division and decline, 1964–70
This chapter charts the surge in criticism of the Nationalist Party hierarchy in the face of repeated Party failures. It identifies the key role played by National Unity, and by those on the left of the Nationalist Party, in organising the Maghery Convention at which demands for a reinvigorated and united Nationalist political organization resulted in the establishment of the National Political Front, an umbrella body representative of the broad spectrum of constitutional nationalist opinion. The chapter details the successful counter-manoeuvring by some elements of the Party’s traditionalist wing, represented by Eddie McAteer, to resist pressures from the liberals, represented by Paddy Gormley, to reconfigure the Party on the centre-left of the political spectrum. The chapter also considers the Lemass-O’Neill meeting in Belfast in 1964 and its role in determining the Nationalist Party’s decision to accept, for the first time, the role of official Opposition at Stormont. Continued intra-Party divisions over the future direction of the Party in the aftermath of Lemass-O’Neill are discussed. Finally, the chapter looks at the disintegration and decline of the Nationalist Party in the context of a failing political strategy and the onset of inter-communal sectarian violence.
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