Opposition Parties’ Attitude to the Northern Parliament

Irish Times, 24 February 1921

The 1920 Government of Ireland Act provided for two ‘Home Rule’ parliaments on the island of Ireland. Elections to the new ‘Northern’ parliament, which would take place in April 1921, attracted much comment and discussion in newspapers. An article in the Irish Times from a correspondent in Belfast speculated on the candidates who would run for the parliament, particularly whether voters might expect to see ‘an Ulster Roman Catholic Party’ on the ballot paper.

The Northern Parliament. Date of Election. Opposition Parties’ Attitude. Financial Problems

The elections for the North-Eastern Parliament will take place, according to present arrangements, early in April, and the Parliament will meet on the 21st June. The first session will be taken up with the organising of the various departments, and will involve a considerable amount of preliminary work.

The various Unionist associations in the six counties are preparing for the election, and a number of candidates have already been selected by the different committees for confirmation by general meetings of the associations. The work of selecting candidates is not an easy one in consequence of the size of the electoral areas, under the proportionate representation plan, the area in one case embracing two counties.

There are many conflicting interests clamouring for representation in the list of Unionist candidates, the most prominent being Labour, temperance and the farmers. Although the Temperance Party and the Farmers’ Union are making much preparation, it is understood that they will use their influence, not in the direction of separate candidates, but in order that official Unionist candidates may be selected sympathetic to their aims. A certain amount of Labour Unionists will come forward as candidates with the approval of the official Unionist Party. …

An Ulster Roman Catholic Party?

With regard to Nationalist and Sinn Féin Parties, no steps have been taken to bring about the joint conference for which the Roman Catholic Bishop of Down and Connor appealed in his Lenten Pastoral. Sinn Féiners and Nationalists of the old school have so far displayed no indication of coming together, and jointly forming an Ulster Roman Catholic Party. Recent speeches by Mr Joseph Devlin, M.P., in Belfast have been interpreted in some quarters as a definite decision not to be associated in any ways with the Ulster Parliament, but those qualified to judge are of the opinion that the speeches are open to another interpretation.

Both the Nationalists and Sinn Féiners are, like Micawber, waiting for something to turn up. That something will be the announcement of the appointed day, and when that happens, it is certain that the Nationalists, Sinn Féiners, and the Roman Catholic Party will take immediate action towards arriving at some unanimous decision.

Governmental Departments

Between the date of election in April and assembling of the Northern Parliament in June, there will be a considerable amount of work to be done. If Sir James Craig secures the necessary Unionist majority, it is certain that he will be requested by the Lord Lieutenant to form a Ministry. The Premier will then have to decide, in co-operation with his colleagues, the number of Ministers that he will appoint and the departments they will control.

It will be no light task to decide the number of departments into which the present thirty or forty boards that administer Irish services are to be grouped. The importance of having compact departments, which can be economically administered without overlapping, has been recognised by the Belfast Chamber of Commerce, which is now conducting a private investigation into the present system of administering Irish services.

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