Constitutional Opposition (August 1970–July 1971)

  • Ian McAllister


In most Western democracies, oppositions which seek to alter the fundamental framework of the political system have flourished only in the initial stages of nation-building. The disaffected minority represented by this type of opposition gradually comes to use and identify with the institutions of the political system and there is a corresponding decline in the proffering of ‘sweeping alternatives to the basic framework of the political system, for … it would endanger rules and institutions now familiar to oppositions, without promising successful change.’1 Where a society is fundamentally divided and, in effect, in a perpetual condition of nation-building with the form and existence of the state continually in question, the options that a permanent minority can exercise are limited.


Communal Violence Committee System Unionist Government Street Violence Alternative Assembly 
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  1. 1.
    Giuseppe di Palma, Apathy and Participation, (New York: Free Press, 1970) p. 90.Google Scholar
  2. 2.
    Robert A. Dahl, Political Oppositions in Western Democracies, (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1966) p. 345.Google Scholar
  3. 4.
    Quoted in Richard Deutsch and Vivien Magowan, Northern Ireland: a Chronology of Events, 1968–74, Vol. 1 (1968–71) (Belfast: Blackstaff, 1973) p. 152.Google Scholar
  4. 5.
    Kevin Boyle et al., Law and State, (London: Martin Robertson, 1975) p. 24–5.Google Scholar
  5. 9.
    Maurice Hayes, ‘The Role of the Community Relations Commission in Northern Ireland’, Administration, 20:4 (1972) p. 90.Google Scholar
  6. 12.
    Cf. Sean MacStiofain, Memoirs of a Revolutionary, (London: Gordon Cremonesi, 1975) pp. 133–8.Google Scholar
  7. 13.
    Conor Cruise O’Brien, States of Ireland, (London: Hutchinson, 1972) p. 205.Google Scholar
  8. 14.
    See Provisional IRA, Freedom Struggle, (Dublin: Provisional IRA, 1973).Google Scholar
  9. 27.
    For a succinct summary of these events, see Henry Kelly, How Stormont Fell, (Dublin: Gill & Macmillan, 1972).Google Scholar

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© Ian McAllister 1977

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  • Ian McAllister

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