- The Empire Club of Canada Addresses (Toronto, Canada), 19 Mar 1964, p. 302-308
- O'Neill, Captain the Right Honourable Terence, Speaker
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- Item Type
- The taming of the Atlantic as the greatest and most significant factor in post-war history. The Western Alliance as one of the main foundations of world peace. The Commonwealth as another. Various "blocs." Forces of violent change at work in the world. The process of drawing together—incompatible with the maintenance of diverse nations and provinces and regions? The conditions in which individuality can survive, with examples. The collective will of Northern Ireland to remain a part of the United Kingdom. Northern Ireland widening its horizons, while retaining individuality. Evidence of the world widening. Aspects of Northern Ireland's internationalism. Moving towards citizenship of the world. Drawing strength from the communities which shape us.
- Date of Original
- 19 Mar 1964
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- Full Text
- MARCH 19, 1964
A Northern Ireland Point of View
AN ADDRESS BY Captain the Right Honourable Terence O'Neill, PRIME MINISTER OF NORTHERN IRELAND
CHAIRMAN, The President, Mr. Arthur J. Langley
Few families in Ireland, or anywhere for that matter, can look back on such an impressive record of leadership and service as can that of our guest of honour. Through the centuries, the pattern has been established to which Terence O'Neill has added much lustre in his brief lifetime. Varied governmental services in the Ministries of Health, Local Government, Home Affairs and Finance, have been coupled with over seventeen years of Parliamentary Service, and culminated in his holding several of these important portfolios himself, prior to his present appointment. The famous Guards Armoured Division of World War II fame--was yet another milestone along our guest's road of dedication--as distinguished service with the Irish Guards testifies. A respecter of tradition, yet an advocate of progress; an Ulster man to the core, yet an enlightened internationalist; this parliamentarian, soldier, public servant and friend of Canada, is most welcome at the Empire Club of Canada. Gentlemen, The Right Honourable, The Prime Minister of Northern Ireland.
THE RT. HON. TERENCE O'NEILL:
When the North Atlantic Treaty Organization was conceived, it must have seemed to many an approach more visionary than realistic. True, the great nations of the Western Alliance had used their united strength to secure the triumph of democracy, but there was widespread scepticism as to how such an alliance could survive in the less dramatic but more prolonged period of near-peace. Above all, how could we be sure that the political, economic and military lifeline across three thousand miles of ocean would endure?
Yet the greatest and most significant factor in post-war history has been, I would suggest, the taming of the Atlantic. In an age when communications satellites make us instan taneous spectators of your great events, and when that same Anglo-French co-operation which forged your own nation bids fair to make a mockery of distances in the air--in that age, we can begin to think of the Atlantic as truly an inland sea.
This steady process of geographical assimilation has been a source of strength. Dispute is always more widely publicised than agreement, and when a division occurs within the Western alliance it is an occasion for intensive speculation. We should never forget, however, that the nations of the West have in fact maintained a common front for some twenty years on most major issues. To that fact, and to the generous and far-sighted help which North America offered a prostrate post-War Europe, can be attributed the maintenance of a delicate but vital balance of power in the world.
If the Western Alliance has been one of the main foundations of world peace, I firmly believe that the Commonwealth has been another. We hear much today of "blocs"--the Latin-American bloc, the Communist bloc, the Afro-Asian bloc. We can be thankful that there is still one bloc in the world which recognizes no qualification for membership other than the desire for friendly co-operation. This bloc brings together Europe, Asia, America, Africa and Australasia, and at its periodic top-level meetings we probably come as near to a useful multilateral summit conference as world circumstances allow. This relationship is not, of course, without its critics. They protest that India, for instance, is not always on the same side of a U.N. vote as Canada and the United Kingdom. But this seems to me to miss the point. Which Asian nation is in a better position to understand the problems of the West--the China of Chou En Lai, sealed-up in Peking; or the India of Nehru, who is in a position to meet and discuss common problems with Pearson and Menzies and Douglas-Home?
Forces of violent change are at work in the world. As we observe the agony of Africa, attempting to shape a modem society from its largely untrained human resources, we ought to respond with an impulse of sympathy, not of superiority. Let us remember that our own free institutions were not won without long travail--that there have been days in Europe and America, as well as in Africa, when brother has risen against brother and men have looked with apprehension into the chasm of chaos. Now, when we look outwards from our comfortable and seemingly secure society, we may be tempted to fortify the citadel of the "haves" against the aspirations of the "have-nots". That would, in my view, be a dreadful error. We cannot afford to regard as our enemies the underprivileged people of the earth, so numerous, so full of potential, so ultimately irresistible. No; we must rather regard our wealth, our skill, our wisdom, our experience in the West as a trust for world betterment. If we fail now to stretch out the hand of friendship and aid to our struggling brother, he may reach up in desperation and pull us with him into the morass. It is just as important that we should join our forces for these positive tasks, as it is that we should be allied for military defence.
