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'Why the Border must be: The Northern Ireland case in brief',
by The Northern Ireland Government (1956)

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Text: The Northern Ireland Government ... Page Compiled: Brendan Lynn

Image of Front Cover

Why the Border
must be

The Northern Ireland case
in brief



Issued by

Statements by

C.B.E., M.C., D.I., MP.
Prime Minister of Northern Ireland

QC., LL.D., M.P.
Minister of Finance, Northern Ireland

Q.C., M.P.
Minister of Home Affairs, Northern Ireland

* * *

Issued by


Ulster's best interests
lie with the United Kingdom

Prime Minister of Northern Ireland


RECENT I.R.A. activities in Northern Ireland and in England have served to bring into the limelight once more the question of the partition of Ireland. The I.R.A. claim that they are fighting for a United Ireland.

I think it right that I should at this stage explain why that object is, to quote from a recent edition of a great London newspaper (Daily Telegraph, 16th August, 1955), "in most respects a bad one and, if not bad, ludicrous: unattainable in any circumstances and, even if attainable, unjust by its own standards".

In an interview with a special correspondent of the Yorkshire Post in 1955 the Eire Prime Minister, Mr. Costello, threw out the challenge that he and I should meet together so that there could he created a "climate of opinion" in which "the end of partition [of Ireland] could be discussed".

Being at the time on a tour of Australia and New Zealand, I was unable to reply personally to Mr. Costello. Nevertheless, the Acting Prime Minister, Dr. W. B. Maginess, Minister of Finance, promptly picked up the challenge and made the following statement on behalf of the Government: "This Government has repeatedly expressed its desire to maintain friendly relations with the Government of Eire and has demonstrated its readiness to meet representatives of that Government on matters of mutual benefit to the inhabitants of the two areas". But he added firmly that the Northern Ireland Government is not prepared to discuss partition "... a matter which has been finally determined". Immediately upon my return I endorsed what my Deputy had stated.

To those who are unaware of the forces that have shaped the destiny of this small island - or to those who have heard only one side of the story - this may seem to be an inflexible attitude, one that is perhaps arbitrary and unwarranted. As was readily admitted by the Northern Ireland side in a recent debate on the partition issue at Kilkenny (Eire): "In circumstances other than those that exist in Ireland it would be natural to assume that an island the size of this one should be economically and politically a single entity. Much can be said for the practical advantages to he gained by the elimination of the Border; and there is also the sentimental appeal of being Irish throughout (a sentiment which the Scotsman and the Welshman proudly maintain) had the situation been different - had being ĎIrishí not been made incompatible with being at the same time British". *

Why then is the Ulsterman adamant against any thought of making common cause with Dublin? What lies behind the motto that expresses so aptly the sentiment in the North, Not an Inch"? For it must be remembered from the outset - all anti-partitionist propaganda to the contrary notwithstanding - that the union with Great Britain is preserved not by a British garrison hut by the declared will of the Northern Ireland people, expressed through their elected Parliament - and that will is paramount.

While speaking of "British garrison" let me make one point parenthetically, simply to put on their guard the unwary who may listen to the tall stories told by the anti-partitionists. In January 1954, a member of the United States House of Representatives made the statement in a committee hearing that it was his understanding that "the British have about 50,000 troops in the northern part of Ireland ..." In point of fact, the figure quoted is something like ten times the actual number of United Kingdom troops - most of them Ulster units - who are undergoing routine training in Northern Ireland.

Recently the National President of the Ancient Order of Hibernians in America and the Chairman of the Ancient Order of Hibernians Anti-Partition Committee sent a joint telegram to Sir Winston Churchill, who was then Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, requesting him to "evacuate 75,000 well-armed and well-fed British soldiers from the soil of Ireland, where they are now engaged in the undemocratic business of enforcing British rule on Irish men and women ..."

Such figures bear no resemblance to the truth: they merely illustrate the wildness and irresponsibility of the propagandists who use them.

When the expression "the end justifies the means" is accepted as a basis of policy, as must be inferred from statements like the above, little reliance can be put on pronouncements originating from these sources. The adoption of such a tenet doubtless explains as well the recent attempts of the I.R.A. (an illegal organisation on both sides of the Border) to bring back "the gun in Irish politics".

"The fallacy which underlies and dominates the approach of most Southern politicians to partition is the extraordinary idea that geographical unity and political unity are necessarily identical ... There is in fact, as Mr. Sheehy clearly proves, no moral case whatever for the abolition of partition". These are the words of a Southern Irishman, a Nationalist and a sincere Roman Catholic, in the foreword of a book **, written last year by another Southern Irishman who is just as Nationalist and just as devout in the same faith as his colleague. The author concludes his work with this cogent statement: "... It is the most childish of evasions, the most ignoble of pretences, to place the responsibility for partition on England and to ignore the many and fundamental differences which more than adequately explain the political division of Ireland".

