Ireland's Haughey stirs up Ulster Protestants
The new Irish Prime Minister Charles Haughey, has raised Unionist hackles in Ulster within hours of taking office.
He has also drawn criticism from the British Northern Ireland Secretary James Prior, whose task of achieving agreement between Ulster's politicians has been made even more difficult by the harder line expected from the new Dublin government.
Mr. Haughey, whose father came from Ulster, made it clear that his government's priority would be Northern Ireland, even though the Republic's chronic, and now acute, economic problems had been the main issue in the recent general election, the second in the south within eight months.
The Irish premier laid his policy on the line by saying:
''We look forward to, and will actively seek, to bring closer the day when the rights of self-determination of all the people of Ireland will again be exercised in common, and when the final withdrawal of the British military and political presence takes place.''
Mr. Haughey, who has said Northern Ireland is a ''failed political entity,'' believes that a solution lies in agreement between the Dublin and London governments and that the northern Unionists, will be dealt with generously only when they are prepared to consider Irish unity.
This is in stark contrast to his predecessor, Dr. Garret FitzGerald who pursued a policy of careful conciliation toward the north. His aim is also a united Ireland but he has shown himself to be prepared to understand Unionists' apprehensions and he tried to make people in the Republic face up to the changes needed in the Irish constitution to accommodate northerners.
Predictably, Mr. Haughey's hard-line has increased Unionist hostility. The Rev. Ian Paisley, leader of the Democratic Unionists, replied with characteristic bluntness:
''Neither Mr. Haughey's blarney nor his bluster, nor the tactics of the Provisional (wing of the illegal Irish Republican Army) IRA will change the Loyalists' position on a united Ireland.''
Significantly, Mr. Prior himself entered the debate. He said that Haughey's remarks had been ''totally unrealistic'' and added:
''We oughtn't to be talking along those lines because I just don't think that's on.''
He stressed that it would be extremely dangerous if the British government were to allow suspicions to grow in the north that deals were being made behind their backs.
Mr. Prior will continue to seek agreement within the north, but he has to allay the fears of Unionists who are sensitive to Dublin politicians at the best of times and are now hypersensitive now that Mr. Haughey is in power.