When Sir Alec Douglas-Home spoke to us in Belfast recently, he expressed his hope that the Soviet Union, impelled by the intransigent facts Of China and the bomb, would more and more abandon the Cold War. Such a change of heart would be welcome, but even more positive action may be required if Other and more dreadful separations are not to overwhelm us. Led by the United States and Russia, the two most powerful nations in the world today, what new hope might be carried into the dark and hungry places of the earth, where there is now only confusion and despair!
This process of drawing-together may seem to some to be incompatible with the maintenance of our diverse nations and provinces and regions. Are we committed to a process of assimilation which will pass through confederation into complete political and economic union? This is a serious question, and one of which you are particularly conscious in Canada. Although your country occupies an enormous land-mass, your population is dwarfed by that of your great neighbour to the South. Some observers therefore conclude that it is inevitable that your individuality will surely but steadily disappear.
For myself, I think that this is a facile conclusion. The record of our own small people--the Ulsterman or ScotchIrish--gives a clue to the conditions in which individuality can survive. There are tidy-minded people who look at the map of Ireland and cannot understand why there is a frontier across such a small tract of territory. They fail to understand that the existence of peoples is not governed by, considerations of geographical convenience.
I suppose the "tidy" thing, if that were the case, would be to lump the Iberian and Scandinavian Peninsulas into one! Nor is it governed by language differences; if it were, you would have been absorbed by the United States long ago, and Switzerland would have been parcelled out between France, Italy and Germany.
No--in my view the existence of a people depends alone upon its collective will to survive and to preserve its identity. As long as that will exists, it gives to communal life a meaning it would not otherwise have. Our collective will in Northern Ireland is, has been, and will continue to be to remain a part of the United Kingdom. There are profound historic, political and economic reasons for this. The English and Scottish settlements of the seventeenth century left in Ulster a people who ever afterwards looked eastwards to Edinburgh and London, rather than southwards to Dublin. We have felt instinctively, moreover, that it is our proper destiny to play an active part in the world. The Irish Republic was for a long time profoundly introspective and self-centred, although latterly it has played a useful and honourable role for the United Nations in the Congo. We did not wish, however, to stand aloof in any way during two World Wars. Moreover, it is well to remember that Northern Ireland has been an integral part of the United Kingdom for more than 160 years, and that our present status therefore antedates the foundation of many of the nations which today sit in the United Nations. With such ancient ties to Great Britain, it has been our goal to offer our citizens the standards of life which can only be available to them within one of the great industrialized nations.
Our belief in retaining our individuality has not prevented a widening of our horizons. Indeed, the economic and commercial trends of today have made that inevitable. Most spectacular, perhaps, has been the growth in Northern Ireland of an important international industrial community. Firms from many countries have given added urgency to a programme of development and diversification. A land which has long been the home of one of the most traditional of all textile industries--the manufacture of linen--has over a period of a few years become one of the leading centres in Europe for the new synthetic fibres--for Rayon and Nylon, Acrilan and Terylene, Polypropylene and Spandex. Attracted by ample labour supply, modest wage rates and a generous and comprehensive programme of financial assistance to new industry, such corporations as Ford, Du Pont and I.T.T. of the U.S.A., Grundig of West Germany, A.K.U. of Holland and Michelin of France have moved into Northern Ireland. The service of our small community now takes our Ministers and officials to New York, Paris and Dusseldorf, as it once took them only to Birmingham or London.
The world is truly widening. NATO installations in Ulster are part of a shield of defence held by many strong hands. Ulster's strategic position, and in particular her commanding situation on the Western Approaches, makes her a vital link in the chain of Western defence. In an age when the main naval threat is poised by the submarine, the Joint Anti-Submarine School at Londonderry, which is used not only by the Royal Navy and Royal Air Force, but also by the navies and air fleets of most of the NATO nations, is a major factor in defence preparedness. We also have in Northern Ireland one of the key communications centres of the alliance. But defence is only one aspect of our internationalism. Our goods are sold in over a hundred countries, and many of our factories are a part of world-wide enterprises. Yet these trends point, in my view, to the need to maintain honourable and distinctive traditions rather than to shed them. We have long been citizens of different nations, yet much of our strength is drawn from the smaller circle of family life. As we move--God willing--towards something approaching citizenship of the world, we must contrive to draw much of our strength from the communities which shaped us, however small they may be. No race of people on the face of this earth need be any smaller than its aspirations.
Thanks of the meeting were expressed by J. H. Corrigan, a Director of the Club.