The political death of Chichester-Clark, descendant of the infamous feudal gangster Sir Arthur Chichester (not, according to some historians the greatest scoundrel in his family tree) came suddenly. His political demise came in the fashion of his similarly useless kinsman, now Lord O’Neill of the Maine.
Both men were politically assassinated by their “brothers” of the Orange Order and the permanently governing Unionist Party.
O’Neill’s undignified exit was prefaced by a series of disorders, and public-utility explosions that enabled enemies within his own party to stampede his erstwhile “friends” in the Cabinet on the “Law and Order” issue.
The police and other government agencies "knew for certain” that the explosions were the work of the IRA but after O’Neill had gone a conscious-stricken Protestant fanatic leaked information to an Opposition MP that revealed the gelignite gang to be none other than the supporters of the Unionist “Law and Order” brigade. It is worthy of note that when one of this gang was brought to Court and convicted, his sworn statement implicated some of the “respectable” people who, again following events that shook even this trouble-armoured area, helped to rout Chichester-Clark on the self-same “Law and Order” stampede.
Chichester-Clark could not be missed. He was an utterly useless, colourless individual who had displayed sense only in being born of forbears whose cruelty and greed preserved him from the rigours of having to make a living. His final panic-stricken act was typical of the man; he scurried off to Maudling in London for more ink for his rubber-stamp parliament. His request was refused and even his friends could not bear the indignity.
With old Chichester back on the lands of our fathers his few “friends” and many enemies met in secret conclave and decided that differences could be buried with principles.
A former Minister of the O’Neill government, Harry West, who became a Unionist “hard-liner” and a bitter opponent of the government after O’Neill sacked him for being financially involved in land transactions inconsistent with his role as a Minister, became a “soft-liner” overnight. He had been invited by the new Prime Minister to take a place in the New Cabinet (or, as some might call it, Westminster’s Old Cupboard!) despite the fact that the British Home Secretary had made it clear to the new boys that they would simply carry out the same policy instructions he had foisted on the outgoing Cabinet. The plums of office similarly induced another “hard-liner”, “Mr. Burns”, into a more pliable condition and a position in the government.
The new Prime Minister, Brian Faulkner, is regarded as a Wonder Boy in some local circles. The fiction arises from his sojourn in the Commerce Ministry of the O’Neill government where he is alleged to have performed remarkable deeds in attracting foreign capitalists to Northern Ireland to set up business and create employment. An excellent personal publicist, he publicised the capitalist and his fifty-jobs, attracted by the promise of cheap labour, cheap government factories, tax and rate concessions and massive capital grants, but the outgoing capitalist and the one hundred redundancies was inside stuff.
Faulkner was at the helm when his Ministry pumped nearly ten million pounds into the Cyril Lord Carpet empire. Lord went burst and was forced to go to live in a luxury villa in the Bahamas. He was at the helm also when a couple of wide-boys from London pumped hundreds of thousands of “government” lolly into their pockets in the infamous Zenozip affair. This was the one occasion when some of the crooks got caught and landed in prison, an MP resigned, and hundreds of workers went back to the dole. Then there was Dr. McDonald and his BSR factory playing financial ping-pong with Faulkner and his opposite number in Eire and again catching Faulkner with his purse strings open.
What a skipper! But he is no worse than his crew, “Hard-liners” gone conveniently soft and once nauseating “moderates” like Robin Bailie gone “hard” — why the new Cabinet even includes a failed Labour politician, David Bleakley, a Bible-thumping apologist for the worst excesses of capitalism in Northern Ireland, including the Special Powers Act, who, twice rejected at the ballot box, comes in by appointment as Minister of Community Relations!
Will Faulkner and his unholy crew succeed where O’Neill and Chichester-Clark failed in bringing back the previously-enjoyed condition of uneasy peace which prevailed in Northern Ireland in the pre-O’Neill era? To guess at the answer to that question — and it is very much a matter of guessing! — we must take a brief look at Unionism in the past and examine some of the events which brought about its present predicament.
The Unionist Party has maintained the governmental stewardship of capitalism for 45 years by promoting bigotry and hatred between Protestant and Catholic members of the working class.
For reasons often outlined in the Socialist Standard, capitalism in Ulster at the turn of the century, threatened by the probable actions of a government representing southern capitalism and the possible loss of direct access to the British market, used the Unionist Party and took the advice of the British politician Lord Randolph Churchill to “play the Orange Card” by “respectabilising” the Orange Order and promoting the most blatant religious bigotry.
Protestant workers were not the beneficiaries of a vociferous anti-Catholic government. On the contrary, the Unionist Government and the Orange politicians fought elections on anti-Popery. The Protestant workers were, by and large, as downtrodden as their Catholic brethren but if they made jobs or homes an issue at elections the Unionist politicians construed it as treason. Only “The Border” and the maintenance of a “Protestant Parliament for a Protestant people” was acceptable as a legitimate bone of electoral contention.
By the mid-sixties, however, the needs of Ulster capitalism had changed and the issues which separated it from its Southern Irish counterpart had considerably diminished.
It became politically and economically expedient for the Unionist Party to soft pedal on some of the issues that previously pre-occupied it and even to eject some of the more fundamental bigotries that had brought it to power and maintained it there.
The Unionists of the “New” Ulster showed as much contempt for the working class, and particularly the Protestant workers, as their predecessors had shown — and particularly for the Catholic workers.
No attempt was made to bring the battalions of the Protestant workers into line with new governmental thinking. Such an attempt, of necessity, would have required the Unionist leadership to have had the courage to repudiate the bigotry and hatred on which they had built their “principles” and politicians, and especially Unionist politicians, are not made that way!
Simultaneous with the so-called “liberalising” of the Unionist Government — and, indeed, in no small way because of it — the forces of opposition to Unionism (which were largely Catholic) began to organise and campaign for civil rights. In our view most of these “rights” were not worth demanding — as the continued exasperation of the minority, now that they have received them, demonstrates — but as Unionism yielded before the pressure of Westminster and the pressure of the streets so the Protestant workers, conditioned by traditional Unionism and the Orange Order to the belief that “Yielding to Papists” was a betrayal, began to turn upon the Unionist government.
The new Faulkner government is now engaged in a political tight rope exercise. On the one hand they cannot retreat on the so-called reform programme; on the other hand they hope by administrative wangling of these “reforms” — especially those dealing with internal security — and the inclusion of some Orange bully boys in the Cabinet to placate the recalcitrant Protestants who retain the hard, bitter poison of traditional Unionism.
At the moment of writing they have had some success. The purblind stupidity of some Republican elements and the fact that the infamous Royal Ulster Constabulary’s political CID are the guiding intelligence behind the British Army in Northern Ireland has meant that well-armed military thugs are almost continually involved in violent oppression, searches and ceaseless provocation of the Catholic working people in the slum areas of Belfast. Inevitably there has been reaction and, tragically, these Catholic workers are being pushed in the direction of the various militant Republican movements.
But Paisley, Craig, Boal, Smith and the other plain exponents of “Kick the Pope” Unionism are not impressed by the Government’s anti-Catholic posturings and their support among the Protestant workers is widespread.
They have brought down two Prime Ministers and already Paisley has let it be known that he loves Faulkner even less than he loved Chichester-Clark!
We must acknowledge that Faulkner and his government have been set a heavy task and are beset by enemies on all sides. Where the Catholics don’t despise him they detest him and, among thousands of working class Protestants, if he is not distrusted he is held in contempt.
And we can not wish him luck for he is chief among those Unionists who have championed the division and vicious exploitation of the working class in Northern Ireland.