from both sides
THE Northern Ireland 3. Prime Minister, Capt. Terence O'Neill, has re turned to Belfast after his day of talks with Mr. Wilson and the Home Sec retary and without any clear indications of the steps he proposes to take to eradicate extremism in his troubled dominion. Things are better than they were, certainly. Mr. Paisley is in gaol, the Twelfth of July celebrations are over for another year, and the fires of sectarianism have been damped on both sides. But Mr. Paisley will be out again soon and may use his three-month prison sentence to attract further sympathy and rapport for his unwholesome cause. In many ways Capt. O'Neill is no nearer a solution than he was six months ago. His evident reluctance to say anything concrete about some of the most important issues he discussed with Mr. Wilson has caused a certain amount of disappointment. Reading between the lines, one can assume that Mr. Wilson was not particularly impressed with Capt. O'Neill's "progress report". If he had been, he might have taken a leaf out of L.B.L's book, thanking Capt. O'Neill publicly for all the good work he is doing. The absence of any agreed communique or statement of aims is a clear indication that —as far as the British Government is concerned—a great deal of work remains to be done. One of the more inflamatory issues discussed by the two Premiers was the subject of local government elections, in which allegations of gerrymandering, religious discrimination and jobbery are commonplace. The debate centres on the fact that the franchise in local government elections is confined to those people who are actually householders. That it should be otherwise is still unthinkable to many Northern Unionists, some of whom fear an "irresponsible" mass vote.
Nobody envies Capt. O'Neill his job, and yet the troubles he
faces—Paisleyism in particular, which threatens to destroy the carefully built up climate of confidence in Northern Ireland's economy—are in a large measure the responsibility of the Unionist Party and the Orange Order themselves. The way some elements in each of these organisations have encouraged extremism in the past, overtly or covertly, gives their protest about Mr. Paisley a hollow ring. If it were not so much of an oversimplification, one would be tempted to talk of a monster face to face with its creator. The pressures on Capt. O'Neill at the moment are intense. On the Left he is under fire from most members of the Parliamentary Labour Party— aided and abetted by the irrepressible Mr. Gerry Fitt, MP —who sees the Northern Ireland situation as another Augean stables in need of a spring clean. On the Right he is under equally severe fire from the diehard element in the Unionist Party and the Orange Order who see, in the new climate of opinion and in particular in the new North-South relationship, the demise of many of their tribal gods.