Thursdays, 1st to 8th Week, 10 p.m., Modern History Faculty
The partition of Ireland
Terence ONeill and reform unionism
The escalation into violence, 1969 72
Sunningdale and Ulsterisation
Nationalism and Republicanism
Unionism and loyalism
The Anglo-Irish Agreement
Essay titles will be set. These are issues you should bear in mind.
1. How much discrimination was there under
Questions to ponder:
Was discrimination directed against Catholicism as such or against a disloyal
For arguments in favour of the former, note John D Brewer and Gareth I.
Higgins, Anti-Catholicism in Northern Ireland, 1600 1998: The Mote and the Beam (London 1998).
Compare these quotes:
'Religious discrimination is deplorable but it is not indefensible . . . Employers
and managements must be allowed to employ their own discretion when making the appointment even though their choice results
in religious discrimination. The Apostolic injunction, 'Do good unto all men, especially those who are of the household of
faith' suggests that we may sometimes discriminate in favour of those nearest ourselves.'
Rev. E. J. Ferguson, "'Religious discrimination in Northern Ireland'",
the Unionist, August 1967, cited in Marc Mulholland, Northern Ireland at the Crossroads: Ulster Unionism in the
ONeill Years, 1960 9 (London, 2000).
'Basically the Partitionist fears the exclusiveness of Roman Catholicism, its
claims to absolute truth and the consequences that seem to follow from that position. . . . [The] claims of the Catholic and
his church make it difficult for them to be tolerant of what might be called liberal society -- the society which, for this
discussion, maybe described as trying to make a distinction between the responsibilities of the Church, whether it be Roman
Catholic or Protestant, and the State.'
Norman Gibson, Partition today -- a protestant view (Dublin, 1959) p.
'Note Lord Brookeboroughs comment: My principal was always to be fair as far
as you could, but you cant be entirely fair politically; theres always someone who gets a rough deal. You obviously cant take
a man whos opposed to you politically and put him in a key position.'
Cited in W. H. Van Voris, Violence in Ulster: An Oral Documentary (Massachusetts,
Was the Government of Ireland Act an inappropriate constitutional document?
Did it contain adequate safe-guards for the minority?
Note for example:
'5. - (1) In the exercise of their power to make laws under this Act neither
the Parliament of Southern Ireland nor the Parliament of Northern Ireland shall make a law so as either directly or indirectly
to establish or endow any religion, or prohibit or restrict the free exercise thereof, or give a preference, privilege, or
advantage, or impose any disability or disadvantage, on account of religious belief or religious or ecclesiastical status,
or make any religious belief or religious ceremony a condition of the validity of any marriage, or affect prejudicially the
right of any child to attend a school receiving public money without attending the religious instruction at that school, or
alter the constitution of any religious body except, where the alteration is approved on behalf of the religious body by the
governing body thereof, or divert from any religious denomination the fabric of cathedral churches, or, except for the purpose
of roads, railways, lighting, water, or drainage works, or other works of public utility upon payment of compensation, any
other property, or take any property without compensation.'
Was it a mistake to grant Northern Ireland a devolved government?
Patrick Buckland, in his Factory of Grievances: Devolved Government in Northern Ireland 1921-39 (Dublin 1979), though is was a mistake. Why? For disagreement, see Derek Birrell and Alan Murie, Policy and Government
in Northern Ireland: Lessons of Devolution (Dublin, 1980).
What impact did the Troubles of 1920 3 have on the future of Northern Ireland? What about the evolution of politics in the Free State / Republic?
For different perspectives, see The Widening Gulf: Northern Attitudes to the Independent Irish State, 1919-49 (Belfast, 1988) and Eamon Phoenix, Northern Nationalism Nationalist Politics and the Catholic
Minority in Northern Ireland 1890 1940 (Belfast, 1994).
Look particularly at
EDUCATION, HOUSING, GERRYMANDERING, the FRANCHISE, STATE ENCOURAGEMENT OF EMPLOYMENT, PRIVATE EMPLOYMENT, REPRESSIVE POWERS
(the Special Powers Act) and CULTURE.
2. Terence ONeill and assimilatory Unionism
Essay Question: Was Terence O'Neill's principle legacy to split Unionism?
Questions to ponder:
Paul Bew, Henry Patterson
and Peter Gibbon (Northern Ireland 1921-1994) emphasise Terence ONeills struggle against the Northern Ireland Labour
Party. How important was this in shaping ONeills distinctive liberal Unionism?
What was liberal Unionism?
Why does Andrew Gailey (Crying in the Wilderness: Jack Sayers 1939 69) see Ulster regionalism as important in liberal
What difficulties did
liberal unionists have in influencing the Ulster Unionist Party? (See Marc Mulhollands article on the Unionist Society in
The best and most forward looking , Irish Historical Studies, no 129, May 2002).
