs.

Green Paper:

Nowhere is this failure by the Government to manifest a real change of heart made more apparent than in their Green Paper "The Future Development of the Parliament and Government of Northern Ireland" Cmd 560 dated October, 1971. This paper has been launched as an attempt by the Government to come to grips, fully and finally, with the question of "participation" by minorities in Ulster a lairs.

Having honestly admitted to the shortcomings of 50 years of Unionist rule (para 4, Section II and more fully in paras 8, 9, 45, 55 and 63 of Prime Minister Faulkner’s detailed statement in the debate on the Green Paper) the authors of the paper refer (para 21) to the Senate having been "an additional platform, for the airing of minority views", and later (para 24) refers to it again as providing a "base for the expression of minority views".

In the light of the 1969 Downing Street declaration assuming minorities in Northern Ireland of their right to a share in the running of the affairs of the province, plus the present Home Secretary’s aim to secure a "permanent, active and guaranteed role" for such minorities, it is difficult to believe that people who speak of the "airing of minority views" or of the "expression of minority views" are to be taken seriously. Certainly this style of thinking does not encourage the belief that its authors have undergone any real change of heart.

This point is reinforced by the constant stream of propaganda put out by the Unionist press and by Unionist politicians. The editorial of the pro-government ‘Newsletter’ on Monday, 8th November, 1971 is typical and referred to the British people as "innocents abroad" in this situation. It continued, "Those in Great Britain who would continue to seek new political settlement theories for Ulster are putting the hopes, prayers and the lives of all the people here at risk". Even worse is a speech made that weekend by a typical right wing Unionist, the ex-M.P. for Carrickfergus, Mr. Austin Ardill, M.C. He is reported as saying, "Let Heath know that we will not have direct rule, P.R., or any other sop to the rebels".

Not only has there been no real change of heart here, but these sentiments serve only to isolate the Prime Minister from his own right wing parliamentary colleagues. Prime Minister Faulkner has striven, since taking office, to push his government and party along the road leading to at least some kind of participation in the process of government for minority groups. His "Queen’s Speech" in June last was heralded by the opposition members as Faulkner’s finest hour". Events have diverted all these hopes into a blind cul-de-sac. Neither the Unionist party, nor the Unionist parliamentary party. nor the cabinet have been willing to campaign and fight for the Prime Minister’s policy in the country. There has been a deafening silence. S.D.L.P. and Nationalist members have opted out of the parliamentary process and embraced a negative, abstentionist policy which merely serves to harden Catholic intransigence and plays into the hands of the extremists. We are left, therefore, with the proposition that even if the government genuinely wanted to share power, it does not have the capacity or the opportunity to do so.

Unionists versus Nationalists:

Professional Unionists argue that it is inconceivable that people who wish to maintain the British link, and those who aspire to a United Ireland (even though they reject violence as a means of achieving that unity, and commit themselves to abide, meanwhile, by the expressed will of the majority of Northern Ireland citizens), can ever find enough common ground to work together (i.e. to share political power) for the good of the Ulster community. (See Gov. Green Paper. Paras 36 - 38).

Indeed, Prime Minister Faulkner has not only described any such attempt as doomed to failure, producing what he describes as a "Bedlam Cabinet", but he has stated unequivocally, "I for one would never wish to serve in such a Cabinet ." (Debate on Green Paper, 3rd November, 1971).

Cabinet Responsibility:

We suggest the Prime Minister’s position is illogical in one respect, and unacceptable in another. It is illogical because it is based upon a grand theory of "collective responsibility" which has already been transgressed by Unionist cabinets, which contained ministers who publicly flirted with the proposition that in certain given circumstances it may be necessary for Ulster to sever the constitutional link with G.B. and go it alone with an Ulster U.D.I. This stance is merely the obverse of the same coin we call a "united Ireland". If it is possible to hold such men in the cabinet, then, logically, it should be just as easy - or just as hard - to hold men who ultimately aspire to a United Ireland, provided they eschew violence or other illegal methods for achieving their long term political aims.

We have only to refer to the struggle since 1969 on "overall philosophy, programme and approach" (Green Paper para 35) in the various cabinets and in the Unionist Parliamentary party to point to the "double-think" in the government’s approach to this issue. Divisions on political philosophy in the past have been profound within the Cabinet.

