On "A Protestant Parliament and a Protestant State"

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On "A Protestant Parliament and a Protestant State"

24 April 1934

Sir James Craig

This phrase is often cited as "a Protestant parliament for a Protestant people." Northern Ireland prime minister Sir James Craig justified his position by asserting that the South (Irish Free State) was a Catholic state. The proportion of Catholics employed in public-service posts in Northern Ireland fell steadily throughout the 1920s and the 1930s. Craig and other Northern politicians justified excluding Catholics from both public and private employment by suggesting that they were a threat to state security.

SEE ALSO Craig, James, First Viscount Craigavon; Northern Ireland: Discrimination and the Campaign for Civil Rights; Northern Ireland: History since 1920; Ulster Unionist Party in Office

I have never yet known a country to prosper where appointments to the judiciary were made on religious grounds. (HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear.) I think it would be a fatal mistake if whoever had an opportunity of recommending to his majesty the names for the high position of judges in this land had to take into consideration a man's religion. As long as I have anything to do with it, I say here quite frankly and openly, that that aspect will never enter into my mind. Only the best man who can be had for the position will be recommended. These matters are all readily answered, I think, to the satisfaction of any fair minded man.

I will refer next to the speech of the hon. member for West Tyrone (Mr. Donnelly). I am very glad he has admitted something along the lines of the amendment which the government has seen fit to put down to this vote of want of confidence, for that is really what it amounts to. When my colleagues have passed the resolution it will read like this:—

That in the opinion of this house the employment of disloyalists entering Northern Ireland is prejudicial, not only to the interests of law and order and the safety of the state, but also to the prior claims of loyal Ulster-born citizens seeking employment.

All through this debate the charges made by hon. members opposite have been grossly exaggerated. Since we took up office we have tried to be absolutely fair towards all the citizens of Northern Ireland. Actually, on an Orange platform, I, myself, laid down the principle, to which I still adhere, that I was prime minister not of one section of the community but of all, and that as far as I possibly could I was going to see that fair play was not meted out to all classes and creeds without any favour whatever on my part.

Mr Leeke: What about your Protestant parliament?

The Prime Minister: The hon. member must remember that in the South they boasted of a Catholic state. They still boast of Southern Ireland being a Catholic state. All I boast of is that we are a Protestant parliament and Protestant state. It would be rather interesting for historians of the future to compare a Catholic state launched in the South with a Protestant state launched in the North and to see which gets on the better and prospers the more. It is more interesting for me at the moment to watch how they are progressing. I am doing my best always to top the bill and be ahead of the South.

As I have said, there is a great deal of exaggeration in the statements made today. Are memories so short that hon. members opposite have forgotten that those who came into this Northern area at a certain period of our career came for the purpose of preventing the Ulster government from being established. We will never forget the death of our old colleague, Mr. Twaddell, and there are two hon. members of this house who bear the marks of bullets because of their loyalty in helping the government to maintain law and order. Those people, I always believe, came from outside. Is it any wonder that we should take precautions and advise our own people in this area to beware of persons of that type coming into Ulster in order to recreate all the turmoil, murder, bloodshed, and trouble from which we formerly suffered? . . .

Northern Ireland Parliamentary Debates, House of Commons, vol. 16, pp. 1094–1096.