radicalism and renewal, 1959–64
This chapter considers the responses of liberal nationalist opinion to the debacle of the 1959 Westminster election. It looks at the establishment of National Unity and its attempts to promote nationalism as a broader progressive secular movement which would reach out to Protestants. The clash between these reformers and the Nationalist Party orthodoxy is examined. The chapter also discusses the changed political context of the 1960s, both in Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland, which gave grounds for National Unity’s increased optimism that a new era of political modernisation was possible. It argues that despite the novelty of the moderate language of the respective premiers North and South (Capt Terrence O’Neill and Sean Lemass) the potential to displace the more traditionally entrenched and regressive positions of Irish Nationalism and Ulster Unionism was less likely than it appeared. It concludes that by the mid-1960s the Nationalist Party was faced with a rising tide of disillusioned young Catholic professionals who were increasingly vocal in their criticism of the Party’s failed and dated strategies.
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