Common Market:

In passing we may note that none of the British Prime Ministers in post-war years have refused to admit to their cabinets pro-and anti-marketeers even though the former were committed to the Treaty of Rome principles and the constitutional changes which entry to the E.E.C. would make to the sovereignty of the British Parliament.

Nor are we aware of any democratic head of state who has refused to have in his executive men who passionately believe in, advocate and work for the subordination of all nation states to the concept of world government, or to the rulings of the supra-national U.N. organisation as an intermediate step to world government.

If these tensions can be contained in other situations, we must question very carefully why parallel tensions are considered too acute for a small, devolved parliament already stripped of any real "power".

Stormont - Subordinate:

Secondly, the Prime Minister’s position is unacceptable to us because we believe he is in error in ascribing to the Stormont cabinet an authority and responsibility which it does not possess. The government’s Green Paper consistently makes the error of comparing the responsibilities of the Stormont cabinet with those of the Westminster cabinet. (e.g. para 35). But ours is a subordinate parliament. The security of the state which is the critical element in this respect is Westminster’s responsibility and not Stormont’s. The British Army "guards our border" under the sole direction of the Minister of Defence who is responsible to the British Prime Minister, who in turn is responsible to the British parliament. This is not Stormont’s responsibility - not ought it ever to be - Westminster is the sovereign parliament, Stormont, subordinate.

Loyalty:

In all our discussions on the theme of this paper we have consistently run up against the question of "loyalty". To our everlasting shame "loyalty" in Ulster and for this the Unionist party is largely to blame - is concerned, in the main, with waving the Union Jack, painting the pavement red, white and blue, and generally placing emphasis on the trappings of "loyalty" symbols. This has been our undoing as a community. Many Unionists still insist that to be a Nationalist is to be disloyal - that acceptance of the Constitution commits the subject to renunciation of the ideal of a United Ireland. Many Nationalists, on the other hand, believe that even to aver acceptance of the Constitution identifies them in some way with Unionism.

Good Citizenship:

Essentially, "loyalty", we believe, consists in living in a manner consistent with the laws of our community. renouncing violence as a means of pursuing political ends and behaving generally as a "good citizen". It concerns support for concepts of justice and compassion, for truth and honesty not only in our dealings as individuals, but also in ‘our dealings with one another collectively - through the institutions of government and the judiciary etc.

Only in the past three years, and then under pressure from Westminster, has the government made any attempt to foster true concepts of "loyalty". So tenuous are they, however, that we have no real confidence that at the next General election, which as things now stand cannot be more than 2 years way, the Unionist party will not revert to type, as it has done at every General Election since 1920. This was the position in the 1969 election despite the then leader of the Unionist party going to the country on an election manifesto which attempted to bring his party to the point of accepting policies calculated to "heal our historic divisions" and generally to work for the common good. The Unionist party structure and leadership simply was not able to accept this change of direction. We do not believe there are any grounds for confidence that the structure and leadership of that party is in a better position to intimate radical change today than it was in 1969.

In fairness to Prime Minister Faulkner the Green Paper on the future of Stormont, and in particular his speech in the debate on the Green Paper (3rd November, 1971) goes a considerable distance along the road we have advocated - but stops short in a number of absolutely crucial respects.

The most important of these arises out of this question of "loyalty" and what we might call "political compatibility". The P.M. has recognised, on a number of occasions, the legitimacy of the Nationalist or Republican tradition, provided, of course, that neither violence nor illegal methods be adopted in pursuit of these traditions.

He finds it impossible, however, to envisage a situation in which people holding to a "Nationalist" viewpoint can join with people holding to the "Unionist" viewpoint to work in government for the good the whole community. "I must say quite bluntly that, in my view, it" (i.e.: Government based on some kind of P.R. system), "could not conceivably work". The P.M. then argues his case and produces a number of convincing objections in his favour. Although one cannot be entirely certain with this kind of experiment until it has been tried out in practice, the P.M.’s objections to a Swiss type P.R. government for Northern Ireland are understandable.

But it is generally agreed now, to use the P.M.’s own words (para 55) of his speech on the Green Paper) that, "in our situation where the exercise of power has been permanent, I believe there is an obligation to share it out - to share with Parliament, and with the whole of Parliament".

