The “Troubles” in Northern Ireland

Rev. Grier’s willingness to write this article for THE OUTLOOK is greatly appreciated. In reply to our request for a bit of information about himself, he writes:

“I was at Princeton Seminary 1923–25 with Stonehouse, Murray, and Van Til. All three have stayed in our home here—we mourned the loss of Ned Stonehouse.

“I have been a minister in Belfast for some forty-four years and am still busily occupied. I have been editor of our monthly Church magazine for forty-four years—its title is Evangelical Presbyterian.”

People from all over the world write to us for information about our “troubles.” They hear reports of oppression and victimization of the Roman Catholic minority and they tend to view us as a police State—where tyranny prevails. It is also affirmed that the minority is not fairly represented in Parliament and that Roman Catholics do not get their fair share of new houses and of employment.

Misrepresentation – Actually there has been a tremendous amount of misrepresentation on these and other issues. Our members of Parliament at Westminster and at Stormont (our local Parliament which is now suspended) have been elected on a universal franchise. It is only in local Government elections that there is a property qualification, and it applies to Roman Catholic and Protestant alike. Until comparatively recent times this same property qualification prevailed in Great Britain. In the future, local government elections too in Northern Ireland will be on the universal franchise.

The Roman Catholic minority has received generous treatment from our Northern Government in past years for the erection of their separate schools (the Roman Catholic Church insists on the separate education of her children). Even a Roman Catholic bishop, who was no lover of our Northern Government, admitted on two occasions that our Northern Government was like “a fairy godmother”—in its generosity in providing these schools. The Government has met two-thirds of the cost of running these separate schools.

There are many Roman Catholics who are unemployed; but there are also many Protestants in this same plight. Some of the minority leaders complain about the unemployment. Why do they not complain more about the factories, garages, and so forth which have been blown up or burnt by the I.R.A. [Irish Republican Army}? This has added greatly to the unemployment.

As to discrimination against Roman Catholics in places of employment, there are many thousands of them in Government employment, in the employment of city and town councils, in the service of Protestant-owned firms and establishments, and in the police force. There are town councils in which there are a majority of Roman Catholics, and it has sometimes been pointed out that these employ very few Protestants!

There have been a few instances of gerrymandering of boundaries for Parliamentary elections—and city council elections—but this has not affected the total picture to any great degree; and steps have now been taken to remedy even these blemishes. But very little credit is given for the willingness to rectify these items.

Cause of all this trouble – If then any grievances are blown up out of all proportion to the reality, what has caused all this trouble? What has led to the wrecking of so many shops and factories, the wanton destruction of property to the value of millions of pounds? It would seem that the charge of our former Prime Minister, Major Chichester Clark, gives us the truth. He affirmed that there is a deliberate conspiracy to overthrow the constituted Government of Northern Ireland.

Miss Bernadette Devlin, when she arrived back in Ireland from a money-raising campaign in the U.S.A., said that the barricades in Londonderry (erected by her confederates) would come down when the Northern Ireland Government would come down. She and many others like her are set on having an all-Ireland Socialist Workers’ Republic. Among those behind the barricades there have been, not only the I.R.A., but well-known Communists and rebellious students who have acted in other lands to overthrow ordered government. Some of them are utterly dissatisfied with the Governments which rule not only in the North but the South also, and there are elements over which even the Roman Catholic Church has little or no control.

Recently there has been a fresh hardening of attitudes and fresh outbreaks of intimidation in some places on both sides -Roman Catholics being driven out of Protestant areas, and Protestants out of Roman Catholic areas. We believe that the Protestants who have used intimidation are only Protestants in name—we have many of the non-churchgoing type. What has at times amazed us—and we have been profoundly thankful to God for it—is the restraint shown till now by our Protestant people in general as they watched the murder campaign of the I.R.A. and the wanton destruction of property.

“Our views” stated – We received a letter recently from the office of the Secretary of State, Mr. William Whitelaw, asking us to give our views (in the Evangelical Presbyterian Church) on the situation. In our reply we made the following points (among others):

“On the part of the Westminster Government there has been a failure to show adequate firmness from the first in dealing with the revolt against law and order, with the result that there have been years of suffering. Strenuous efforts should be made to bring to justice all those guilty of acts of violence or murder.

“We have strong objections to making a deal with the LR.A. or their sympathizers and are weary of concessions to the terrorist organizations. Such concessions lend strength to the fears that the Westminster Government would be willing to purchase ‘peace’ at the expense of the loyal majority.

“We stand for law and order and deeply regret the lack of firmness on the part of the authorities in suffering the establishing of ‘no-go’ areas (by the I.R.A.). We are also utterly opposed to some of the actions of right-wing Protestants, yet we can well understand the feeling that has at length risen that only a show of strength wins concessions and secures firm action by the Government.”

A judgment of God – More must be said. Why have these troubles been permitted by our Sovereign God? Why have these forces been let loose upon us from every side? It is a judgment of God. Centuries ago the Protestant Church in this island failed to give the Irish people the Bible in their own tongue—the Gaelic. They were intent on Anglicizing them rather than evangelizing them. And in this twentieth century our Protestant Churches have been weakening in their loyalty to the Bible as the very Word of God. We have, especially in the larger denominations, been bowing down at the altar of an ecumenism which has abandoned the gospel of the redeeming blood of Christ. We have not given the gospel to our fellow-countrymen, both Roman Catholic and Protestant, as we should. Our departure has brought judgment upon us.

May God in His great mercy pour out His Spirit upon us once again as He did in the 1620s and in later days. If the Spirit be poured out from on high, then Roman Catholics and Protestants shall bow at the foot of the cross, reconciled through Christ’s blood. This is the real cure.