The Ulstermanís answer to the "united Ireland" cry is his answer to the question "What price would he be called upon to pay for all-Ireland unity?" That answer is "The price is too high". This is made clear in the statements on the subject by two of my Cabinet colleagues printed in the following pages.

Their remarks give added emphasis to a statement which I made some years ago in discussing the relations between North and South arid which still constitutes the basis of Northern Ireland policy vis-a-vis the Republic. I then said and I now repeat: "The border between Northern Ireland and Lire exists because of the ideological gullí which divides the two peoples . Although Ulster and Lire cannot unite, they can be good neighbours - on this condition, that each recognises the right of the other to shape its destiny in its own way without interference. That is true democracy; it is also sound statesmanship"


Stormont Castle, Belfast, Ulster. January, 1956.


* Col. W.B. Topping, speaking on the affirmative side of the proposition "Ulster's best interests lie within the United Kingdom". Kilkenny, 23 April, 1954.

** Divided We Stand by Michael Sheey; Foreword by John J. Horgan: Faber & Faber, London


The right to dissent -
making democracy work

Minister of Finance, Northern Ireland


ULSTER, by reason of its geographical position and its existence as a part of the United Kingdom, played a great part in the last war. Here American soldiers trained for the invasion of Europe; here British and American airmen had their bases from which they patrolled the long Atlantic lanes; here the northern routes to Great Britain were safeguarded.

For the winning of the war Ulster was necessary - not a neutral Ulster, but an Ulster belligerent on the side of democracy threatened by the might of German dictatorship.

That war was won, but is democracy safe? We were not neutral then; can we afford to be neutral now?

It is true that the free world is no longer threatened by the Nazi militarists, but it is nevertheless threatened. Democracy must still fight for its existence. The future of manís freedom still hangs in the balance.

In this age of mighty and terrible weapons of destruction, when manís knowledge seems to have outstripped his moral balance, when the awful shadow of complete destruction hangs over the civilised world, is it right for us to dwell upon such matters as partition or Ulsterís place in the United Kingdom?

Let me attempt to answer that question by putting another. What is Ulsterís place in contemporary history? What is the reason for our existence as a separate entity? What is the justification for that border that separates us from the Republic? Several times in recent months politicians in the Republic have spoken on this subject, their theme being that we are all Irish, North or South, and that therefore partition is an unnatural thing, a thing that should be ended as soon as possible.

It is true that we are part of one island, it is true that we are all Irish; but does that answer the question?

Is it necessary to be anti-British in order to be Irish? It is true that in the past Britain wronged Ireland, both North and South, just as she wronged her colonial empire in America. All that was long ago.

America freed herself from Britain, but to-day she is Britainís chief ally. For her the past is past; it is the present and future which matter.

And remember it was Ulstermen who, having suffered wrongs at the hands of Britain, played the chief part in the War of Independence and fought against Britain at home in 1798. But to Ulster as to America the past is past; it is the present and future which count.

To the Irish Republic it is the past only which seems to matter. Therein lies one difference between us and the South. But the differences are not merely historical, arid my term as Acting Prime Minister has deepened the impression that in the essentials Northern Ireland is very different from the Republic.

Partition is based not upon geographical, racial or language differences, but on differences of ideas. And to-day we are in the midst of a war of ideas.

In a free country we are inclined to look upon freedom as axiomatic, as something inherent in the soil. It is not. Freedom is hardly won and hardly maintained, easily lost and easily surrendered. And any country which surrenders freedom is abandoning a position in this very war of ideas.



THE most obvious enemy of freedom to-day is Communism: its essentials are no different from those of the Nazi code. Under Communism the individual becomes rightless, the State all - powerful. The mind of man becomes subdued, disciplined to the control of the State; dissent becomes treason, heresy a capital crime.

But although Communism is to-day the greatest menace to freedom, it is not the only one. Wherever authority steps iii to control the mind of the individual, to rut his intellect, to restrict his outlook, to deny him freedom of thought and expression, there we have danger to freedom.

Such danger can exist in a greater or less degree. It may be either nakedly ruthless or clothed in fair garb, but wherever it is. and by whatever power it is exercised, it must be, fought.

