History repeating as the Union itself stands at the ‘crossroads’

Fifty years ago saw the end of unionist-only government; now, there’s a lot more at stake

The North of Ireland’s prime minister Terence O’Neill and independent unionist candidate Maj RL Hall-Thompson during the 1969 election. Photograph: Tommy Collins/The Irish Times

Fifty years ago, on February 24th, 1969, was Northern Ireland’s “crossroads” election. Northern Ireland prime minister Terence O’Neill hadn’t wanted one, fearing, as he put it, “that those who would sow the wind by having a bitter election now would surely reap the whirlwind”. O’N eill was also the first senior unionist to realise that repeating the “we are the majority”’ mantra was not going to be enough anymore. But his hand was forced by increasing pressure from his own Stormont backbenchers about what they described as his continuing weakness in the face of civil rights demonstrations across Northern Ireland and reformist pressure from Harold Wilson’s Labour government in London.

Between December 9th, 1968 (when he made his “Ulster at the crossroads” speech) and early February, he was forced to sack a cabinet minister; another one – along with two junior ministers – resigned. A third of his parliamentary party called for his resignation. An election seemed his only option; so, buoyed up by the 150,000 letters of support which had followed his “crossroads” speech, he chose to ignore his personal “reap the whirlwind” opinion and appeal to a supposed “groundswell” of moderate support for his policies.

The Unionist Party endorsed and fielded official candidates who were both pro- and anti-O’Neill
It was to be a fatal miscalculation, yet fairly typical of an otherwise decent, thoughtful, reform-minded man who never really had his finger on the pulse of traditional grassroots unionism. As Brian Faulkner noted: “I do not think he ever felt really at home in Ulster politics. His personal remoteness made it difficult for him to lead his party along new and difficult paths at a very crucial period in the province’s history.”

Internal critics
And it was that remoteness, along with a reluctance to listen to well-disposed internal critics, which led to his comprehensive inability to appreciate the sheer scale of the opposition to him. My father, who knew him reasonably well, told me: “Just because Terence was looking at you and nodding politely didn’t mean he was seeing or listening to you.”

What followed was farce on an epic scale. The Unionist Party endorsed and fielded official candidates who were both pro- and anti-O’Neill. A group of pro-O’Neill supporters formed the New Ulster Movement three weeks before the election, backing pro-O’Neill candidates within the Unionist Party, as well as 17 “unofficial” Unionist candidates who were opposing the anti-O’Neill candidates from the Unionist Party. O’Neill, as tin-eared as ever, didn’t seem to have a problem canvassing for “unofficial” candidates who were running against candidates selected by his own party.

The result was a disaster for him. Of the 39 unionists who won, 27 were supporters (although some much more so than others). The comfortable majority he had banked on winning from the “groundswell” of moderate opinion didn’t materialise, leaving him with a paper-thin 27-25 overall majority in Parliament. Just one defector would cripple him. He was hobbled; deprived of the authority he needed to negotiate with Westminster and permanently at the mercy of his internal opponents. Ironically, both Brian Faulkner (in January-May 1974, after he had signed the Sunningdale Agreement) and David Trimble (after the 1998 Assembly election) found themselves in a similar position: lacking authority and flexibility because they didn’t have a solid unionist majority behind them, even though that same groundswell of moderate opinion was supposedly supporting them.

Eased out
Within two months O’Neill had been eased out of the leadership. But by that stage it was too late to avoid the impending implosion. Under his successors (James Chichester-Clark, who defeated Brian Faulkner by just 17-16, and then Faulkner, who replaced him in March 1971), the unionist government found itself forced into one concession after another. And with each new concession came another division. Between 1970 and early 1972 a number of new political/electoral vehicles emerged to eat into the Unionist Party vote: Vanguard, formed by Bill Craig, who addressed huge rallies and once spoke of the need to “liquidate” the enemy ; the DUP; and even Alliance, which started life as a home for moderate unionists uncomfortable with the direction of the Unionist Party. Along with that there were a number of new offshoots and independent mavericks operating on the fringes. It was the beginning of the end of the Ulster Unionist monolith.

O’Neill was undone by events beyond his control and the control of the Unionist Party
The biggest change over the past 50 years has been in the election figures. On February 24th, 1969, unionist parties and independent candidates accounted for 67 per cent of the votes cast; while the Northern Ireland Labour Party, which was pro-Union, won 8 per cent; meaning that almost three-quarters of the vote was unionist of one kind or another. On March 2nd, 2017, at the last Assembly election, the combined unionist vote was 45 per cent.

