THE highlight of the recent Northern Ireland Nationalist party conference was a motion from Mr. Austin Currie, M.P. for East Tyrone. advocating civil disobedience to secure justice for Catholics. Mr. Currie's action in occupying a council house in Caledon, which had been unjustly allocated, was supported by the conference.
The debate on the motion revealed plenty of the usual Nationalist fear of action of any kind, but the motion was referred to the Executive for study and a special convention to deal with it is to be held in six months' time.
Apart from the habitual Nationalist cult of caution, frustration was the mood of the conference. Mr. McAteer 'expressed what many Northern Ireland Catholics feel when he described them as an "entrappe I minority."
The fat s that the Dublin Government is now closer to
the Northern Inionist establishment than lc *he Northern Catholics or the Nationalist party. And this roflects the predominant mood in the Republic, where mos,* people are indifferent to Irish unity and to the discrimimAtion against Catholics in the Nc For years past, the Rep,ublic's political parties and rii; ss media have been preaching' that economic power and material goods are the supreme
business of politics and the
great purpose of life. Since a solution of the Northern
Catholics' problems would make no one in the Republic richer, these problems have become an irrelevance for most.
At the same time. the fine words of Captain O'Neill have not led to a more just treatment of the Catholic minority —they have merely served to bring Dublin over to his side with an easier conscience.
To a great degree, the Northern Catholics have themselves to blame for their present frustration. During the years when there was strong support for them in the Republic, they failed to define their
objectives realistically or honestly or to make their professions of grievance really credible.
They complained about grave social injustice and called for incorporation into the Republic. But they did not follow up these words with the kind of action which would have showed that they really cared. There was no civil dis • obedience. there were no attempts at secession in the predominantly Catholic border regions.
Take Derry, of instance. It is a few miles front the border and has an overwhelming Catholic majority. Its glaring injustices have been trumpeted from the rooftops. On any morning during the past 50 years it could have seceded to the Republic by coup deice and brought the whole Northern Ireland issue to a head. Widespread civil disobedience would have had the same effect.
The simple fact is that the Northern Catholics ha \ e never regarded union with the Republic as vitally importer': Nor have they regarded stial. justice for themselves a‘worth fighting for. All the really wanted was to surN;,. and to emigration,nia ke ni one y ni df thtetshs a r ebsye things they couli do
These t r U eventually seeped throigh the mass of rhetoric. E'eryone realised that the Nortiern Catholics were preparti to do nothing except complain — leaving the imprciement of their political ati social status to some deliverer from "elsewhere." Moreover, while they talked about their loyalty to "Ire land," they left "Ulster" patriotism to the Orangemen, so that an Ulsterman became synonymous with a Protestant Unionist. Nothing more Irish than Ulster Cuchulainn's Ulster, St. Patrick's Ulster, Colmcille's Ulster, the Ulster of O'Neill and O'Donnell, of the beginnings of Irish republicanism and of many of the 1916 leaders.
An Ulster regionalist patriotism, extending across the border to join hands with the three Ulster counties of the Republic, would have given the Northern Catholics a real stake in Ireland. Instead they have ended up without Ireland or Ulster, and with the very name of their province alienated from thr,m—attached to Orev-hi'sir. al myths.
The desire of t he Northern Protestants to renia■.1?
to Britain has been consistent and sincere for the past 50 years. Military subjugation of this Protestant Unionist population by the Irish Army was always out of the question. This being the case, the most that might realistically have been hoped for was, on the one hand. boundary revision, on the other, social justice for Catholics in a reduced Northern Ireland statelet.
Unless tne Northern Catho lie mentality should change larly in Armagh.
profoundly, boundary revision can no longer be expected. Even Mr. Currie's proposal for civil disobedience aims at nothing more than social justice.
It seems likely that this is the only political aim which Northern Catholics can really be expected to achieve in the coming years. But if they are to achieve even this, their mentality must change profoundly
— for social justice will not be conceded to them, they will need to win it.
At the same time, while political union with Ireland remains beyond their foreseeable grasp, they will do well— for the sake of their morale and self-respect, if nothing else — to unite themselves culturally and historically with Ireland by laying claim at long last to Ulster. Since the descendants of the Scottish planters have already done this with enthusiasm on their there is no know
ing where such a joint development of L'.''stcr regionalism might lead. Ulstef• itii be doubly loved, and Ulster is part of Ireland.
That is one way in which
the frustration with politics could lead to fruitful effort in a new direction. Another, even more fruitful, course of action would be to work for the establishment of an elected church assembly of the Irish Catholic people meeting regu TWO IRISH priests, Fr. Kevin Doheny of Kilkenny (left) and Fr. Sean Broderick of Clare, are unable to give much practical help to the Blafrans. They bought £150 worth of salt, an essential part of the Biafrans' diet, but then found themselves with a bill for £1,000 for flying it in from an island only one hour
THE annual pilgrimage to Croagh Patrick will take place on Sunday, July 28. Masses will be celebrated in the reconstructed Oratory on the summit from 4 a.m. to 12 noon, and Archbishop Walsh will preside and preach at the last Mass in St. Mary's Church, Westport, at noon.
Special trains at reduced rates will convey pilgrims from Dublin, Waterford, Limerick, Ennis, Portlaoise and Athlone and the intermediate stations; while buses Will be available from other parts of the country.