Sir James Craig Publishes Manifesto for Upcoming Elections
Portrait of Sir James Craig in about 1917. © National Portrait Gallery, London.

Belfast News-Letter, 26 April 1921

Sir James Craig was appointed leader of the Ulster Unionist Party in February 1921, following the resignation of Sir Edward Carson after the passage of the Government of Ireland Act. In April that year, a month before the first elections to the new Northern Ireland parliament, Craig published his electoral manifesto. Published in full in the Belfast News-Letter, it demonstrated his determination to secure a Unionist majority, in the face of the considerable resources being spent on election campaigns by Sinn Féin and other Nationalist groups. Craig suggested that only a strong Unionist majority could deliver substantial improvements to working-class lives across the six counties. A Unionist majority was, he claimed, also vital to prevent ‘encroachment’ by the new Southern parliament, which was expected to return a Nationalist majority.

The Coming Elections: Sir James Craig’s Manifesto

To the Loyalist Electors of Northern Ireland

In view of the near approach of the elections for the first parliament of Northern Ireland, may I be allowed to offer a few words of encouragement and counsel to those loyal men and women of Ulster to whom I look confidently for support in the position of responsibility to which they have called me. Those for whom I venture to speak place in the forefront of their ideals and aspirations, devotion to the Throne, close union with Great Britain, pride in the British Empire, and an earnest desire for peace throughout Ireland.

I hope that the election will be fought with all the vigour and determination which have characterised our actions in the past, and that our people will realise how vital it is to record every single vote in favour of all the Candidates democratically and constitutionally selected by the various Unionist Parliamentary Associations. This is made doubly important by reason of the fact that the elections will be conducted under the system of Proportional Representation.

The First Parliament will be faced with problems gravely affecting the future. The best way to extend our resources, expand trade, stabilise agriculture and other industries, re-model education, amend the licensing laws, and to insure a brighter future for the great masses of Workers in our midst is to begin by concentrating on the supreme issue of securing a strong working majority, without which government could not be carried on, and without which disaster must inevitably follow.

Upon that majority will rest the responsibility of nominating the Northern quota in the Council of Ireland where our representatives will be charged with the important duty of protecting our interests and of guarding the rights and privileges of the Six Counties against encroachment by the Southern Parliament.

To put it plainly, failure to secure an effective working majority would mean immediate submergence in a Dublin Parliament.

A serious responsibility rests upon each individual. The fate of the Six Counties hangs in the balance, and with the Six Counties the interests of Loyalists in other parts of Ireland. The eyes both of friends throughout the Empire who wish us success and of enemies who desire our failure will be watching our first proceedings. It is our duty, therefore, not only to lay aside minor issues, and, if need be, to sacrifice personal interests, but to work with whole-hearted energy and goodwill between now and the day of the poll in order to secure the election of those candidates alone who can be trusted worthily to represent the great cause which we all have at heart.

We have overcome many a crisis, weathered many a storm. Let us together win yet another victory and lay the foundation of a model Parliament of our own.

James Craig