|John Hume by cartoonist Ian Knox|
'In fairness to some of the Nationalist political leaders it must be said that they have given indications of their awareness of the shortcomings of their approach. Mr. McAteer in particular since his assumption of the leadership of the party has given several. The only Nationalist M.P. with a constituency organization behind him, he it was who flew the first kite of conciliation which led to the Orange-Green talks. Although in one sense a failure, they did catch the public imagination and have made a considerable contribution towards the change in climate. His St. Patrick’s Day speech in Derry and the eagerness with which the Maghery opportunity was grasped show a realization of the need for change.Mr Gormley too as his interview with Michael Viney showed has a realistic attitude. His activities among farmers and a recent speech on the need for a party secretariat confirm his realism. Unfortunately, however the public are slow to accept a change of image from their representatives without accusing them of insincerity. Nationalist politicians are prisoners of an image built up over forty years.
The need for action on a non-political front, however, is probably greater. Most people feel that little can really be achieved politically in the existing political stalemate. There exists in the North at the moment a greater wealth of talent - young business men, professional men and graduates - than ever before and there is growing desire among them to get together, to pool these talents and to tackle the community problems. Happily this type of activity is already underway and spreading in such movements as Kingdom of Mourne Development Association, Northern Counties Co-op, and the spread of Junior Chambers of Commerce. Such community activity, in which all sections play their part can do nothing but create mutual respect and above all, build the country with our own hands. It will also water down the deep prejudice which is at the root of discrimination.
Discrimination, or rather complaints about it, has long formed the main plank of the policy of the Nationalist Party. One gets the impression sometimes that the deep human problems which underlie the statistics are sometimes forgotten. Otherwise perhaps a more sustained and intelligent attempt would have been made to remove it. There are few people in Northern Ireland today who seriously deny the existence of blatant discrimination. But neither are there many who deny the existence of the deep prejudice which is its cause. It is at its point of origin - prejudice - that discrimination should be tackled.
Many protestants firmly believe that the Catholic is a social inferior. There also exists among them a real fear of Rome Rule. Without discussing the obvious irrationality of this prejudice the very fact that it exists and produces discrimination on a wide spread scale places the duty on all Catholics to do all in their power to remove it and so to remove the disabilities under which their fellow Catholics suffer as a result.
It must be pointed out in passing that people who discriminate through prejudice believe that they are justified. Catholics can contribute to a lessening of prejudice by playing a fuller part in public life as some of our religious leaders have been urging. Undoubtedly in the beginning, they will be neither wanted nor welcome in many spheres of public life in Northern Ireland. But public life means more than service on statutory or local government committees. It means the encouragement and participation in community enterprises such as those already mentioned, designed to develop the resources of the community and done in conjunction with all those in the community who are willing to co-operate.’