Crisis in Ireland
Date:December 1974
Organisation: Fabian Society
Series:Fabian Research Series, Number 318
Author:David Bleakley
Collection:The British Left on Ireland
View: View Document
Discuss:Comments on this document

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Commentary From The Cedar Lounge Revolution

12th July 2010

This document was issued from by the Fabian Society, but as noted on the inside cover:

…this pamphlet, like all publications of the Fabian Society, represents not the collective view of the Society but only the view of the individual who prepared it. The responsibility of the Society is limited to approving publications it issues as worthy of consideration within the Labour Movement.

The author, David Bleakley, was a Labour member of the Northern Ireland Assembly and a ‘former Minister of Community Relations’ in Northern Ireland as well as being ‘active in the Peace Movement in Ireland’ and a ‘Visiting Senior Lecturer in Peace Studies to Bradford University’.

Given that political provenance it is unsurprising that the pamphlet takes a somewhat traditional view of matters. The events of the Summer of 1969 are phrased over-delicately as follows…

Certainly in that year Catholic opinion was greatly worried by the arson attacks made on Catholic working class homes in Belfast, and Protestants were protesting against what they regarded as republican plots against the state.

And tellingly:

But, as the Scarman report subsequently observed, there was no evidence of a widely organised campaign of armed insurrection or vengeance by one side or another. The real elements of importance were fear and rumour, leading to communal tension.

Further on Bleakley approvingly quotes Conor Cruise O’Brien (and on a slight tangent it’s notable, and understandable, how much of the text is framed by British Labour Party references, so the appearance of O’Brien as a member of the Irish Labour Party is unremarkable).

…the Southern Irish Labour Party [sic] spokesman on Ulster affairs, has remarked about the supporters of violence “It should always have been clear that the attempt to unify Ireland by force and the various ways in which so many of them condone that attempt, could not possibly bring about unity, but would be certain to provoke a major sectarian backlash”. O’Brien’s prediction has been proved with chilling accuracy.

Politically, the argument put forward is one that supports a power sharing Executive, but as an interim measure ‘the Labour government must be prepared to assume responsibility for Direct Rule in the region well into the future. But unlike their Conservative predecessors, Labour must use the system to make a positive contribution to the development of progressive government in the region and not merely to preserve the status quo until local agencies take over.’

And crucially:

As citizens of the United Kingdom, the people of Northern Ireland are entitled to their full share of Labour policies for regional development.

Somewhat entertainingly it makes the following point:

The bi-partisan policy of the parties at Westminster on Ulster constitutional affairs must not extend to social and economic matters as well, thereby denying the Province the opportunity for the first time in 800 years of benefitting directly from departmental control by socialist ministers.

There are some intriguing straws in the wind, such as the idea that ‘the government must be prepared to think of Direct Rule in more imaginative terms… In the phase planned by Labour there are opportunities to think in terms of ‘Ulsterising’ the Northern Ireland Office’. A thought that at this remove looks less positive than it might then.

Some of the thinking about citizenship on these islands is useful, but the overview of ‘inter-Irish’ relations seems limited… ‘certainly, controversial proposals for formal bodies like a Council of Ireland are unlikely to attract popular support’.

Overall an interesting counterpoint to the UK Labour Party NEC document posted up some while back.

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  • By: Budapestkick Mon, 12 Jul 2010 16:06:29

    Interesting points in that one. Never really been a fan of the Fabians or of think tanks in general.

    Reply on the CLR

  • By: Starkadder Wed, 14 Jul 2010 19:13:03

    The book advertises an “Oil for the Highlands” on the back by
    Naomi Mitchison. I wasn’t aware Mitchison was ever connected with
    the Fabians. So you DO learn something every day! 🙂

    Reply on the CLR

  • By: Neues aus den Archiven der radikalen (und nicht so radikalen) Linken « Entdinglichung Thu, 22 Jul 2010 13:41:41

    […] 1970 (1970) * Revolutionary Marxist Group (RMG): Marxist Review, Frühjahr 1973 * David Bleakley: Crisis in Ireland (1974) * Irish Socialist Network: Parting Company: Ending social partnership […]

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