The Northern Ireland Labour Party, 1924–45

  • Graham Walker


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.


Trade Union Unemployment Insurance Proportional Representation Labour Party National Question 
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© Graham Walker 2005

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  • Graham Walker

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