Northern Ireland: The Union and Devolution

  • Paul Ward


There is a certain irony in the fact that the most devout supporters of the Union between 1921 and 1972 inhabited the one part of the United Kingdom that had legislative devolution. In Northern Ireland, as elsewhere in the United Kingdom, the construction of distinctive political and cultural identities was compatible with the existence of the Union. Northern Ireland had been created in the British government’s attempt to disengage from Irish politics after the First World War and Ulster Unionists, who had not asked for a separate parliament, came to see its establishment as enabling them to defend their Britishness in a potentially hostile political situation in Britain. Captain Charles Craig, brother of James, the first Northern Irish Prime Minister, gave the House of Commons at Westminster a clear explanation of how the Ulster Unionists saw their position:

We would much prefer to remain part and parcel of the United Kingdom. We have prospered, we have made our province prosperous under the union … We do not in any way desire to recede from a position which has been in every way satisfactory to us, but we have many enemies in this country, and we feel that an Ulster without a parliament of its own would not be in nearly as strong a position as one in which a parliament had been set up … We profoundly distrust the labour party and we profoundly distrust the right hon. gentleman the Member for Paisley (Mr Asquith) … We see our safety, therefore, in having a parliament of our own.1


Labour Party Unionist Government Home Rule Unionist Party Catholic Community 
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© Paul Ward 2005

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  • Paul Ward

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