The North in crisis-Crisis reopened and unionists crack up
ON REACHING DERRY a large reception was held for the marchers outside the Guild Hall. Later that evening riots broke out between Derry youths and the police and during the night a large force of reportedly drunken R,U.C, men entered the Bogside area and indiscriminately smashed windows and assaulted bystanders, There was widespread protest at this apparently unprovoked attack on the Bogside by the R.U.C. and despite demands for an independent inquiry a special Police inquiry was set up under Inspector Bailie to investigate allegations concerned with the R,U.C. invasion, In retrospect, this incident assumes considerable significance in the light of the August 12th-16th defence of the Bogside against the R.U,C.
The moratorium on marches and demonstrations which followed Capt. O'Neill's speech on December 9th was now well and truly over, The P.D. march had exposed the sectarianism of the B Specials and if any further proof were needed the R,U.C, attack on the Bogside demonstrated the blatant partisanship of the" forces of law and order. The crisis was re-opened.
The following Saturday, January 11th the P.D. in conjunction with the lo.cal C.R.A. branch held a march in Newry, Again a restriction order was placed by the Government on the route of the march and when the demonstrators reached the prohibited area they sat in peaceful protest on the streets. Afterwards the marchers split up and about 200 of them were met by as many policemen blocking their way across Market Square with eleven police tenders. A section of the demonstrators, ignoring the pleas of civil rights stewards wrecked and set fire to the tenders.The police stood by
passively, watching more than £7,000 worth of Government property go up in flames, It has since been asserted that the passivity of the police was predetermined and that agents provocateur were responsible for the orgy of destruction which discredited the civil rights movement and the P.D. in particular, in front of so many television cameras and press reporters.
In the following weeks another crisis erupted in the Unionist Party, precipitated by the announcement of a Commission under the English Judge, Lord Cameron, to enquire into the sources of recent strife in Ulster. Many of the right-wingers in the Unionist party saw this as a clear threat to the constitution of Stormont and the thin edge of the wedge of a Westminster take-over.
On the 24th January the Deputy Premier and Minister for Commerce, Brian Faulkner, dramatically resigned on the grounds that the Cameron Commission involved an abdication by Stormont on the question of "one man, one vote."At the time the resignation was unexpected and traumatic. Just six weeks previously Capt. O'Neill appeared to have overcome a possibility of a rift within his own party for the foreseeable future. But now, with the resignation of his most influential minister the whole leadership question was re-opened. Immediately following the resignation there was an acrimonious exchange of letters with charges of disloyalty and countercharges of double-dealing. The longstanding feud between O'Neill and Faulkner was now very much in the open. Essentially, this was a feud between the landed capital and bourgeois elements within the Unionist Party-O'Neill representing the former and Faulkner the latter. This was the first real revolt of the bourgeois element within the Party and would have been impossible without the existence of a rabid militant Paisley wing. It was Craig who initially launched this revolt, but Faulkner was its obvious champion. Faulkner's tactics were typically shrewd. He resigned at a time when O'Neill's inability to cope with the continuing crisis was becoming more blatant and the form of his resignation was especially astute. He made verbal concessions to the left on the" one man, one vote" question, while implicitely appealing to the right in his bid to oust O'Neill. Faulkner is a neat handsome man of forty-seven, with prosperous family connections in the shirt and textile business. He is much closer to the traditional Presbyterian businessman, hard working and God fearing than O'Neill, with his big house background and civilised Ascendency traditions. He is married to a former secretary of Lord Brookeborough, doesn't smoke or drink, instead, sails and hunts, When he was elected to Stormont at the age of twenty-eight he was the youngest ever M.P. He has been, in turn, a competent Chief Whip, a tough Minister for Home Affairs and, since 1963, a spectacularly successful Minister of Commerce.
A few days after Faulkner's resignation, William Morgan, Minister of Health and Social Services and an old crony predictably followed him to the back benches.
Capt. O'Neill responded to this new challenge by calling a General Election.