Terence O’Neill

Criticism

Life
Appt. Prime Minister of Northern Ireland, 25 March 1963, on resignation of Basil Brooke, through illness (23 March); implemented modernisation policy in face of imminent EU membership and deficit of support to the NI economy from Westminister; authorised development of Craigavon, centred on Goodyear tyre factory; engaged in parleys with Sean Lemass and agreed meeting, occasioning the first cross-border state visit of a southern minister; considered languid and effete by more recalcitrant elements in Unionism; his career was terminated by Loyalist resistance to his liberalising policy at period of Civil Rights movement, 1969; author of political autobiography (1972); the broadcaster Bamber Gascoigne is a son-in-law.

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Criticism
Marc Mulholland, Terence O’Neill (UCD Press 2014), 118pp. [see review by Any Pollak in Dublin Review of Books 16 June 2014 [online].

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Quotations
Autobiography (1972): ‘We have a people genuinely trying to be helpful who advocate a kind of reciprocal emasculation. No national anthem or loyal toast to offend one side; no outward signs or symbols of Nationalism to offend the other. This approach, too, I believe to be misconceived. It is rather like trying to solve the colour problem by spraying everyone a pale shade of brown.’ (Terence O’Neill, Autobiography, 1972, q.p.; cited in Dominic Murray, Worlds Apart: Segregated Schools in Northern Ireland, Appletree Press 1985, p.125.)

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Christian politics: ‘We could have enriched our politics with our Christianity; but far too often we have debased our Christianity with our politics.’ (Farewell words on television; 29th April 1969; cited in Calton Younger, A State of Disunion, 1972.)

Further: ‘Any leader who wants to follow a course of change can only go so far. For change is an uncomfortable thing to many people, and inevitably one builds up a barrier of resentment and resistance which can make further progress impossible.’ (Ibid., p.9.)

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Eating his words : ‘I consider that Mr Lemass’s remarks in Washington, and the tailpiece to those remarks in Dublin, have wiped out all the remarks which he made in Tralee in July ... I am sorry that Mr. Lemass should eat his own words so quickly, but I think we must let the matter rest there. We have gone around in a circle, but I hope we have gone around without Northern Ireland being pictured in Britain and America as ignorant, as refusing the hand of friendship, as being unwilling to co-operate, and all the other things of which we have been previously accused.’ (The Irish Times, 8 Nov. 1963; rep. in Irish Times 19 Dec. 2009, Weekend Review, p.14; see further under Sean Lemass, supra.)

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