THROUGH THE ARCHIVES: Duty of every loyalist to vote warns Ulster’s Minister of Labour

From the News Letter, May 24, 1955

Monday, 24th May 2021, 6:00 am
Far left, Brian Faulkner pictured with Secretary of State William Whitelaw in 1973. Picture: Pacemaker
Far left, Brian Faulkner pictured with Secretary of State William Whitelaw in 1973. Picture: Pacemaker

Major Ivan Neill the Northern Ireland Minister of Labour, described the 1955 election as “prison-gate election” when he had addressed a meeting in support of Mr Montgomery Hyde, the Unionist candidate for North Belfast, in Greencastle Orange Hall, the previous night.

The Ulster minister had also declared that it was the duty of every loyalist in the province to turn out to vote in the election which was to be held later that week.

Major Neill told the meeting: “Sinn Fein has issued a challenge and Unionists must accept it and give the answer in the ballot boxes. If they [Sinn Fein] thought the Unionists were weakening one little bit they will regard it as a signal to step up the pressure.”

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The minister proceeded: “The Unionist electors of Ulster must bear in mind that there is a vital issue at stake. Today there is something akin to the chapel-gate collections of the 1949 Northern Ireland general election. That action on the part of Nationalists led to the Unionist Party having one of the most sweeping victories in history. It became known as the ‘chapel-gate election’ and now we have the ‘prison-gate election’ but apparently loyalists have not yet realised that conditions are the same as in 1949.”

Sinn Fein, said Major Neill, had chosen to contest every Ulster seat with the object of “establishing a new weapon of propaganda” to use against Northern Ireland.

He warned: “Their intention was clear – to record as many votes as possible in the hope of being able to broadcast to the outside world that the Sinn Fein prisoners have a big section of the people behind them. That is their technique.”

He added: “It is of the utmost importance that the overall majority of votes cast for the Unionist candidates shows unmistakably to the world that the supporters of Sinn Fein are an inconsequential minority.”