25 MARCH 1972, Page 4


No problem has faced, faces, and will continue to face this Government more serious than that of Ulster. All other problems — and all other policies and initiatives — must now be considered in the context created by Ulster problems, policies and initiatives. We cannot afford to see no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil. We cannot turn our faces away. We cannot affect not to smell the political putrescence of the Irish mess.The Irish channel is no cordon sanitaire. Wishing the mess to go away will not bring about its disappearance or destroy its affront. For months now, the policy of doing nothing has been a failed policy, and the practical problem confronting the Government has not been whether or not to take an initiative, but what that initiative should be and whether or not it will be too little and too late. Those who cry" No surrender" might as well cry " Do nothing: let the mess stay as it is."

The bombing and murders continue. We are bludgeoned by outrages. Heavily armed British troops patrol British streets and are knocking on and breaking down British doors in the dark and early hours of the night. There are internment camps on British soil. Emergency and martial laws run in part of the United Kingdom, which is to say that due process of law is suspended within domestic British territory. The United Kingdom has not, at any time in its history, suffered such a prolonged and bloody collapse of governance.

The imperative duty of this Government, no less than of any other, regardless of whatever domestic and foreign policies it may from time to time hold to be desirable, is to govern all of the country all of the time and in such manner that its lawful writ runs, that the military be not indefinitely required to act in place of the civil authority, and that no substantial minority become so disaffected that refuge and succour is provided for violent revolutionaries who seek to suborn and destroy the state. The present Government, as has become so tragically evident, has not been governing that part of the country called Ulster any of the time. The Government has been failing in its imperative duty. It has been transfixed in inactivity. Not every politician and not every commentator has yet grasped — and some may prove to be psychologically incapable of grasping — that the Ulster problem is different in kind from all other present problems of the Government. Some view the Irish mess as a severe but essentially local difficulty which must on no account be allowed to interfere with the progress of the European policy; and there are even those who dream that adherence to the Treaty of Rome will solve every problem, not excluding Ireland. Others consider Ireland not in terms of a government problem but in terms of a party political problem; they seek advantages within and between their parties, they hope to catch the bubble reputation especially in the cannon's mouth: they play the oldest game in the world. Still others see the Irish situation as a war, capable of being won or lost, to be fought with warlike methods, with victory as its aim and defeat as unthinkable and ineffable. But Ireland is not a local difficulty or a matter of party politics or a war: Ulster is a place to be governed which is not being governed. It is as simple as that, and as difficult.

What has to be grasped by politicians and commentators — and by the public, which may well prove not to be so loth to do so as the politicians and the commentators assume — as a matter of fact is that the Ulster problem is a problem of governance. What is to be grasped by the Government is nothing more or less than the governance of Ulster.

Hitherto, Mr Heath, Mr Maudling and Lord Carrington have been willing to allow Mr Faulkner to bear the chief responsibility and the chief burden of Ulster, despite that for many months it has been evident that no Ulster politician and no Ulster politcal institution is capable of providing Ulster any longer with law and with order. The rest of the Conservative administration, the Labour Opposition, and the great majority of backbench members of Parliament have not sought to disturb this state of affairs. The Labour party, naturally enough on any calculation of party interest, has been reluctant to adopt a posture which could make it look as if it were the cause of Ulster becoming a party conflict in i Britain,.a5., f it were siding with the CathollPre against the Protestants, as if were niefr sympathetic to the revolutionary h°111„0 throwers and gunmen of the IRA t,"."11 to the armed forces of the nsii crown. The Conservative party has 13,euet; and remains, more deeply and,o;tet stantially troubled. It is split on policy. It hates to do anything vi": g cond°17, could be construed as violence. It is fearful that, should Parite ment eventually be required to legl°0( for the suspension or the endingivir Stormont's authority and should to Faulkner finally decline to cooPeraor with Mr Heath's initiative, then ;ye William Craig might endeavour to se'd power. Although Mr Enoch Plio stands for a policy of direct rule, jog set his face like flint against anr:ur, which could be deemed to be hapr-s of render. The Ulster Unionist Irelm-ht parliament will not hesitate, once, ter are convinced that the PrimeMn/lOosi has. determined to accept full reSP' tO bility for the government of thsters'ilir withdraw their highly conditional Tv Port for his European p0lictes'„gio0 Cabinet is divided. The Adin5'.,;,1 is divided. Tory backbench OPirniS countrY For cumulatively compelling reat d the Government has been tern9"ea.roP put off for too long the decision t°liti the Ulster problem. The partY Ifveao of the situation and his Eti'd ambitions alike have enc0uragetiv0 Heath to remain transfixed in inac.i 10' The Ulster imperative has unti been disregarded. Until 0nh,vi10' Government has sought to loci to see Only now has the Cabinet cane., coroe clearly its duty; only now hasg; do to realise that it can no 1°11re nothing; only now does it PreP card exert its own authority an ca'd t° nable divided. The party in the divided. jnes;ost the great burden of its own responsibility. The Prime Mini,s.t:rbefe,hre be fortified in the days that ll'trefir him, for he will need all his sgovel.in' and more if his government is °Tyco t! And his government can govev, Ulster only if it accepts that we Taper° ance of Ulster is its overriding I tive.