By MARTIN McMILLAN in BELFAST
An Ulster Home Guard is the latest demand being nut forward by Mr John Taylor, Unionist politician and former junior minister in the old Stormont Government. He called for such a force at the Orange demonstrations on July 12.
His speech, if not altogether seditious, was at the very least extremely threatening. He said that the Loyalist population could offer the Crown a force of 30,000 men, all willing at any moment to undertake the work of suppressing the Irish Republican Army.
But, he added, should the Government reject this offer then the Loyalists must act on their own.
h is not difficult to see what Mr Taylor and other Loyalist politicians are aiming for. They want nothing less than the restoration of the Stormont system of administration with all its in-built powers and privileges in favour of the Protestants.
They wrecked the Executive set up after the Sunningdale Agreement because it gave the Catholics equal political rights.
Mr Taylor's call for an Ulster militia has been echoed by Mr William Craig, the Rev Ian Paisley. and the Rev Martin Smyth, Imperial Grand Master of the Orange Order.
Mr Craig has often threatened that there will be mass violence and bloodshed. In 1971 Mr Paisley advised all Loyalists to hold on to their guns because the British were then threatening to abolish Stormont.
Mr Taylor's Home Guard therefore would be nothing but an established, officially-paid and officially-equipped Protestant military force.
It would probably incorporate present para-military organisations such as the Ulster Defence Association and the Ulster Volunteer Force, as well as other violent extremists like the tartan gangs and the socalled Ulster Freedom Fighters.
They would then be in a position to launch attacks on the Catholic ghettoes.
For some reason the Loyalists are reluctant to join the present legally-established auxiliary defence forces. The Royal Ulster Constabulau is very short of recruits„ The Police Reserve needs many more men. and the Ulster Defence Regiment is advertising daily for Catholics and Protestants to join its ranks.
But the point about the established auxiliary forces is that they are non-sectarian — at least they are intended to he so — and are under the overall control of the Crown. That is what the Loyalists do not want.
Their aim is a sectarian militia under their own control, numerically stronger and more efficiently organised that the Ulster Special Constabulary which Mr James Callaghan abolished in September 1969.
Mr Basil Glass, a leader of the moderate Alliance Party, has said that if John Taylor and the Loyalists whom he wants to mobilise are not prepared to join the present Crown forces they arc not to be trusted.
The Ulster Home Guard, says Mr Glass, could easily become a "fifth column like the National Guard in Cyprus."
Mr Taylor's second ploy' within the past two weeks has been to exploit civil rights in his own constituency.
He has given well-publicised support to Mr Robert Mills, father of a young Protestant family which has squatted in a house belonging to the Northern Ireland Housing Executive in the village of Trillick, in .Co Tyrone.
This is reminiscent of the squatting incident in Caledon, also in Co Tyrone, which might he said to have initiated the civil rights campaign back in 1968.
On that occasion Mr Austin Currie, who shared power as Minister of Housing in the recent Northern Ireland Executive, supported a Catholic family which had seized a house which the Unionist-controlled local council had allocated to an unmarried Protestant girl.
But apart from the obvious political similarities there is really no comparison in the two cases, It is. true that Mr Mills had been living in a house that was completely unfit for human use and was, no doubt, entitled to decent accommodation, but in this case he seems to have jumped the queue. The house he occupied had been legally allocated to Mr Barney McAnespey. tenant of a two-roomed Housing Executive flat that was too small for his family. The flat was, in turn, to be allocated to another family on the executive's list. , Thus, if the squatting had not taken place, two families on the housing list would have been satisfactorily housed. Incidently, Mr Victor Blease, Information Officer for the Northern Ireland Housing Executive, caused Mr Taylor much evident discomfort when he challenged him, during a television interview, to prove that the Housing Executive was acting unfairly, either in the general allocation of houses or in the particular case of the house in Trillick.
Meanwhile the spokesmen for Sinn Fein, which describes itself as the "political arm of the Republican movement", continue with its highly dangerous line of propaganda. In a statement issued on July 18, Mr Malachy Foots, public relations officer for the Ulster Executive of Sinn Fein, vigorously condemned Mr Taylor's "sectarian Home Guard" and attacked the Orange Order for its sectarianism and reliance upon violence.
But in the next breath Mr Foots claimed that "the Sinn Fein idea of peace with justice is based on a British withdrawal, an amnesty for all political hostages, and a New Ireland negotiated by the Irish people themselves."
That is what Mr Foots calls "democratic thinking." But the majority of people in Northern Ireland, Catholics as well as Protestants, have no illusions about the consequences of British withdrawal.
Withdrawal would precipitate an immediate civil war in which Mr Taylor's "sectarian Home Guard" would be free to launch their attacks on the Catholics.
And how, in such circurn stances, could a New Ireland be negotiated by the Irish people? The Irish people, within the context of the Sinn Feinn ideology, must include Mr Taylor and his militia, as well as those Ulster Catholics whom the Loyalists regard as their bitterest enemies.