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What Was the Contribution of Terrence O Neil?

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    Through the years 1949 to 1969 O’Neill made very little contribution to the affairs of Northern Ireland. While he created several policies that he hoped would help the situation (what situation? – describe the nature of ‘Majority Rule’ and tensions between Catholics & Protestants) in Northern Ireland and ease the tensions between the Nationalist and the Unionists, O’Neill failed to implement these policies and any action he made towards one of the individual communities, the other would become infuriated, inevitably leading to the fall of O’Neill and the subsequent rise of Ian Paisley and more extreme, reactionary forces of Unionism.

    By 1960 Unionists were growing tired of Brookeborough’s government, who was in his 70’s and under heavy criticism from middle class Unionists. (WHY?) When Brookeborough resigned suddenly (WHEN?) the only other man in line to replace Brookeborough aside from O’Neill was Brian Faulkner who was away on business at the time. O’Neill was became the new Prime Minister without an election. O’Neill’s habit of acting alone caused great resentment and this further increased that resentment. (Evidence of ‘acting alone’??)

    O’Neill came from Co. Antrim but was raised in England. Having served in the British Army, O’Neill was more at home in England. He made his contempt for Unionist MPs well known and this acted as a hindrance later when he became Prime Minister. O’Neill took over in a more relaxed time.

    The tensions between the Protestants and Catholics were easing around the world and the Nationalist and Unionist tension in Ireland was also easing. Sean Lemass, as Taoiseach of the Republic, made it clear he wanted co-operation with the North rather then partition. This was an ideal time for O’Neill to take over, with tensions easing off it meant certain policies (NAME THEM!) could be created that weren’t even considered before.

    O’Neill also made an attempt to respond to this atmosphere by being the first Northern Prime Minister to visit a Catholic school, this would have gone unnoticed elsewhere but in Northern Ireland it was revolutionary and caused extreme Unionists like Ian Paisley to protest. At this stage it appeared that O’Neill would make a huge contribution to the affairs of Northern Ireland.(in what way?)

    O’Neill’s main aim however was not to reconcile with Nationalists. O’Neill hoped to defeat the Northern Ireland Labour Party by encouraging economic growth. O’Neill set up a number of committees to report on future economic policies. There was the Benson Report 1963; it recommended improving road transport and the closing of uneconomic railways like Belfast to Derry. There was the Matthew Report which suggested slowing down economic growth in Belfast and focusing economic development somewhere else.

    To Nationalists in the west this would have appeared quite fortunate to them because they believed that the economic development might move west where Nationalists were in a majority. However this was not the case, as most of the development remained east of the Bann. The people of Derry were aggravated when a new city named Craigavon was set up in Portadown, the government said that grounds on the west were ‘too remote’ and foreign companies wouldn’t want to set up there which undermined the idea of growth centres elsewhere. Nationalists didn’t believe the government.

    The felt they were trying to develop the Protestant heartland and neglecting the west where Catholics were in the majority. The implementation of the report emphasises O’Neill’s contributions to affairs in Northern Ireland. Even though it would have made sense to develop a city where Catholics were in majority so that tension would decrease even further, O’Neill decided to develop the east even more which created jealousy and contempt from the Nationalists towards Unionists. Either O’Neill had no idea what he was doing or he knew and just didn’t care. (Do NOT use ‘so’ at the start of sentences. Stop using commas to create long, unwieldy sentences. VERY blasé statement to end the paragraph)

    After the Coleraine University Controversy (WHEN??) O’Neill faced challenges from both sides. Nationalists hoped that O’Neill would support their claims for greater equality but they grew restless with the lack of real change but the extreme Unionists resented any gesture O’Neill made towards the Nationalists. Throughout Northern Ireland new parties were beginning to form with different objectives then the older generation. In 1967 the Northern Ireland Civil Rights Association (NICRA) was formed.

    It consisted of moderate Nationalists like John Hume. They wanted full civil rights and an end to discrimination against Catholics and Nationalists. There were some moderate Unionists who believed the only way of achieving peace was with justice for all citizens. Their demands were an end to the Special Powers Act  and the B Specials. Also, all council houses to be given on a point system, and ‘one man, one vote’, to be brought in. The foundation of this group was the beginning of O’Neill’s fall.

    Their (WHO?) demands were moderate but they were too much for the Unionists. This led to the clash in Derry in October, 1963. This march was organised by NICRA. (How could NICRA have organised a march in 1963 when it was only founded in 1967?) It was prohibited from going inside Derry walls due to Unionist protest. They (WHO?) marched through Derry anyway and the police used brute force against the marchers; the beating was televised and footage was being shown in Britain.

    This was a disaster for O’Neill and his government. The world media was now focussed on Northern Ireland and the civil rights of Catholics, where there was an explosion of anger form the Nationalists and threats of a revolt. In London, the British Prime Minister, Harold Wilson called on O’Neill to make reforms. O’Neill produced a package of moderate demands including a point system for council housing and a review of the Special Powers Act but it didn’t include anything about ‘one man, one vote’. This was a costly mistake. It gave the NICRA reason to continue marching and it made it appear like a bigger issue to the Unionist. O’Neill made a speech on the 9 December (year?) asking for support for the reforms.

    It went well and it appeared as if O’Neill might pull through but eventually events slipped out of O’Neill’s control. In order to show the public supported him, O’Neill held an election on the 3rd of February (YEAR??). Ian Paisley stood against O’Neill and won 6,331 votes while O’Neill only won 7,745. All of the MPs that had challenged O’Neill had kept their seats. John Hume also won a seat. In March, O’Neill outlawed many of the tactics used by the Civil Rights movement which merely led to more protests and riots. While this was bad O’Neill decided to bring in ‘one man, one vote’ in local elections. This led to James Chichester Clarke resigning and a few days later a bomb exploded in Belfast water mains creating an atmosphere of panic.


    It is very clear that while O’Neill introduced many policies, he lacked contact with ordinary Unionists and he wasn’t familiar with their customs. It didn’t help him that he had few friends among the Unionist MPs even though some shared his views. This meant no one was willing to risk anything for O’Neill.

    O’Neill couldn’t convince Unionists that Northern Ireland needed to be modernised. His policies failed to ease any tension between the two sides, in fact in fed fuel to the fire and helped Paisley to become so popular. O’Neill’s behaviour in some cases made it seem like he was favouring the Unionists over the Nationalists and this itself created tension and thus anything O’Neill contributed to the affairs of Northern Ireland was negative at best.

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