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The Northern Ireland Labour Party, 1924–45

  • Graham Walker

Abstract

The nature of the circumstances in which Northern Ireland was brought into being as a political unit virtually ensured that its political character would subsequently be shaped by national and ethnic rather than class forces. Partition, under the terms of the Government of Ireland Act of 1920, was designed to be a temporary means of resolving the national question, but it instead had the effect of hardening respective nationalist and unionist positions.1 The divisions over Irish home rule dating from the late nineteenth century were given a new twist. In the unionist-controlled North, the determination to use the new devolved structure as a bulwark against Irish nationalism would result in the main political focus being on the maintenance of the state (or statelet’s) constitutional position, albeit anomalous, within the United Kingdom. For Irish nationalists and republicans the new partition arrangement could not be granted recognition as legitimate. Markers to this effect were laid down in the first elections to the new Northern Ireland parliament in May 1921 as both unionists and nationalists made the communal and sectarian appeals to their respective electorates, which would quickly come to define the political temper of this society.

Keywords

Trade Union Unemployment Insurance Proportional Representation Labour Party National Question 
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Notes

  1. 1.
    For the Government of Ireland Act see Nicholas Mansergh, Nationalism and Independence (Cork, 1997), ch. 2.Google Scholar
  2. 1.
    For the subsequent history of Northern Ireland see David Harkness, Northern Ireland since 1920 (Dublin, 1983)Google Scholar
  3. 1.
    Thomas Hennessey, A History of Northern Ireland (Dublin, 1997).Google Scholar
  4. 2.
    See Austen Morgan, Labour and Partition: The Belfast Working Class, 1905–23 (London, 1991), ch. 11.Google Scholar
  5. 3.
    Graham Walker, ‘The Northern Ireland Labour Party in the 1920s’, Saothar: Journal of Irish Labour History, vol. 10 (1984), pp. 19–29;Google Scholar
  6. 3.
    C. Norton, ‘The Left in Northern Ireland 1921–1932’, Labour History Review, vol. 60, no. 1 (spring 1995), pp. 3–20.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. 5.
    See Graham Walker, The Politics of Frustration: Harry Midgley and the Failure of Labour in Northern Ireland (Manchester, 1985), pp. 28–34.Google Scholar
  8. 6.
    Henry Patterson, Class Conflict and Sectarianism (Belfast, 1980), ch. 4.Google Scholar
  9. 13.
    Emmet O’Connor, A Labour History of Ireland 1824–1960 (Dublin, 1992), p. 182.Google Scholar
  10. 14.
    See Terry Cradden, ‘Labour in Britain and the Northern Ireland Labour Party, 1900–70’, in P. Catterall and S. McDougall (eds), The Northern Ireland Question in British Politics (Basingstoke, 1996).Google Scholar
  11. 18.
    See Edna Longley, ‘Progressive bookmen: politics and northern Protestant writers since the 1930s’, The Irish Review, no. 1 (1980), pp. 50–9.Google Scholar
  12. 21.
    For the Nationalist Party see Eamonn Phoenix, Northern Nationalism (Belfast, 1994).Google Scholar
  13. 29.
    For a fuller discussion see Mary Harris, ‘Catholicism, Nationalism, and the Labour Question in Belfast, 1925–1938’, Bullán, vol. 3, no. 1 (1997), pp. 15–32.Google Scholar
  14. 31.
    See discussion in Graham Walker, A History of the Ulster Unionist Party: Protest, Pragmatism, and Pessimism (Manchester, 2004), pp. 63–6;Google Scholar
  15. 31.
    also Patrick Buckland, The Factory of Grievances (Dublin, 1979).Google Scholar
  16. 38.
    also Fearghal McGarry, Irish Politics and the Spanish Civil War (Cork, 1999).Google Scholar
  17. 42.
    also Paddy Devlin, Yes We Have No Bananas: Outdoor Relief in Belfast (Belfast, 1981).Google Scholar
  18. 43.
    See Sydney Elliott, ‘Voting systems and political parties in Northern Ireland’, in B. Hadfield (ed.), Northern Ireland: Politics and the Constitution (Buckingham, 1992).Google Scholar
  19. 53.
    also P. Bew and C. Norton, ‘The unionist state and the outdoor relief riots of 1932’, Economic and Social Review, vol. 10 (1979), pp. 255–65.Google Scholar
  20. 56.
    See Terry Cradden, Trade Unionism, Socialism and Partition (Belfast, 1993), ch. 2.Google Scholar
  21. 61.
    See Graham Walker, ‘The Commonwealth Labour Party in Northern Ireland, 1942–47’, Irish Historical Studies, vol. 24 (May 1984), pp. 69–90. Midgley would join the Unionist Party in 1947.Google Scholar
  22. 67.
    See commentary in Graham Walker, Intimate Strangers: Political and Cultural Interaction Between Scotland and Ulster in Modern Times (Edinburgh, 1995), pp. 137–43.Google Scholar
  23. 71.
    David Marquand, The Progressive Dilemma (London, 1991), ch. 5.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Graham Walker 2005

Authors and Affiliations

  • Graham Walker

There are no affiliations available

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