Unionist majority
It was 1969 that marked the end of unionist-only government. 2017 marked the end of an overall unionist majority in a local parliament or assembly. The unionist and pro-union vote is not always the same thing, of course, because there are people who do not vote for unionist parties but who might, nevertheless and for all sorts of reasons, choose to support the Union in a border poll. But the shift in electoral figures since the 1969 “crossroads” election suggests that unionists need to face the fact that it is maybe the Union itself that now stands at the crossroads. This time, though, it is the leader of the DUP monolith who will have to make the crucial decisions on behalf of unionist interests.

Irrespective of the fact that the DUP recorded its largest-ever vote in the 2017 general election, that it is presently a key player at a crucial moment in Westminster, and that Arlene Foster has no rival hovering in the wings with a dagger, her position is not much more comfortable than was O’Neill’s 50 years ago. She is not the mistress of her fate. O’Neill was undone by events beyond his control and the control of the Unionist Party. She, too, is at the mercy of events beyond her personal control or the control of her party.

Alex Kane is a commentator based in Belfast. He was formerly director of communications for the Ulster Unionist Party

With many thanks to: The Irish Times and Alex Kane for the original story

‘C’mon Paddy, EU can leave too’ – Councillor slammed for ‘racist’ famine tweet

The cartoon frog in the picture,🐸 known as “Pepe”, was adopted a number of years ago by far-right social media trolls to target, among others, autistic children.

A Belfast City councillor has been reported to a local Government watchdog over a “racist, sectarian and offensive” tweet.

Independent councillor Jolene Bunting, who has previously caused controversy by associating with and supporting far-right group Britain First, posted the tweet yesterday afternoon.

The bizarre image featured two frogs, one wearing a Union Jack T-shirt and the other wearing an Irish tricolour.

The frog in the Irish flag is crying, holding a pint of Guinness and wearing a hat that reads: “Please be patient I have famine.”

Accompanying the picture is the line: “C’mon Paddy, EU can leave too”.

The cartoon frog in the picture, known as “Pepe”, was adopted a number of years ago by far-right social media trolls to target, among others, autistic children.

Sinn Fein council group leader Deirdre Hargey said she has lodged formal complaints with the Local Government Commissioner for Standards (LGCS) and Belfast City Council over the tweet, which she branded “racist, sectarian and offensive”.

Alliance councillor Emmet McDonough-Brown also filed a complaint with the LGCS, calling the tweet “not only crass but racist and sectarian”.

Britain First far-right Jayda Fransen who recently bought a new home in Co Down

It was also revealed eariler this week that her friend far-right deputy leader of Britain First’s Jayda Fransen (pictured above) bought a new home in Co Down. It was also revealed that Jayda Fransen will be stepping down from Britain First and setting up a new far-right group here in the North of Ireland along with her colleague Independent councillor Jolene Bunting.

With many thanks to the: Irish Independent for the origional story.

Tory goverment plans to deport millions of British Jamacian British citizens because of Brexit

The Windrush generation began arriving in the UK in 1948.

Some “terrible mistakes” were made in cases involving the Windrush generation facing deportation from the UK, says immigration minister Caroline Nokes.

Many long-term immigrants who arrived from the Commonwealth as children have been told they are here illegally.

The BBC understands Home Secretary Amber Rudd plans to set up a team in the Home Office to help those affected.

It follows a reversal by the prime minister, who will now discuss the issue with other Commonwealth leaders.

A meeting of leaders, which will take place this week, was announced amid growing calls for Theresa May to take action, including a letter from a cross-party group of 140 MPs.

Labour MP David Lammy tweeted that the meeting was a “small U-turn”, adding that he wanted the government to “guarantee the status of all the Windrush children caught up in this crisis” by the end of the day

“My hole life sunk to my feet” Windrush migrant Michrael Braithwaite

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn tweeted it was “disgraceful” that the rights of the Windrush generation had been brought into question, calling on Mrs May to “answer serious questions about how this happened on her watch”.

Mrs May’s spokesman said the prime minister was clear that “no-one with the right to be here will be made to leave”.

He added that the PM is “aware that many people are unlikely to have documents that are over 40 years old”.

London mayor Sadiq Khan said he welcomed Mrs May’s decision to meet with other leaders, but added: “She must now go further and make an immediate commitment to recognise and secure the rights of Commonwealth citizens.”

Skip Twitter post by @DavidLammy

David Lammy


My parents arrived in this country from Guyana and I stand in Parliament as a proud son of the Windrush. Thank you to 140 colleagues including @jeremycorbyn @HackneyAbbott @AngelaRayner @YvetteCooperMP @ChukaUmunna @DawnButlerBrent for joining me in writing to @theresa_may today


End of Twitter post by @DavidLammy

Thousands of prople arrived in the UK as children in the first wave of Commonwealth immigration 70 years ago.

