The politics of constitutional nationalism in Northern Ireland, 1932–70

Between grievance and reconciliation

This book considers Northern Ireland’s constitutional nationalist tradition in the years leading up to the outbreak of the Troubles. Starting in 1932, the year in which the nationalist party the National League of the North walked out of the Northern Ireland parliament, and ending in 1970, when the Nationalist Party was eclipsed by a new generation of civil rights activists, it presents an account of the diverse political parties, organisations, and activists that sought to redress Catholic grievances and pursue the nationalist political goal of Irish unity through constitutional means. The book traces the emergence of anti-partitionism as a major preoccupation of constitutional nationalist groups and parties that existed in the period and critically examines a range of strategies which were intended both to galvanise Catholic support and to move closer to the goal of Irish unity. It assesses the context of these strategies as well as their outcomes and consequences. The fragmentary nature of Northern nationalism, the divisions between its rural Catholic conservative and urban secular labourist elements, and its strategic divide between parliamentary abstentionism and active participation, are all evaluated; so too are the problematic relationships that existed between Northern nationalists and successive Irish governments, and the continued challenges posed by militant Irish republicanism. Finally, this book explores developments in the 1960s when a liberal minority within constitutional nationalism called for a modernised politics and a new relationship between Nationalism and Unionism.

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