Thus if there is an obligation (and there is) to share power, but the P.M. cannot participate in devices or structures which enable power to be shared - effectively and realistically - then the only course open to us as a community is to invite the sovereign parliament of Westminster to impose a "Commission" on us in which it will be demonstrated, for a temporary period, that power in Northern Ireland can be shared effectively and realistically. It will demonstrate that such a sharing of power does not weaken the constitutional link with Great Britain - for this depends upon the will of the majority of citizens here - and, perhaps more importantly, that devolved government here can be made to function for the general good. Westminster must break the deadlock for us. What now follows represents our contribution to this debate.

1. Devolved Government:

The right to the principle of devolved government is the bed rock of our proposals. This principle is inviolate. It is the particular parliamentary structure which has grown out of the principle which is doomed to fail.

We favour the retention, under the sovereign authority of Westminster, of the principle of devolved government in Northern Ireland.
Administrators in devolved government are more accessible to the people decisions can be taken with greater attention to local circumstances and a larger proportion of citizens can participate in decision making.

2. The Suspension of Stormont:

We are regretfully in favour of suspending the present parliament at Stormont for a period of three years. We can see no other method of breaking the deadlock in Northern Ireland’s politics and moving our community forward - away from sectarian politics and into an era in which the social and economic well-being of the people is the primary aim of government.

It would be a pre-requisite to suspension that the Westminster parliament should:-

A. Re-affirm the right of Northern Ireland to have devolved government.

B. Re-affirm, once again, in a solemn declaration, that suspension does not and cannot affect the constitutional link between Northern Ireland and Great Britain and furthermore that that link depends upon the expressed will of the majority of Northern Ireland citizens, to be taken preferably, in, say, ten yearly referenda.

C. That democratic elections will take place in Northern Ireland at the end of the period of suspension - guaranteed by Westminster.

3. Commission Rule:

A. On suspension Her Majesty the Queen should appoint a nine-man "Commission" to administer the province. This would apply the model of the Londonderry Development Commission - which had a record of success until some of its members resigned for reasons unconnected with the Commission’s work - to the province as a whole.

The commission should consist of Northern Ireland men or women. but would exclude Northern Ireland politicians. We are opposed to "direct rule" from Westminster. We are equally opposed, to rule by a team of Englishmen. Instead of politicians, we would wish to see eminent Ulstermen especially those who have risen to heights of considerable significance in industry, trade unions, the professions and education - appointed for the three year term of office. We find it rather sad that whilst the social and economic life of our province deteriorates, an Ulster industrialist Sir Fred Catherwood - was invited by the last Westminster administration to resuscitate industry in Great Britain, whilst the present Westminster government has appointed an Ulsterman, in Sir Con O’Neill, to head the team of civil servants charged with getting the U.K. into the Common Market. Indeed all over the world and in practically every field of human endeavour, Ulstermen of first class ability and unimpeachable integrity are to be found doing excellent work. We believe that an invitation from the Queen to return to Ulster for a three year period to administer the province impartially, to get our economy moving again and generally to lead our people into a period of social reconstruction, would not go unanswered. Needless to say this Commission would include Catholics as well as Protestants.

Advisory Council:

B. In addition to the nine-man commission, a much larger "Advisory Council" should be appointed drawn from the whole community but with special emphasis on professional politicians including Republicians and members of the new Paisley/Boal Alliance.

The purpose of this Advisory Council would be, not only to comment on the decisions of the Commission and to advise the Commissioners on important aspects of their work, but, more importantly to hammer out the constitutional devices we would wish Westminster to write into the Government of Ireland Act in anticipation of the democratic elections to be held here at the end of Commission rule and the emergence of Government structures in which there is real "participation" and a sharing of powers of right.

Westminster Civil Servants:

C. The decisions of the Commission, sitting perhaps in either Stormont Castle, or Government House, would be implemented by the Northern Ireland Civil Service. Because of the points raised earlier in this paper we would want a number of senior Westminster Civil Servants appointed, temporarily, to key positions in the Northern Irish Civil Service to ensure the attainment of the highest possible standards of integrity and efficiency. We would like to see a "Fulton" style report on our Civil Service.

Royal Commission:

D. In parallel with the Commission and Advisory Council we would wish to see the appointment of a Royal Commission - perhaps the present Crowther commission - charged with examining and updating the Government of Ireland Act in the light of the present Government’s Green Paper, our own "Reform of Stormont". proposals and other submissions from the N.I.L.P. the S.D.L.P. the Alliance Party etc., - so that the sharing of power becomes a political reality as of right.

