Office-Seeking (April 1972–June 1973)
The degree of political allegiance shown to a regime is never constant, and the political environment at any one time helps to determine its extent and depth. Shortly before the advent of the disturbances in 1969, about one-third of Ulster’s Catholic community were recorded as withholding consent from the province’s constitution, although the overwhelming majority were prepared to comply with its basic political laws.1 Up until mid-1973 the disturbances emphasised the regime’s lack of consent, but in addition exposed the small number of Catholics willing to pursue violent non-compliance and the larger number ready to endorse non-violent protest. In 1971 and 1972 the SDLP’s policy of parliamentary abstention gave expression to this lack of consent, but it also prevented them from fulfilling their self-defined role of negotiating on behalf of the Catholic community. The inability to carry out this function, plus the activities of Catholic paramilitary groups, served to eclipse the SDLP and emphasise their impotence while existing policies and institutions remained unaltered.
KeywordsPolitical Group Green Paper Civil Disobedience Direct Rule Assembly Election
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