Anti-Prohibition Council Criticises Pro-Temperance Attempts to Woo Unionists

Belfast News-Letter, 12 April 1921

The temperance movement saw individuals and groups across the world campaign fiercely for restrictions and bans on the sale and consumption of alcohol. With elections to the new Northern Ireland parliament approaching in May 1921, organisations such as the Ulster Temperance Council and Ulster Women’s Temperance Association began to put pressure on unionist candidates to support their aims. Due to this campaign, the licensed trade became anxious that the soon-to-be established state would implement stringent restrictions on the sale of alcohol, if not full prohibition.

In response to the temperance campaign, the Ulster Anti-Prohibition Council was formed in early 1921. Led by the most influential figures in the Ulster drink trade, it claimed to represent ‘business men of all shades of religion and politics … united in the desire for the good government of Ulster and the legitimate defence of our Industries’. As we can see in the letter below, written by the Council’s secretary and published on 12 April 1921, the group was particularly scathing of what they believed was the temperance movement’s attempts to make prohibition the ‘sole object’ of both unionism and the new Northern Ireland parliament.

Letter from W. V. S. Lynn, secretary of the Ulster Anti-Prohibition Council, Belfast News-Letter, 12 April 1921

I wish to say that the Anti-Prohibition Council was formed simply and solely to deal with the definite attempt the Ulster Temperance Council, the Ulster Temperance League (whose devotion to the Unionist cause is more than doubtful), and two other similar organisations, to stampede all Unionist candidates for the Ulster Parliament into acceptance of three teetotal reforms (so-called), on every one of which there is the utmost difference of opinion amongst all Unionist electors. Four practically identical manifestoes [sic] had been published urging that only candidates known to be in sympathy with these proposals should be selected.

In view of the absolute unfairness of such an attempt deprive a large number of respectable citizens (who are, it is true, very largely composed of Nationalists) of their legitimately acquired property, and to subject the whole community to a lot of quite unnecessary inconvenience, the Anti-Prohibition Council has been formed and will be maintained. My Council entirely repudiate Mr Campbell’s suggestions as to their motives or intentions, but they undertake that the teetotal organisations shall no longer be allowed to pose as Unionist reformers without any ulterior motives.