Protestant Backlash:

This threat, rather than the I.R.A., is the real bogey to political progress in Ulster. Right wing Unionists - and this includes members of the present Unionist parliamentary party, have consistently played up the Protestant backlash theme. Westminster clearly pays considerable attention to this threat and not surprisingly after 50 years during which it has been the keynote of Ulster politics.

Orange Card:

We would make two observations. We cannot for ever base all our decisions as a community, on "the orange card". Sooner or later - preferably sooner - Westminster will have to grasp firmly the Orange nettle. We do not mean by that the Orange Order, we mean those extreme Protestants who use the Orange Order, the Unionist party, many of the Protestant churches and are active now in trades unions, vigilante groups, etc. They must be confronted by a moral and legal force superior to their own. That force is the Crown and the sovereign parliament of Westminster.

Although we have exempted the Orange Order from blanket condemnation, we co not extend this exemption to the Orange - Unionist link. This link must be removed - to the benefit of both the Unionist party and the Orange Order, as well as the community at large. We assume the P.M. has this in mind when he said in the debate on the 3rd November, 1971, "there is an obligation within political parties themselves to look urgently at impediments to the development of party structures based firmly on both communities". He would do well to start with his own party.

Protestant Majority:

Secondly, it is our belief, based upon our talks and our knowledge of the Protestants of Ulster that, given the integrity of the Border and the assurance of democratic elections, plus our constitutional link being dependent upon the will of the majority here, only a small, hard core of Protestant extremists would turn on the forces of the Crown and attempt to take the law into their own hands. Protestants as a whole have been badly maligned and misrepresented by their extremist co-religionists, the majority of Ulster Protestants, given the guarantees mentioned, wish only to live at peace with their Roman Catholic neighbours and to build a secure and prosperous society for their children. It is Westminster’s prime responsibility to ensure they have that opportunity.

Security:

There remains the shameful, vicious, terror campaign of the I.R.A. and their fellow travellers. Security is the responsibility of the British Minister of Defence. All military security forces, during the period of suspension, must remain under his direct control. This area should be removed entirely from the jurisdiction of the Commissioners. It is essential, not only that the police should be "civilianised", hut that they should regain access to ghetto areas in Belfast and Londonderry. So bad has the deterioration been between these areas and the police that we cannot see a solution emerging which does not entail the transfer of the political authority for the police to the Home Office in London.

These two recommendations would enable the Commission to concentrate entirely on administering the Province in social and economic terms without spending all its energies in fighting illegal or subversive forces.

Ultimately, of course, the I.R.A. can be defeated and destroyed by only one group in Ulster - the civilian Roman Catholic population. Catholics will only find ways of doing this when they are satisfied that their position as second class citizens is over and that they have as great a stake in Ulster as their Protestant fellow countrymen. This of course, is exactly what King George V had in mind when he opened Stormont 50 years ago. Doubtless his grand-daughter, Queen Elizabeth II is of the same mind.

Public Relations:

This is extremely important. P.R. is one of the greatest failures of the present and previous Unionist administrations. Our Community lurches from one crisis to another - largely under the impetus of rumour, counter rumour and misunderstanding.

Suspension and all that follows would need to be carefully, specifically and fully explained to every man, woman and child over 16 years of age in Northern Ireland. It would call for the greatest sophistication and professional expertise imaginable. But it has always been our contention that the Ulster people are there to be won and to be persuaded.

Westminster:

The pivot of all these proposals is our right to the principle of devolved government but also in our assertion that Westminster is the sovereign parliament and that, therefore, democracy here is preserved and maintained by Westminster. With suspension, therefore we would propose to increase Ulster representation to Westminster so that we have the same number of representatives there, in proportion to our population, as does England, if not Scotland and Wales.

Conclusion:

We do not publish our proposals lightly or without a tinge of sadness. Ulster has never realized the tremendous potential she possesses - in her people, her industry, her land. The evolution of new parliamentary structures as outlined above would give us a fresh start in devolved government and release creative energies, the will to rebuild and, above all, the determination to turn our backs once and for all on sectarian bitterness and division, which have been denied to us for so long. To achieve all of this Westminster must move quickly, and decisively. The people here will respond.

 

November 1971


CAIN contains information and source material on the conflict and politics in Northern Ireland.
CAIN is based within the University of Ulster.


go to the top of this page go to the top of this page
Last modified :