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 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. 1.
    F. S. L. Lyons, ‘Dillon, Redmond, and the Irish Home Rulers’, in F. X. Martin (ed.), Leaders and Men of the Easter Rising, (London: Meuthen, 1967) p. 39.Google Scholar
  2. 6.
    J. L. McCracken, ‘The Political Scene in Northern Ireland, 1926–37’ in Francis McManus (ed.), The Years of the Great Test, 1926– 39, (Cork: Mercier, 1967) p. 154.Google Scholar
  3. 7.
    Quoted in Nicholas Mansergh, The Government of Northern Ireland, (London: Allen & Unwin, 1936) p. 248.Google Scholar
  4. 8.
    Tim Pat Coogan, Ireland Since the Rising, (London: Pall Mall, 1966) p. 309.Google Scholar
  5. 11.
    Cf. McAteer’s reasons for participating in the 5 October 1968 march given in W. H. Van Voris, Violence in Ulster, (Amherst: University of Massachusetts Press, 1975) p. 73.Google Scholar
  6. 12.
    Quoted in J. Bowyer Bell, The Secret Army, (London: Sphere, 1972) pp. 394–5.Google Scholar
  7. 13.
    See Gerard F. Rutan, ‘The Labour Party in Ulster: Opposition by Cartel’, Review of Politics, 29:4 (1967) pp. 526–35.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. 14.
    Richard Rose, ‘Discord in Ulster’, New Community, 1:2 (1971) p. 124.Google Scholar
  9. 15.
    John F. Harbinson, The Ulster Unionist Party, 1882–1973, (Belfast: Blackstaff, 1973) p. 154.Google Scholar
  10. 16.
    See Ian McAllister, ‘Political Opposition in Northern Ireland: the National Democratic Party, 1965–1970’, Economic and Social Review, 6:3 (1975) pp. 353–66.Google Scholar
  11. 17.
    John F. Harbinson, ‘A History of the Northern Ireland Labour Party, 1891–1949’ (Belfast: unpublished Queen’s University MSc thesis, 1966) p. 233.Google Scholar
  12. 19.
    Cornelius O’Leary, ‘Belfast West’ in D. E. Butler and Anthony King, The British General Election of 1966, (London: Macmillan, 1967) p. 255.Google Scholar
  13. 20.
    See M. Lipskey, ‘Protest as a Political Resource’, American Political Science Review, 62:4 (1968) pp. 1144–58.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. 21.
    James Thompson, ‘The Northern Ireland Civil Rights Movement’ (Belfast: unpublished Queen’s University MA thesis, 1973) p. 52.Google Scholar
  15. For other accounts of the movement, see John J. Kane, ‘Civil Rights in Northern Ireland’, Review of Politics, 33:1 (1971) PP. 54–77.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Donald E. Leon, ‘The Politics of Civil Rights in Northern Ireland: Some Views and Observations’, Cithara, 10:1 (1970) pp. 3–17.Google Scholar
  17. Paul F. Power, ‘Civil Protest in Northern Ireland’, Journal of Peace Research, 9:3 (1972) pp. 223–36.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Vincent E. Feeney, ‘The Civil Rights Movement in Northern Ireland’, Eire-Ireland, 9:2 (1974) pp. 30–40.Google Scholar
  19. 26.
    Cited in Richard Rose, ‘The Dynamics of a Divided Regime’, Government and Opposition, 5:2 (1970) p. 183.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. 28.
    See Paul Arthur, The People’s Democracy, 1968–73, (Belfast: Blackstaff, 1974) p. 45.Google Scholar
  21. 31.
    Owen Dudley Edwards, The Sins of Our Fathers, (Dublin: Gill & Macmillan, 1970) P. 269.Google Scholar
  22. For an analysis of the election, see Cornelius O’Leary, ‘The Northern Ireland General Election (1969)’ in F. A. Hermens (ed.), Verfassung und Verfassungswirklichkeit, (Verlag: Köln und Opladen, 1969).Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Ian McAllister 1977

Authors and Affiliations

  • Ian McAllister

There are no affiliations available

Personalised recommendations