ALTHOUGH they were associated with similarities and dissimilarities of social background rather than with levels of political activity, information blocks emerged as central to relationships between councillors, residents and constituents in Belfast. Their importance stemmed not only from more or less permanent effects on the practice of representation but also from their influence on the major political development of the 1960s — the unsuccessful reconciliation of the Catholics attempted by the O’Neill administration. Evidence reviewed in the previous chapter revealed the tendency of Unionist councillors to attribute more intransigent views to their followers than the latter actually held (Tables 11.3, 11.7 and 11.8). The data further showed the lack of popular impact made by moderate Unionist initiatives (Tables 7.2, and 11.10). Moderate Unionists were probably inhibited from pressing their views strongly against internal conservative opposition as the result of an erroneous impression that O’Neill’s initiative was not widely supported at grass-roots level, while their failure to act decisively led to the popular misapprehension that traditional Unionist positions had not been basically affected. The feeling that no real change had occurred seems to have led later, in 1968, to direct Catholic action against what they felt to be an intolerable Unionist immobilisme. Thus mutual misperceptions were integrally linked with the explosive events of recent years. Their genesis deserves close examination not only because of their effects on usual politics but also because of their influences on the development of the contemporary crisis.’
KeywordsPolitical Communication Local Politics Public Meeting Daily Newspaper Opposition Parti
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