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Democratic socialism and sectarianism
Author: Aaron Edwards

This is a definitive history of the Northern Ireland Labour Party (NILP), a unique political force that drew its support from Protestants and Catholics and became electorally viable despite deep-seated ethnic, religious and national divisions. Formed in 1924 and disbanded in 1987, it succeeded in returning several of its members to the locally based Northern Ireland parliament in 1925–29 and 1958–72, and polled some 100,000 votes in the 1964 and 1970 British general elections. Despite its political successes, the NILP's significance has been downplayed by historians, partly because of the lack of empirical evidence and partly to reinforce the simplistic view of Northern Ireland as the site of the most protracted sectarian conflict in modern Europe. The book brings together archival sources and the oral testimonies of the NILP's former members to explain the enigma of an extraordinary political party operating in extraordinary circumstances. It situates the NILP's successes and failures in a broad historical framework, providing the reader with a balanced account of twentieth-century Northern Irish political history.

The politics of Britain’s small wars since 1945
Author: Aaron Edwards

Britain is often revered for its extensive experience of waging ‘small wars’. Its long imperial history is littered with high profile counter-insurgency campaigns, thus marking it out as the world's most seasoned practitioners of this type of warfare. Britain's ‘small wars’ ranged from fighting Communist insurgents in the bamboo-laden Malayan jungle, marauding Mau Mau gangs in Kenyan game reserves, Irish republican terrorists in the back alleys and rural hamlets of Northern Ireland, and Taliban fighters in Afghanistan's Helmand province. This is the first book to detail the tactical and operational dynamics of Britain's small wars, arguing that the military's use of force was more heavily constrained by wider strategic and political considerations than previously admitted. Outlining the civil-military strategy followed by the British in Palestine, Malaya, Kenya, Cyprus, Aden, Northern Ireland, Iraq and Afghanistan, Defending the Realm argues that Britain's small wars have been shaped by a relative decline in British power, amidst dramatic fluctuations in the international system, just as much as the actions of military commanders and civilian officials ‘on the spot’ or those formulating government policy in London. Written from a theoretically-informed perspective, grounded in rich archival sources, oral testimonies and a reappraisal of the literature on counter-insurgency and counter-terrorism, Defending the Realm is the definitive account of the politics of Britain's small wars. It will be of interest to political scientists and historians, as well as scholars, students, soldiers and politicians who wish to gain a more critically informed perspective of the political trappings of war.

Aaron Edwards

The Northern Ireland Labour Party (NILP) argued that although ‘Partition cannot be ended without the consent of the majority of people of Northern Ireland’ a radical alternative to internment was still badly needed. One important point to make about the NILP's submissions to the newly formed Northern Ireland Office (NIO) was that these included content dealing with social justice, which the other parties had neglected to put forward. The Ulster Workers' Council (UWC) strike united Protestant politicians and paramilitaries in opposition against the new power-sharing government. The NILP opposed strike action but was powerless to stop the popular mobilisation of workers in the key industries. Reverend John Stewart's peace-making activities serve as a stark reminder that there were NILP members prepared to take risks for peace. By the mid-1970s the NILP was left with few committed friends in the British Labour Party.

in A history of the Northern Ireland Labour Party
Aaron Edwards

Labour was greatly facilitated in its bid to direct public attention away from the border issue by Nationalist indifference towards the IRA's campaign. The Parliamentary Labour Party (PLP) was recognised as Her Majesty's Official Opposition. The conduct of the Unionist government administration in its fight against the IRA caused a major headache for British political parties. Northern Ireland's poor socio-economic prospects suffocated the unique qualities of homegrown talent. Terence O'Neill's liberalism sought to steer a middle course between the right of his party and the left of the NILP. The NILP's failure to secure any parliamentary representation at the 1964 Westminster Election only sapped at Tom Boyd's political energy. The full extent of Labour's disastrous performance was not appreciated until six months later when Sam Napier submitted his audit to the Executive Committee (EC). It then became clear that the Protestant working class was undergoing fluctuations of a sectarian nature.

in A history of the Northern Ireland Labour Party
Aaron Edwards

The collapse of the Irish Republican Army's (IRA) armed irredentist campaign in February 1962 led to the cessation of its military activities against the Northern Ireland state. The Campaign for Social Justice (CSJ) sought to highlight discrimination ‘against the Catholic section’ in housing and jobs. Invariably the close relationship between the CSJ and Campaign for Democracy in Ulster (CDU) was compromised by the presence of right-of-centre individuals involved in the Dungannon-based organisation. The Northern Ireland Labour Party's (NILP) close ties to the British Labour Party (BLP) were used by Terence O'Neill to beat the local party in the 1966 election. The effects of Northern Ireland Civil Rights Association's (NICRA) radicalism on the NILP were significant. The role played by the NILP in the civil rights movement is addressed. The late 1960s witnessed the emergence of a revitalised sectarian brinkmanship on the streets of Northern Ireland.

