Northern Ireland tottered nearer the brink of civil war last month. The uprising of April 19–20 followed a familiar pattern: a largely Catholic civil-rights demonstration in Londonderry, a counter-demonstration by followers of Ian Paisley resisting the one-man one-vote principle, and an inadequate police force caught in the middle. The situation was further aggravated by deep division in the ruling Parliamentary Unionist Party, the moral backing if not the physical presence of the outlawed Irish Republican Army, and the Communist penchant for fishing in troubled waters.

The relatively new factor in Ulster has been the emergence of a civil-rights movement of articulate militants representing the Catholic minority. This was climaxed in the astonishing election of Bernadette Devlin to the Parliament in London. She took her seat on her twenty-second birthday to become Britain’s youngest MP in 60 years, and within an hour she was on her feet delivering an electrifying speech. The five-foot miniskirted dynamo impartially lambasted Prime Minister Terence O’Neill and the Tories of Northern Ireland as well as Britain’s Harold Wilson and his socialist administration, Eire’s Prime Minister John Lynch, and the Paisleyites. She said she had been in Londonderry the previous weekend and had organized Catholic demonstrators after the news of her election. She said she wanted to insure that “they wasted not one solitary stone in anger.”

That evening in Belfast trouble erupted when Protestant thugs threatened to burn down three Catholic homes in a largely Protestant area. From prison Paisley reportedly instructed his men to take to the streets, and his wife led a demonstration of six thousand through Miss Devlin’s home town.

Miss Devlin was ...

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