‘Nameless, faceless, men’?

Published in Uncategorized

Northern Ireland prime minister Capt. Terence O’Neill after receiving an honorary degree from Queen’s University, Belfast, in July 1967. Despite his well-publicised overtures to Catholics, O’Neill expressed concern about ‘a radical increase in RC papes’ in Derry. (Victor Patterson

Northern Ireland prime minister Capt. Terence O’Neill after receiving an honorary degree from Queen’s University, Belfast, in July 1967. Despite his well-publicised overtures to Catholics, O’Neill expressed concern about ‘a radical increase in RC papes’ in Derry. (Victor Patterson

Stories about ‘nameless, faceless, men’ heightened nationalist suspicions. Unionist MP Robert Nixon claimed that seven Derry party members met O’Neill to lobby for Coleraine against their own city with its Catholic majority, later embellished as ‘anywhere but Derry’. Cabinet minutes show that the ‘nameless men’ (whom Nixon named) were actually trying to save Magee and win it a share of the university, citing the University for Derry Campaign—‘can these arguments be refuted?’

The discussion did reflect sectarian attitudes: Nixon got that right. Some claimed that economic development in general would benefit Catholics, strengthen nationalism and threaten unionist control of Derry—draft minutes include ‘Du Pont 85% RC’. The university was ‘an exception’. (Despite O’Neill’s well-publicised overtures to Catholics he expressed concern about ‘a radical increase in RC papes’ in Derry.)

Nixon also claimed that a minister told him that the cabinet had ‘directed Lockwood’ to Coleraine. Nixon later withdrew this, then repeated it. Party whips expelled him, proof to nationalists of chicanery. Sir John, terminally ill, issued a statement from hospital: ‘I have never on any occasion allowed my views to be influenced or dictated by any [government]’. O’Brien concludes that ‘. . . allegations of conspiracy in the higher areas of the Stormont administration are not borne out by the evidence’.

'


Copyright © 2022 History Publications Ltd, Unit 9, 78 Furze Road, Sandyford, Dublin 18, Ireland | Tel. +353-1-293 3568