A man named Commager recently wrote a book called ĎĎFreedom, Loyalty, Dissentíí. He is an American writing for Americans, but what he says holds good for every country: the dangers he mentions are not confined to one continent. From my knowledge of Ulster it seems to me that is the main theme which guides the hearts of our people - the right of the individual, the right to think for himself, speak for himself, whether his views are generally acceptable or not, the right, to use Bunyanís famous words, "to be a pilgrim". It has taken us hundreds of years to achieve this right: let us see to it that no power filches it from

That is the fundamental conception of the Ulsterman and that is why there is partition.

But sonic may say how would we lose that if we were merged in the Republic? Would we not be as free there as we are now? Would we have to surrender what we regard as fundamental?

Some months ago there was an exhibition in Northern Ireland. It was provided by a great American University and its theme was manís right to knowledge, to freedom of thought and speech. The theme was illustrated by a number of panels showing the development of the struggle to achieve that freedom throughout the ages.

It was then shown in Dublin, but three of the panels were not shown. They would have given offence to some people. They might have provoked discussion and debate. So, to placate a section of opinion, a certain amount of freedom was surrendered.

There is an American magazine called Look. I was reading an article in one of its numbers. It was a thought-provoking article with which you might or might not have agreed. It didnít matter whether you agreed or not: the point is that you could read the article.

But Look was banned in Eire. Presumably because some of its articles did not conform to the general ideas held in the South. A paper must, it appears, either conform or be banned there. An Eire citizen is not given the chance to agree or disagree with the articles in this magazine: he is not allowed to read the articles at all; he is treated like a child and not like a man. His reading, and so his opinions, must be chosen for him. He must not be allowed to think for himself. His mind cannot be allowed to be free.

Those two incidents illustrate what I mean. In those two cases liberty was surrendered.

We have no press censorship in Northern Ireland. People can write what they like, subject to keeping within the common law. We may or may riot agree with what we read, but we have the opportunity of reading it. That opportunity does not exist in Eire, where your reading is chosen for you.

In this war for the freedom of manís mind Eire is not even neutral.

The right to knowledge. this right of mental liberty, is regarded as fundamental in the North. In the South it is subject to so many qualifications that it has ceased to be a right at all. But this is riot the only difference between the two parts of Ireland. Let me enumerate some others.

The compulsory use of what is for us a dead language instead of a tongue that is almost universal is but another example of how Eire puts the past at move the present.

In Ulster the high standard of living demands industrial expansion. For Ulster an economic barrier such as they have in the South would mean industrial suicide, which in turn would mean a heavy fall in the standard of living. We in Ulster are proud of the part we play in the United Kingdom and the Commonwealth. We could no longer play such a part if we were merged in an Irish republic separated from the rest of the Commonwealth, not only geographically but ideologically. We in Ulster believe in the open discussion of such matters as education aid domestic-relation laws. We believe such subjects to be of interest to the whole community and should be discussed by the whole community. How different is the attitude of lire on such matters.

Neutrality in the last war was a fetish in Eire: to us it was unthinkable. To the German menace there was to us only one answer - whole-hearted belligerency on the side of the free world.

Eire has disowned the Crown: we in Ulster revere it as the symbol of the headship of a great family of nations of which we are a unit.



THESE are the main differences, but they show a complete separation of thought and ideas, and such precludes any possibility of union.

We can, as our Prime Minister has said, act as good neighbours, but we cannot accept a conception of life and outlook so foreign to our own. We in the North are not merely anti-Communist, anti-this or anti-that, or anti-anything else. We have a clear conception of what we want and need and will have for the continued future of our people.

We stand for certain fundamental rights - the right to think, to debate, to express our opinions, to differ from our neighbours. We stand for the right to exercise our minds without trammel or restriction, to develop our outlook as we each individually desire, to pursue knowledge no matter from what source it comes, not merely for the sake of knowledge but because we believe that in such pursuit lies the future of the human race.

We have our freedom of mind and we will make use of it for the benefit of mankind. That is our right, and we will neither surrender it nor sec it taken from us by force.

This we believe to be the only real answer to Communism. We cannot win the war of ideas by restriction of ideas; we cannot purchase the continuance of our mental freedom by surrendering it little by little. These are not my ideas only; they are the ideas of Northern Ireland. We must meet the ideology of Communism by the real antidote - the ideology of the freedom of the individual.

We cannot afford to compromise this principle, for compromise means surrender, partial or complete. Let no one mistake the issue that confronts the free peoples of the world to-day: it is complete mental slavery or complete mental freedom. Let no one doubt either on which side Northern Ireland stands.

It is necessary for the free world to be strong and well armed so that aggression can be successfully resisted. No one could advocate disarmament at such a time. But behind the walls of men and weapons the war of ideas will go on.

This war can be won if we make democracy work as it should and can work, if we show that free men with minds unhampered by authoritarian restrictions can build a better and fuller life for mankind than can ever be done by a dictator-ridden world.

