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'Fury over British PM bigot remarks'

Michaél MhaDonnáin • 26 March 2006

After reading this article I was almost in hysterics as once again unionist commentators attempt to employ revisionism into history - Unionist anger at been labeled bigots demonstrated only that unionists still have the head buried in the sand mentality. However a brief insight into how the state was governed paints a totally different picture.

Since the formation of this statet of Norn Iron, unionist politicians have encouraged the protestant business class to discriminate against Catholics in both the private and state sector, with Catholics considered only good for menial tasks. Indeed Lord Brookborough (1942-1963) stated the case plainly when he said, “I recommend those people who are loyalist not to employ Catholics”. To complete the equation the protestant working class was encouraged to become sectarian by placing the blame for local problems on Catholics which initiated the catholic pogroms of 1921 which left 250 Catholics dead and 11,000 driven from their homes.

Perhaps Unionist P.M Lord Craigavon (1920-1940) said it all when he said, “we are a protestant parliament for a protestant state”. Unionists held complete military and political control of the North, only exacerbating the disaffection of the Nationalist/Catholic community toward the state. In effect the unionist government encouraged apartheid leading one Irish civil rights activist to declare, “Catholics are the white Negroes of Ireland”. Even the so called enlightened Unionist P.M Terrence O’Neill (1963-69), gave only patronizing consideration to the nationalist community, when he said. “If you treat Roman Catholics with due consideration and kindness, they will act like Protestants.

Unionists were able to hold on to their protestant utopia through a policy of gerrymandering. Indeed the creation of the state was a gerrymander when the six counties were excised from the rest of Ireland. In this set up unionist had a majority of 60%-40%. Through this policy Catholics were concentrated in fewer larger electoral wards where they were numerically insignificant and therefore had no clout while protestants were dispersed over a number of smaller electoral wards to ensure they had a constant majority and so ensure political control. Further only people, with taxable property could vote and later in 1923 voting was restricted to those owning land worth at lest five pounds or more. In 1945 the British government exempted the unionist government from universal suffrage and the abolition of business votes.

The civil rights movement of the late1960s modeled on the work of Dr Martin Luther king, was a non-sectarian non-violent movement that protested these sectarian polices off unionists. The main theme was “One man one vote” because voting rights were based on property ownership, which shut the economically disadvantaged nationalist community. Of course these demands for greater equality went against everything the Northern state was founded on, that of inequality, privilege and sectarianism. Most Protestants probably due to unionist propaganda through the unionist press felt the demands for reforms were unacceptable while some Catholics felt they didn’t go far enough. The British government did nothing to try and control unionist excesses of power and this in turn led to catholic distrust and unionist sectarian provocation.

The reaction of the protestant elite was to entice and enflame their constituents into a brutal backlash often characterized by shootings, beatings and killings. A civil rights march from Derry to Belfast was attacked by unionist at Burntollet Bridge in January 1969 as RUC men look on, some even joined in the attack. Nationalist districts were attacked and houses burnt to the ground by loyalist mobs often supported by the RUC or their auxiliaries the B-specials. Many catholics were left homeless and fled to safety south of the border.

The Civil rights movement demands were largely ignored by the British, white washed or referred to one tribunal or another. As a gesture the B-Specials were disbanded only to be reorganized as the UDR under the control of the British Army instead of the RUC. Some gerrymandering and property qualifications for voting were changed. Lip service was paid to fair employment and housing, but local loyalist remained in political control, also military control became paramount in the planning of housing structures and housing location. Job discrimination against Catholics has basically not altered.

Unionist power and its failure to acknowledge a large section of the population as equals was due to their bigoted beliefs. They saw their beloved nor iron as a protestant utopia, all ills were blamed on the catholic as both communities were deliberately segregated in order to accommodate the gerrymandering of electoral wards, in a policy reminiscent of apartheid. This helped keep the protestant working class in line socially and economically while the protestant business class were urged not to employ Catholics. Because of unionist intransigence and failure to carry out even the minuscule of reforms following the demands of equality by the civil rights movement, and as more and more nationalists refused to treated like second class citizens, the situation in the north developed wherby violent confrontation was inevitable. It can be seen that the basic ingredients of confrontation were slowly been mixed until it became a powder keg ready to explode.

The violent destruction of the civil rights movement in the backlash of unionist bigotry and the British governments complicity renewed demands for a nationalist defence force. Defence committees were formed through out the North to protect the Nationalist community. Indeed Paisley Senior and other leading unionists in the late sixties also taunted the civil rights activists with IRA taunts, where IRA = I Ran Away. It was only after the pogroms that left thousands fleeing over the border for safety, did the IRA rose out of the ashes to defend the nationalist community to prevent against further pogroms.














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