Read ONeill's famous
comment from 1969:
'It is frightfully
hard to explain to Protestants that if you give Roman Catholics a good job and a good house. They will live like Protestants
because they will see neighbours with cars and television sets; they will refuse to have eighteen children. But if a Roman
Catholic is jobless, and lives in the most ghastly hovel, he will rear eighteen children on National Assistance. If you treat
Roman Catholics with due consider and kindness, they will live like Protestants in spite of the authoritative nature of their
Church . . .'
What does this say about his attitudes? Note the initiatives he launched; the
Programme to Enlist the People (PEP) and Civic Weeks.
- What does Mulholland
understand as assimilatory unionism? (See his 'Assimilation versus segregation: Unionist
strategy in the 1960s', Twentieth Century British History, vol.ii, no.3 (2000). Is this a more or less useful term
than liberal unionism?
Was Terence ONeill personally
ill-equipped to deal with the situation in Northern Ireland? Note his rueful comment from April 1969:
'While good men
sleep and honest men play their golf and their bridge, these others, with unwavering zeal, are chipping away at the foundations
of our democracy.'
Consider Ian Paisleys importance. Note his rhetoric:
'Church leaders, apostates, blaspheming politicians, all attack the stand of
the Free Presbyterian Church, posing themselves as the true Christians. This was the tactic of Rome burning the maryters in
the name of Christ. Yes, and this is the tactic of the World Council ecumenicists of today. We have all suffered in this manner
and will suffer more in the coming days.'
Did he enjoy influence because of, or in spite of, such rhetoric?
What was the nature of the civil rights movement? Was Bill Craig justified
in seeing it as Republican plot? Have a look at, Bob Purdie, 'Was the Civil Rights
Movement a Republican/Communist Conspiracy?'. Irish Political Studies, 3, 1988. For another view, see Christopher Hewitt,
'Catholic Grievances, Catholic Nationalism and Violence in Northern Ireland during the Civil Rights Period: A Reconsideration'.
British Journal of Sociology, 32, (1981).
Roy Bradford, a Unionist Minister, regretted '[t]he linking together, the lumping
together of two separate and distinct issues - the social grievance which is real and largely affecting Catholics, and the
political demand for changes in the franchise which has been largely whipped up and manufactured for party purposes.'
How widely shared was this view? Did it inform British attitudes? Did
it miss the point?
What was the dynamic of civil rights? Why was the movement not stilled by concessions?
Consider the role of the civil rights factions (NICRA, Peoples Democracy, the Derry Labour Party, the Derry Citizens Action
Committee), the government, the RUC, the Paisleyites, the British government? Might the movement have avoided a descent into
Did the civil rights movement improve things for catholics? Why is it remembered
by them as a period of such liberation?
Why did so many Unionists resent Terence ONeill so violently even after his
disappearance from active politics?
Was this a revolutionary period? Think about how it compares with other periods
of rapid transition from other historical periods you have studied.
3. Northern Ireland approaches civil war
Questions to ponder:
Why was August 1969 such a turning point? Is it correct to say that Out of
the Ashes of Bombay Street Rose the Provos? For differing views, see Niall O Dochartaigh, From Civil Rights to Armalites: Derry and the
Birth of the Irish Troubles. (Cork, 1997) and Malachi ODohert, The Trouble with Guns: the Military Strategy
of the Provisional IRA (Belfast, 1997). What was the social, political, even military impact of the population movements?
There was a substantial swathe of reforms following August, notably abolishing
the B Specials and reforming the RUC. Why did these not satisfy catholic opinion? Did they, in fact, make matters worse?
Why the honeymoon period between catholics and the British Army end? Consider
the opinion of an RUC officer:
'The worst thing the British government has ever done was to bring in the army.
The IRA now has a classic, slow-moving target on their streets - the British army of occupation.'
(Desmond Hamill, Pig in the Middle, p 44).
Was there a realistic alternative?
Did the change of Government, from Labour to Conservative, in 1970 unleash
the British Army? Did security policy take a wrong turn? Was it more heavy-handed than it need have been? Was Bloody Sunday
a freak or the result of general security policy?
Why did the IRA adopt a strategy of moving from Defence to Defence / Retaliation
to Offensive? Was this based upon a thought out strategy, or was it a response to events?
In February 1971 the Prime Minister of southern Ireland said:
'Lynch: I strongly condemn any group who advocate or use force whether it be
for the reunification of our country or to maintain the status quo are believed the reunification will come about by peaceful
What was the attitude of southern society and government to nationalism
in Northern Ireland?
Why was Stormont closed down. What was the reaction of the SDLP, the IRA, Bill
Craigs loyalists, Faulkners unionists, the UDA? Why did Britain negotiate with the Provos in July 1972? What was the significance
of Whitelaws subsequent statement (13 July 1972) that government was committed to a political reconciliation of the communities
whether the extremists on either side like it or not.
John Darby wrote:
'It was as if the conflict had reached a
peak around 1972, like 'the wall' in a marathon race, and subsequently settled down to 'an acceptable level of violence.'
(Intimidation and the Control of Conflict in Northern Ireland (1986)). Why do you think this was so?