We must fight ideas with ideas, a false ideology with a true ideology. We must confront the degradation of manís slavery with the glory of manís freedom.

In World War II Ulster was a bridgehead between Europe and the United States. In this present war of ideas we are still the bridgehead between a free Europe and a free America. We will hold the bridgehead so that one day the freedom which is here in Northern Ireland, in Great Britain and in the United States will lighten the whole world and mankind will enter into its rightful inheritance.


Six Reasons for
Ulsterís separation from Eire

Minister of Home Affairs, Northern Ireland


DR. MAGINESS in his statement has brought out clearly the principal reasons for partition. I welcome the opportunity to re-state these points so that they may be unmistakable to friend and foe alike; for a very great need exists to acquaint our potential friends elsewhere in the English-speaking world those who believe and practise our own democratic way of life - of the really vital issues at stake.

Let there be no mistake; we are not holding the ground that has been won simply because we find ourselves where our fathers placed us. Our motto, "Not an Inch", is not a negative thing.

Before dealing specifically with the reasons for partition and why we can never make common cause with Dublin, let me first refer briefly to a historical sequence which too often is forgotten. Its importance lies in the bearing that it has on the evolution of a British heritage that we now take for granted.

Towards the end of the eighteenth century the American colonists took the decision to assert their independence. History records that many men of Ulster stock played a major part in the struggle in the New World and contributed to a very great extent to the establishment of the principles of freedom of thought, speech and action upon which the constitution of that great country was based. It was not mere coincidence, moreover, that in the same generation Ulstermen in Ireland were leading the abortive rebellion of 1798.

The question is sometimes asked: how is it that people from the stock that provided so many protagonists for American Independence and the descendants of the rebels who fought in the Ď98 rebellion are now the staunchest supporters of the British Crown? The answer is perfectly simple. In the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries a great lesson was learned in England. The loss of the American colonies prepared the ground for the Canada Act, which in turn led to the birth of the Commonwealth of Nations concept. Conditions in Ireland were gradually ameliorated in the nineteenth century, until the Ulsterman finally got what he was fighting for - the right to lead his own life and make his own decisions. Briefly stated, this is what made partition inevitable.

Now let us examine why we must never give up what we have won. In the first place we regard the unity of outlook of the United Kingdom and United States as being essential to the preservation of democracy in the world. When one remembers the frightful cost to the western democracies of the policy of neutrality adopted by Southern Ireland in the last world war, one realises how essential it is that Northern Ireland should continue to be a pal t of the United Kingdom, able to provide an Atlantic bastion in any future war, able to provide that indispensable link in Western defence. No Government in Eire could stand for a week if the "neutrality" policy, which the country has clasped to its bosom as national policy, were abandoned - partition or no partition.

Secondly, the outlooks of the peoples north and south of the Border are diametrically opposite. We look forward; the South looks back. They have come to regard the abolition of the Border as more important than the preservation of world peace. They seek to revive what is to us a dead language, and think always of past wrongs.

In the third place we are determined to preserve our right to self-determination, without dictation from any person or power. Occasionally, and especially recently, we have had instances of an authoritarian outlook dictating the policy of the Eire government. In the circumstances prevailing in the south this can readily be understood. In a united Ireland similar conditions would necessarily prevail because the majority in an all-Ireland parliament would have the same outlook and be subjected to the same influences as at present prevail in Eire.

Another of our reasons is that we believe in freedom of thought, expression and worship, without fetters - freedom from censorship; what might be described as "free trade in ideas". That is the rock upon which all other freedoms are built.

Again, our markets for the purchase of raw materials and for the sale of our finished products are in Great Britain. The policy first adopted by the original Irish Free State Government in imposing tariffs and other restrictive burdens on cross-channel trade would destroy the economy of Northern Ireland.

Finally, we are intensely loyal to the Crown, which is the link binding together that great family of nations of which we are proud to be a unit. The people in the South of Ireland chose, and they are entitled so to choose, to be a Republic; but it must not be forgotten that it was the Irish Free State that seceded from the United Kingdom, and it was the self-styled "Republic of Ireland" that seceded from the Commonwealth of Nations. Thus our six reasons for partition are these:

Unity of purpose of the United Kingdom and the United States - Western Defence;

Looking backward policy of the South, exemplified in their efforts to revive what is to us a dead language;

Self-determination, guaranteed to us by our Constitution - not subservience to authoritarian dicta;

Traffic in ideas - unfettered by censorship or index;


Royal Allegiance.

These are the six aspects of major principles which have made partition in Ireland inevitable.


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