Mail - Saturday, March 10th, 1934.
ULSTER MORE BRITISH THAN BRITAIN
“Stands Firm as a Rock for
An Interview With Lord Craigavon
By Gareth Jones
While I found
in Dublin the hatreds more bitter than ever and the political situation more
confused than they were during my visit in October in Ulster I was struck by the
calm and confidence reigning there.
When I was in
Belfast in the autumn a tense feeling of religious antagonism and fear of riots
hovered over the city, for there had been political murders and savage epithets
had been hurled at the Government. But today the tension had disappeared,
and I was struck by the quiet and orderliness of public life.
One of the main
causes for this quiet and solidity in Northern Ireland is the Prime Minister,
Lord Craigavon, who carries on the tradition of Carson as a man devoted to
Ulster. He has dominated the affairs of his country since he took over the
reins of office in 1920. Although he is regarded by some as the epitome of
reaction and hidebound Toryism, his passion for Ulster, his firmness and his
stubbornness are denied by no one.
In character he
is the very reverse of President de Valera, his counterpart in the Free State.
While Mr. de Valera is a dreamer whose vague thoughts wander over the face of
the globe, Lord Craigavon has his few ideas firmly embedded in his mind and from
those he will not move one inch.
While Mr. de
Valera has the delicate build, the lanky limbs and the pale colour of a young
student, Lord Craigavon has the stature of a powerful country gentleman.
This was the
ruler I went to see at Stormont, those magnificent Houses of Parliament outside
Belfast. As we spoke we looked out at the Ulster mountains and at the
statue of Carson, whom Lord Craigavon once described as: “One whom our
children in years to come will regard as the greatest leader who, in times of
grave danger, saved us and the Empire.” Lord Craigavon, in the eyes of
Ulster Protestants, has taken on himself the mantle of Carson.
A ROCK FOR THE EMPIRE
“You ask me
‘What of Ulster? “ he said. His great eyes stared fixedly at me for
minutes on end. “It is with great pride in these days, when European
countries have been in a turmoil, that I am able to declare Ulster stands as
firm as a rock for Britain and for the Empire. We are steadfast in our
determination to remain a sturdy partner in the United Kingdom of Great Britain
and Northern Ireland.
“My whole life
has been devoted to one great purpose - the maintenance of Ulster as an integral
part of the United Kingdom. And now I am delighted, as spokesman of our
youthful Ulster, to declare that the Union Jack remains as ever the emblem of
our undying loyalty and of our position in the Empire.”
In these words I
noticed the same fire that led to the drilling of the Irish Volunteers before
the war and that Ulster characteristic which makes Ulster-men more British than
the British. Their loyalty, however, has been more than one of words, for,
as Lord Craigavon said: “Since the setting up of the Government of Northern
Ireland in 1920 we have contributed to the Imperia Exchequer over £25,000,000.”
ATTITUDE TOWARDS FREE STATE
My next question
was the relation of Ulster towards the Free State, a question which, I confess,
I asked with some trepidation, because the topic is delicate. Lord
Craigavon replied: “We have no antipathy whatever towards the Inst Free State.
We wish the country every prosperity. But under no circumstance could the
people of Northern Ireland consent to come under a Free State or Republican
As he said this I
felt that the prospect of a united Ireland was very dim indeed.
topic was more delicate still, and I seemed to be treading on thin ice when
discussing it. But it was Lord Craigavon himself who brought it up.
It was the ever-recurring accusation of bigotry among the Northerners. The
Prime Minister denied it emphatically:
“All creeds and
classes are treated alike. There is equality, for everyone, I regret that
on some occasions statements in certain cross-Channel papers have been most
unfair in describing the attitude of Ulster. I only wish that before
printing such statements the writers would make themselves acquainted with the
true facts. We welcome the fullest investigation.”
signs of industrial improvement in Ulster?” I asked the Prime Minister.
“On the whole
the prospects arc exceedingly bright,” he replied. “Our linen trade has
improved considerably and our shipbuilding yards, which were practically idle
some time ago, are becoming active.
“The policy of
the Government of Northern Ireland has been to guarantee loans for the building
of ships, and owners have availed themselves of this opportunity. This, I
would point out, is not a subsidy, as some people across the water have alleged,
but merely a guarantee of loans.
We have many
orders for ships on hand. We are delighted that the British Government has
placed an order in Belfast for the building of one of their cruisers. This
has given great satisfaction to the people not only of Belfast but of Northern
NO CUSTOMS BARRIERS
When we were
discussing the industrial situation Lord Craigavon was anxious to stress one
point emphatically, and that was that there are no Customs barriers and no
tariffs between Northern Ireland and Great Britain. This he emphasised
because many businesses and carrying firms thought that goods sent to Northern
Ireland were subject to Customs duties. “That is not so,” he declared.
“They are confusing us with the Irish Free State, where Customs duties and
tariffs are imposed.”
your industrial workers?’ I asked the Prime Minister.
here belong to the great Trade Unions which have their head. quarters in
England. Our labour market is open to English, Scotch, and Welsh, just as
their market is open to Ulster-men. Unemployment benefit, health
insurance, and old-age pensions are on the same basis as in the United
“What is the
present position of the Government, Lord Craigavon?” was my final question.
is perfectly sound,” was his answer, “and that is shown by the high figure
at which the stock of the Government stands in the Money Market. All the
members of the Cabinet were returned unopposed in the recent elections. After
twelve years of unbroken tenure of office I found myself with my Cabinet intact,
and I had a majority of two even before voting took place. This is a
record unprecedented in the annals of Parliamentary elections.
gratified beyond measure by this response. Northern Ireland is again
assured of five years of resolute and settled government. As I have said
before, Ulster, amidst all the international upheavals, stands unchanging, that
part of Ireland that is for ever Britain.”
These final words
sum up perfectly not only the Prime Minister, but the Ulster in which he is the