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Stormont
 

Stormont

 



Is there another way?  -  Report by Will Ellsworth-Jones


    "For God's sake," said the hard-line Protestant politician
       wearily, "let  the British government decide what it wants,
       and then let it come straight out and impose a solution on
       us. We want no more consultations. We want action."
05    Over the past two weeks The Sunday Times has interviewed
       many people in Northern Ireland, representing every strand
       of opinion in this tortured province. Butthat view, expressed
       in a dozen different forms and with varying degrees of em-
       phasis, was the one on which almost everyone was able to
10    agree. For the conviction is growing, particularly among
       Protestants, that what the government is really up to is the
       abandonment of the North in a deal worked out with the
       South.
       But our poll shows that the majority of people favour a form
15    of power-sharing - that much-abused but never properly
       tested system which would give both the half-million
       Catholics and the million Protestants a say in governing
       their own province. The results of our poll show that:
       • Two options - repartition and an independent Northern
20    Ireland - are overwhelmingly rejected by the vast majority of
       voters, both Protestant and Catholic.
       • Two other solutions - a federal Irish state with guarantees
       for Ulster Protestants; and a united Ireland - are acceptable
       to a majority of Catholics (though one in three Catholics
25    opposes a united Ireland). But they are completely unaccept-
       able to the majority of Protestants.
       One solution, permanent integration with the United King-
       dom, has overwhelming Protestant support, but is rejected
       by over half the Catholics.
30    • The remaining "power-sharing" option - that Northern
       Ireland should stay part of
       the UK, but with its own assembly and with guarantees for
       the Catholic minority - turns out to be acceptable to two
       people in three. Though somewhat more popular with
35    Protestants than Catholics, it commands 'the support of 62
       per cent of Catholic voters too.
       As a solution it has the immense merit that it offends most
       people least. Only 10 per cent of the province's people dis-
       approve of power-sharing strongly.  A further 11 per cent
40    tend to disapprove of it.  
       There is hopeful news, too, on the attitude to violence. In
       1976, 8 per cent (7 per cent of Catholics and 9 per cent of
       Protestants) approved strongly of the use of violence to
       achieve political objectives. In our poll only 1 per cent say
45    they approve strongly of using violence; a further 3 per cent
       tend to approve.
       The bad news from our poll is that it reveals a vast and a
       growing gulf between the Catholic community and the British
       government.
50    There is more discouraging news on two issues: The first
       shows a distressing decline in Catholic faith that, looking 20
       years ahead, there will be a peaceful solution to the Nor-
       thern Ireland problem.
       Secondly, there has been a remarkable collapse in Catholic
55    support for the British Army's presence in Northern Ireland.
       Most dramatically of all, half of all the Catholics say that
       Britain could encourage a political settlement by announcing
       a date for withdrawing the army.
       When the army arrived in the province, it was seen by most
60    Catholics as a guarantee of their safety. It is no longer so.
       With this, its chances of winning the support of the Catholic
       community in the fight against terrorism is immeasurably
       reduced.
       Most Protestant leaders told us they have no doubt that
65    their main aim should be to preserve the British link. Their
       problem is in agreeing on a way to ensure this. Some be-
       lieve that the safest course is integration with the United
       Kingdom: the more like Scotland or Wales that Northern Ire-
       land becomes, the more difficult it is for England to abandon
70    her.
       The emotional favourite of the Protestants is still a parlia-
       ment at Stormont. It stands for 50 years of Protestants secu-
       rity and ascendancy. They believe their real troubles began
        when Stormont was disbanded in 1972 and they want it
75    back. Stormont, they feel, gives them some kind of pro-
       tection.
       Other options, however, are far less plausible, For instance,
       getting Britain to announce it will withdraw and leave the
       Irish to work out their own solution is considered seriously
80    only by the IRA. An equally unlikely solution is repartition -
       redrawing the boundary to produce a smaller, more Pro-
       testant Northern Ireland, because it would back the Protes-
       tants into a highly vulnerable corner.
       Overall, the main message from our interviews in the North
85    was that there is a growing feeling, even among some Pro-
       testants, that the road forward leads South.

(about 770 words)

from: The Sunday Times, June 18th, 1981, slightly abridged




Assignments


1. Comprehension

Answer the following questions in about 5-6 sentences (each). Do not quote the text, use your own words as far as appropriate.

1.1. What is the theme of the text?
1.2. Please explain what the author calls "the power-sharing option?
1.3. Why does a vast majority of voters, both Protestant and Catholic, reject "repartition and an independent Northern Ireland"?
1.4. What are the reasons why "a united Ireland" would be acceptable to a majority of Catholics?
1.5. "Permanent integration with the United Kingdom" has over-whelming Protestant support. Why is it rejected by over half the
Catholics?

2. Comment

Write short comments on:

2.1. Since 1972 ("Direct Rule") Northern Ireland has been an integrated part of the United Kingdom. Before 1972 it was a half-autonomous province with its
own parliament at Stormont /Belfast.
2.1.1. Would you agree that the difficulties in the province of Ulster already began in 1920?
2.1.2. Do you think that the conflict in Northern Ireland is a political and social problem rather than a religious one?
2.1.3.  Why was the British Army at first welcomed by the Catholics when it began to move into Ulster in 1969 and what do you know about the IRA's
strategy afterwards?
2.2. Why has Britain's policy in Ulster failed so far to reconcile the two hostile communities?
3. Give official and personal arguments for and against a dated British withdrawal from Ulster.
4. What is the difference between the situation in 1981 and today. Make use of your reading knowledge.

 
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