‘History is against Us’, November 1968–April 1969

Part of the Contemporary History in Context Series book series (CHIC)


O’Neill, December 1968, four months before his resignation2 This chapter describes the final collapse of O’Neillism and with it the last vestiges of the Labour government’s Northern Ireland policy. After the Londonderry riot on 5 October 1968, the Unionist leadership, pressed by Wilson, promised at last to bring in reform and a remarkable television appeal by O’Neill seemed briefly to succeed with large sections of both communities.3 It proved a false dawn and four months later he was gone. However, it is now known that at least six months before O’Neill’s sudden departure, the British government had begun to think the unthinkable and plan for the possibility of intervention to prevent civil war in the province.4 These crucial developments will be covered in the final chapter. The present chapter considers the last, and doomed, attempts by politicians and public officials on both sides of the Irish Sea to find a solution after Londonderry. As Roy Lilley, Belfast Telegraph political correspondent, put it: ‘By 1969 Northern Ireland was a major issue on the political agenda in London.’5


Prime Minister Front Page Labour Party Direct Rule Deputy Prime Minister 
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© Peter Rose 2001

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