Unionism of our pre-Troubles days was not bankrupt

Letters to editor
Letters to editor

When your correspondent by the name of Willie Methven [‘Delusional and naive unionism’, Letters, January 2] writes of unionism as delusional thinking and its “now traditional bankruptcy”, he writes like someone who has swallowed Sinn Fein whole and is now unreflectively regurgitating it.

And so he writes of what could be labelled the last 50 years of misgovernment.

But before those years of misgovernment, whatever defects there may have been, unionism could hardly be described as bankrupt.

Although opposition from Roman Catholic clerical quarters, the clergy often presiding at Nationalist Party meetings and the bishops shunning invitations to government functions saw the Orange influence within unionism increasing; perhaps inevitably in such circumstances, allies will be sought.

But the late 1940s saw large political rallies aimed at reviving political thinking, addressed by Conservatives such as the young Quintin Hogg (the later Lord Hailsham) and the elder statesman, Leo Amery.

Meanwhile, Lt Col Hall-Thompson was introducing an education bill in the face of opposition from more than one quarter (including the churches), and Billy Grant in establishing the health service was facing down ecclesiastical and medical opposition – the same Billy Grant who established the Housing Trust, entrusted to build religiously mixed housing estates in Belfast, and successfully doing so until the “Troubles” put an end to it.

Then in the 1950s there was the successful policy of attracting new industrial investment.

All this was achieved whilst what had become the Irish Republic was stagnating to the point that its prime minister Sean Lemass desperately sought a free trade agreement (and subsidies for agriculture which he got) with the UK and, in opening the way to that end, accepted Terence O’Neill’s invitation to visit Stormont.

There is more to unionism (awaiting to be resurrected) than Ian Paisley’s “sledgehammer” mentality, egged on as it was by Sinn Fein, and the misgovernment it invited.

W A Miller, Belfast