Blaney: “Dismantle Partition”

Posted By: April 11, 2019

On This Day [in Irish History]
 Irish News, April 11, 1969

Eamon Phoenix.Irish News. Belfast. Thursday, April 11, 2019

            A beginning could be made in dismantling the partition of Ireland by the setting up of a Federal Council for the whole country, sitting possibly in Armagh. So said Mr. Neil Blaney, [Irish] Minister for Agriculture, in Derry last night. He said the Government of Ireland Act of 1920 had provided for the setting up of a Council of Ireland to which both Dublin and Belfast would concede federal status, and to which the Government of Britain promised, in turn, to hand over the reserve powers which it wielded over Northern Ireland.

            ‘The provision for the Council of Ireland was, inexplicably, forgotten at the unhappy time of the Boundary Commission of 1925,’ Mr. Blaney said. A Federal Council should also have control of foreign affairs and of the defense of Ireland.

            Mr. Blaney, who was speaking at a presentation dinner for Mr. Edward McAteer, former MP for Foyle and leader of the Nationalist Party, said it was evident from what had been taking place in the North in recent months that the world today was too small a place for the Irish border. ‘Unless we begin to allay old suspicions, to build bridges of real trust and goodwill, and if the border is left to fester, then violence may well erupt with much unnecessary suffering following in its trail,’ he said. ‘It is time that a real beginning was made in the task of dismantling partition. … It is time that the right of all the people of this nation to self-determination was recognized as the primary civil right. It is time that Unionists faced up realistically to world opinion, to the weakness of their position in clinging to power out of fear and mistrust, with an economy that survives only by a subsidy from without. It is time that the British government recognized its responsibilities…’

            Mr. Blaney went on, ‘The men who devised this division of our country saw it at the time as a temporary expedient.’

            In a tribute to Mr. McAteer, the Minister said: ‘When one speaks of Derry in the context of Ireland, one thinks instinctively of Eddie McAteer, the man who for a generation has spoken for this city, that in so many ways stands out as a negation of democracy. ’ (Donegal-born Neil Blaney, a Fianna Fail Minister, took the traditional nationalist view that whatever about civil rights, only  Irish unity could solve the Irish problem. The symbolic Council of Ireland, designed as a link between North and South under the Partition Act, had been abolished in 1925 with Dublin acquiescence. The concept would be revived in 1973 at Sunningdale.)