Political Conditions

  • Ian McAllister


For many years the Northern Ireland Nationalist Party voiced the only demand with which the Catholic community showed any lasting concern: Irish reunification. In the 1950s and 1960s the social attitudes supportive of this outlook began to change, and notably the belief that greater material benefits could be obtained by constructive participation in the institutions of the state began to challenge traditional anti-partitionist principles. Gradually the Nationalists ceased to be the single socially approved vehicle for political action. In parallel with these social changes, the range of political alternatives grew beyond the simple options of constitutional action or physical force. The new alternative that emerged was mass, nonviolent protest that combined neutrality on the border issue with a demand for the rights of British citizenship. Since the Nationalist Party had never been wholly dominant in the Catholic community, the introduction of a new channel that promised more tangible gains signalled the demise of the Nationalists. This chapter focuses on the political conditions that were necessary to provide a suitable environment for the formation of the SDLP, and deals particularly with the dilemma of the Nationalist Party and the political options open to the Catholic community in the 1960s.


Political Condition Party System Civil Disobedience Nationalist Party Mass Protest 
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© Ian McAllister 1977

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  • Ian McAllister

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