in A history of the Northern Ireland Labour Party
Aaron Edwards

An extension of the British social welfare state to Northern Ireland and the tackling of acute unemployment were huge undertakings for the Unionist administration. The Anti-Partition League of Ireland (APL) was ‘inspired by hopes of major political changes in the post-war world and in particular by the election to power of the Labour Party’. Northern Ireland Labour Party (NILP) agitation on unemployment failed to reach the kind of tempo it would display in 1956–58. By 1957–58, the storm that had been brewing finally broke, leaving 10% of the province's workforce unemployed. The NILP was well disposed to offer its guidance and support to those laid-off workers. 1953 may have been the year that witnessed the first tentative steps to square NILP policies. Protestant workers had clearly suffered economic impoverishment at the hands of an ‘inept’ Unionist regime.

in A history of the Northern Ireland Labour Party
Aaron Edwards

This chapter demonstrates the crisis of the Northern Ireland Labour Party (NILP). As increasing numbers of Protestant and Catholic workers became unionised they flocked to the burgeoning ranks of the NILP. The NILP had been propped up by two key pillars in Northern Irish society. As violence unfolded in 1969, the Labour movement found itself in an unenviable position. The return of Paddy Devlin as MP for Falls in the February 1969 Stormont election was a turning point for the NILP and pointed to a consolidation of its support in Catholic working-class areas. Despite their best efforts the party hierarchy could not contain the sectarian cancer from spreading throughout some of its local branches. The NILP failed to carry its broader cross-sectarian support-base with it after the election. George Chambers thought that British Labour had made life increasingly difficult for the NILP by their hostile attitude.

in A history of the Northern Ireland Labour Party
Aaron Edwards

Unionism remained deeply divided over issues of social service expenditure and the adoption of welfare legislation emanating from Westminster. It recognised the danger of the labour interests harboured by a significant portion of working-class Protestants and set about meeting these by establishing its own trade union organisation. Home Rule had a lasting legacy for the Irish Labour movement. The 1930s presented a range of unique challenges and opportunities for the Northern Ireland Labour movement and it soon became exercised by developments on the political front. The brittle rigidity of inter-ethnic co-operation had thrown into sharp relief the Northern Ireland Labour Party's (NILP) obvious difficulty in bridging the divide at the political level. The transition from war to peace threatened to upset the balance of power within the Unionist Party. The Labour movement was perhaps the power of the militant trade unionist wing of the Labour movement.

in A history of the Northern Ireland Labour Party
Abstract only
Aaron Edwards

This book reviews the historical record of the Northern Ireland Labour Party (NILP), an understudied and poorly understood phenomenon in Irish political studies. It also questions the orthodox narrative of that party's political fortunes throughout the twentieth century, by arguing that the NILP has suffered from an unfair critique in the scholarly literature. The growing entanglement of the NILP's ideological strands eventually led to dramatic fluctuations in the party's political fortunes. The NILP represented a genuine attempt by Protestants and Catholics to pursue common class interests above and beyond ethnic and religious ones. The competing national identity aspirations of most Protestants and Catholics proved irreconcilable. The NILP's uniqueness in a society divided along ethnic, national, cultural and class lines is only surprising when viewed within the traditional paradigm of Western understanding of political parties as static products of the late nineteenth to the mid-twentieth centuries.

in A history of the Northern Ireland Labour Party
Aaron Edwards

The Northern Ireland Labour Party's (NILP) Constitutional Convention manifesto made clear the party's belief in the British connection. It advocated a strong local Executive presiding over departmental committees in which Protestants and Catholics would ‘share responsibility’. The relations between the NILP and British Labour Party (BLP) deteriorated to an all-time low in the years immediately following the Ulster Workers' Council (UWC) strike. By the mid-1970s the NILP's political fortunes had taken a dramatic downswing. The Campaign for Labour Representation (CLR) consistently lobbied the BLP to organise in Northern Ireland. The final years of NILP are elaborated. Even though the NILP did not officially wind up its operations until as late as 1987, it had effectively ceased to exist with every new plume of smoke that bellowed over the Belfast skyline in the 1970s.

in A history of the Northern Ireland Labour Party