They are known as the Windrush generation – a reference to the ship, the Empire Windrush, which brought workers from the West Indies to Britain in 1948.

Under the 1971 Immigration Act, all Commonwealth citizens already living in the UK were given indefinite leave to remain – but the right to free movement between Commonwealth nations was ended from that date onwards.

However, the Home Office did not keep a record of those granted leave to remain or issue any paperwork confirming it, meaning it is difficult for the individuals to now prove they are in the UK legally.

The BBC understands that Home Secretary Ms Rudd will make a statement to the House of Commons on Monday afternoon to confirm the creation of a new team in her department to help the Windrush generation and ensure no-one loses their access to public services and entitlements.

She is also expected to waive fees so that those affected will not have to pay money for new documents to prove their status.

Mr Lammy has also tweeted that he has secured an urgent question in the Commons on Monday to push Ms Rudd for answers.

‘No question of right to remain’

Speaking to BBC Radio 4’s World at One, Ms Nokes said the Windrush generation had “contributed an enormous amount to our community [and] to our society” and that the government had “an absolute responsibility to make sure there are no more of these mistakes”.

Asked by ITV News if any people had been deported as a result of these “mistakes”, Ms Nokes said: “There have been some horrendous situations, which as a minister have appalled me.”

Told by the reporter “that’s a yes” and asked how many, she said: “No, I don’t know the numbers, but what I’m determined to do going forward is we’ll have no more of this.”

Penny Mordaunt, the international development secretary, said she wanted to reassure those affected, telling BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “People who are in that situation, there is absolutely no question of their right to remain, and their right to gain access to services such as healthcare.”

A letter to the prime minister, co-ordinated by Mr Lammy, called for a “swift resolution of this growing crisis”.

It said: “We urge you to guarantee the status of all Commonwealth nationals whose right to remain is protected by law and to provide an effective, humane route to the clarification of their status.

“What is going on is grotesque, immoral and inhumane,” he said.

It was signed by 140 MPs including Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn and Conservative MP Sarah Wollaston.

‘Not welcome’ in UK

Omar Khan, from the Runnymede Trust charity which has been involved in trying to tackle this issue, said the onus should be on the Home Office to help people find the documents they need.

He also called for an extension of legal aid to these cases.

He told the BBC’s Victoria Derbyshire programme: “These are individuals who do have legal rights – this is not really an amnesty. The issue is their ability to prove it through documentation is now quite difficult.”

Guy Hewitt, Barbados high commissioner, told the BBC: “I have held as a great honour the fact that I am the first London-born high commissioner for Barbados.

“This is the first time I have felt that the country of my birth is saying to people of my region ‘you are no longer welcome’.”

The Migration Observatory at Oxford University estimates there are 500,000 people resident in the UK who were born in a Commonwealth country and arrived before 1971.

People born in Jamaica and other Caribbean countries are thought to be more affected than those from other Commonwealth nations, as they were more likely to arrive on their parent’s passports without their own ID documents.

The Empire Windrush arriving at Tilbury Docks with 482 Jamaicans on board

Many have never applied for a passport in their own name or had their immigration status formalised, as they regarded themselves as British.

The Guardian newspaper has highlighted a number of cases of such people being threatened with deportation.

With many thanks to: BBC England for the origional story.


Ulster-Scots ‘forgotten in some ways.


This appeared on a North of Ireland Ulster-Scot’s blogging site.
Protest for the Irish Language Act in Belfast City Centre. 


Ulster-Scots is a language which has been part of life here since the first Scots planters arrived in Ulster in the 17th Century.
But more than 400 years on, it has become a sticking point in the Stormont talks.

In response to demands for an Irish Language Act, the UN-Democratic Unionst Party, DUP, Anti Irish, Anti-same-sex marriage, Anti-gay and not forgetting Anti-LGBT Party. Is calling on Ulster Scot’s to recognised in the same way as the Irish Language. 

And they are not joking. Are they having a fucking laugh? 

Bronagh from Holyoaks protesting in Belfast against the DUPs insistince not to recognise Same-Sex marriage.

Maybe just Maybe some Irish speakers would like to purchase this from E.Bay but I doubt it

Im looking fotward to the feedback: Seachranaidhe1

For the latest follow these links: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-northern-ireland-politics-40506189

The latest: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-northern-ireland-40503383

More: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-northern-ireland-3860118


Follow these links to find out more: https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ulster_Scots_dialects

Follow this Link: http://www.newsletter.co.uk/news/ulster-scots-can-t-be-equated-to-irish-language-dup-founder-1-8033181

Follow this link to find out more: http://www.newsletter.co.uk/news/your-say/stormont-establishment-is-killing-ulster-scots-with-its-notion-of-kindness-1-8035444

For more follow this link: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-northern-ireland-39208556