Essay Question: Why were the constitutional
parties unable to break the political impasse in the 1970s?
Thoughts to ponder:
You may, if you wish, choose to concentrate on either nationalism or unionism in this period. But
make sure you first get an overview. Useful surveys include Richard Rose, Northern Ireland: A Time of Choice (London,
1976) and Ian McAllister, Territorial Differentiation and Party Development in Northern Ireland. In Contemporary Irish
Studies, eds. James OConnell and Tom Gallagher (Manchester, 1983). Look also at the general overviews on the reading list.
What does it mean to characterise parties as constitutional? Is it a misnomer?
'It is a liberal illusion that negotiation is itself a form of therapy which will always prevail
over the crude facts of power. 'Tom Utley in Lessons of Ulster (London, 1975).
Did the British government err in attempting to shore up moderates? What happened to the middle
ground notably the Northern Ireland Labour Party (NILP), the Unionist Party of Northern Ireland (UPNI) and the Alliance Party
of Northern Ireland (APNI)? Was the attempt to find a solution misconceived? Read through Michael Cunningham, British Government
Policy in Northern Ireland, 1969 2000 (2001 edition). Did Britain give up on Northern Ireland by the late 1970s?
Why is Unionism so badly divided in the 1970s? Note the Ulster Unionist Party (itself divided between
pro and anti-Faulknerites), Bill Craigs Vanguard and Paisleys DUP. Did this reflect fundamental cleavages within unionist
identity? Have a look at D. W. Millers Queens Rebels: Ulster Loyalism in Historical Perspective (Dublin, 1978) and
Colin Coulter, The Character of Unionism, Irish Political Studies 9 (1994).
Can we consider the wings of Unionism to be, in fact, complementary?
Why did the Ulster Unionist Party fragment from 1969? Look at John F. Harbinson, The Ulster Unionist
Party 1882 1973 (Belfast, 1973) and David Hume, The Ulster Unionist Party 1972 92 (Lurgan, 1996). What role did
Faulkner play? For a sympathetic account see David Bleakleys Faulkner: Conflict and Consent in Irish Politics (London,
1974). Was Faulkner conned over Sunningdale? Did James Molyneaux re-establish the primacy of the UUP though immobilism?
Craig claimed in 1975 that the United Ulster Unionist Council (UUUC look it up!) 'would insist on
parliamentary democracy, but were sincere and genuine in their efforts to have equality for all citizens.' Should we take
this seriously? What is important about the term parliamentary democracy?
Was Bill Craig's Vanguard movement quasi-fascist? How seriously should we take its attraction to
the idea of Northern Irelands independence? Why was Vanguard and Craig eclipsed in the mid 1970s? Have a look at James Loughlin,
Ulster Unionism and British National Identity (London, 1995) and Sarah Nelson, Ulsters Uncertain Defenders: Loyalists
and the Northern Ireland Conflict (Belfast, 1984).
'His unique hold over the Protestant psyche has made him the principle obstacle in the way of peace
in Northern Ireland.' Ed Maloney and Andy Pollack, Paisley (Dublin, 1986), p 440.
Is this a fair comment? Did Paisleys Free Presbyterianism chime with a much broader protestant constituency?
(For this, see Steve Bruce, God Save Ulster: The Religion and Politics of Paisleyism (Oxford, 1986). Look particularly
at his activities in the 1960s, the establishment of the DUP (note Desmond Boals role), his reaction to internment and the
fall of Stormont, and the controversy over his apparent inclination to accept voluntary coalition after Sunningdale.
For catholic identity generally, see Fionnuala O Connor, In Search of a State: Catholics in Northern
Ireland (Belfast, 1993). Were catholics willing to accept British sovereignty? Were they more or less radical that protestants?
See also Marianne Elliott, The Catholics of Ulster: A History (London, 2000).
'There is no point in trying to fool the people that if Brian Faulkner and Gerry Fitt sit down in
an executive together then the Northern Ireland problem is solved. 'John Hume cited in Barry White, John Hume: Statesman
of the Troubles (Belfast, 1984), p 141.
What did Hume mean (he was referring to the Power-Sharing Executive
established in 1974). Would all his party colleagues have agreed?
Was the SDLP torn between nationalism and social democracy? Were they the true inheritors of the
Civil Rights Movement? What were the roles of Gerry Fitt, Paddy Devlin and John Hume? Did the SDLP have exaggerated importance
because republicans opted out of electoral politics? See primarily Ian McAllister, The Northern Ireland Social Democratic
and Labour Party: Political Opposition in a Divided Society (London, 1977) and Gerard Murrays John Hume and the SDLP:
Impact and Survival in Northern Ireland (Dublin, 1998).
Official Sinn Fein / The Workers
Why was official republicanism largely unable to make the transition from militarism to party politics?
See Henry Patterson, The Politics of Illusion: A Political History of the IRA (Serif, 1997) and Jack Holland and Henry
McDonald, INLA: Deadly Divisions (Dublin, 1994).