DCSIMG

Lord Moyola

Lord Moyola (James Dawson Chichester-Clark), politician

Born: 12 February, 1923 Died: 17 May, 2002, aged 79

JAMES Chichester-Clark became prime minister of the Unionist-dominated Northern Ireland parliament at Stormont in 1969. It was a troubled time. At one point, rioting on the streets of Belfast and Londonderry forced his administration to ask the government of Harold Wilson to send in troops to help maintain order. In 1971, Chichester-Clark resigned over what he saw as the failure of the Westminster government to provide sufficient military support.

Chichester-Clark entered politics after an army career with the Irish Guards of almost 20 years. He was returned unopposed as the Unionist Stormont MP for South Londonderry in 1960 and again in 1965. In 1969, he had to fight off a challenge from the nationalist independent, Bernadette Devlin.

He was appointed party chief whip in 1963, leader of the House in 1966 and agriculture minister in 1967.

He resigned from the government of Terence O’Neill in late April 1969 following speculation that he might succeed him should Mr O’Neill resign. He gave as his reason the timing of "one man one vote" reform, but said he was not against the principle of the reform. Five days later, Mr O’Neill stood down and Mr Chichester-Clark was elected prime minister by just one vote.

One of his first acts was to order an amnesty for those convicted of, or charged with, political offences since the previous October. One of those to benefit was the Rev Ian Paisley, who was released from prison.

However, neither the gesture nor an appeal to opposition MPs to join in a declaration that Northern Ireland was at peace and would remain so, brought any response. The demands for political reform continued to grow and the violence intensified, reaching a climax in August 1969, when serious rioting in the Bogside area of Londonderry and Belfast forced Mr Chichester-Clark to ask the Westminster government to send in troops.

The situation led to angry exchanges between the Northern Ireland premier and his counterpart in the Irish Republic, Jack Lynch, who had called for United Nations involvement.

Mr Lynch moved army field hospitals to the border and arranged for camps to be set up in the Republic for people fleeing the troubles in the north.

Mr Chichester-Clark attacked Mr Lynch for "inflammatory and ill-considered" remarks.

The arrival of the troops changed the position of the Ulster prime minister and at talks in Downing Street with Harold Wilson it was agreed that the army GOC should take control of and direct security operations.

The situation in Northern Ireland continued to deteriorate and Mr Chichester-Clark faced a loyalist backlash when the then Home Secretary, James Callaghan, who had ministerial responsibility for Northern Ireland, made visits to Belfast urging reforms to make housing allocation fairer and anti-discrimination measures.

Through 1970, the violence continued with the mushrooming of loyalist paramilitaries, increasing gun battles between the army and the Official IRA and the emergence of the Provisional IRA. No-go areas were set up in republican areas, barricades in loyalist districts and a curfew in the Falls Road.

The murders of three soldiers in Belfast in March 1971 was the signal for a new loyalist campaign demanding that Mr Chichester-Clark resign.

He flew to London for talks with the new prime minister, Edward Heath, calling for a dramatic security response - but Heath sent in only an extra 1,300 soldiers.

Two days later, Mr Chichester-Clark resigned, saying he saw no other way of "bringing home to all concerned the realities of the present constitutional, political and security situation".

He was made a life peer in 1971, taking the title Baron Moyola of Castledawson.

 
 
 

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