Bill Craig dies aged 86

I’m not really the person to do justice to an In memoriam post for William Craig but as no one else has noted his death I’ll add this brief biography and thus create a thread for comment:

Rt. Hon. William Craig, solicitor. Born in Cookstown, 2nd December 1924. Educated at Dungannon Royal School, Larne Grammar School, and Queen’s University, Belfast. Served in the Royal Air Force from 1943 to 1946. Founder of Queen’s University Unionist Association in 1950. Admitted as solicitor 1952. Chairman of the Young Unionist Council from 1953 to 1960. An Ulster Unionist member. Sat for Larne division from the byelection of 5th February 1960 until the prorogation of the Parliament in 1972. Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Finance (Chief Whip) from 25th March 1963 to 29th April 1963. Minister of Home Affairs from 29th April 1963 to 22nd July 1964. PC (NI) 1963. Minister of Health and Local Government from 22nd July 1964 to 1st January 1965. Minister of Development from 1st January 1965 to 7th October 1966. Minister of Home Affairs from 7th October 1966 to 11th December 1968 when he was dismissed for alleged support of an independent Northern Ireland. Head of the Ulster Loyalist Association from 1969 to 1972. Ulster Unionist whip withdrawn in May 1970. Founder of Ulster Vanguard in 1972. Founder of the Vanguard Unionist Progressive Party in 1973. Member of the Northern Ireland Assembly for North Antrim from 1973 to 1974. Member of the United Kingdom Parliament for Belfast, East from the February 1974 general election until the general election of 1979 when he was defeated (while standing as an official Ulster Unionist candidate). Member of the Northern Ireland Constitutional Convention for Belfast, East from 1975 to 1976. Nominated to the Council of Europe in 1977. Rejoined the Ulster Unionist Party in 1978, but resigned in 1981. Contested Belfast, East in the 1982 elections to the Northern Ireland Assembly as an independent Vanguard Unionist.

Note: normal Slugger rules on obituary posts apply (that is, have some respect)

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  • SDLP supporter

    Have a memory of the great Fred Taggart leading a bunch of Queen’s Civil Rights people to Craig’s house in Annadale Avenue circa 1968 and said Bill Craig emerging apoplectic with rage and telling us that we were a bunch of bloody fools.

    Last time I saw him was in the Ormeau Park in a black leather coat being driven in an open-top jeep at a Vanguard rally with some essentially decent people in attendance who should have known better like Reg Empey (in fairness, he subsequently expressed regret).

    Joe Canuck’s take is right. De mortuis nil nisi bonum-concerning the dead, speak only good.

  • Dixie Elliott

    Rather than speak ill of the dead I’ll say nothing…

  • Greenflag

    Just as well he never managed to oust O’Neill or Faulkner in those turbulent times . Irish nationalists and republicans will not remember Mr Craig with any great fondness . In his favour he did in the mid 1970’s come around to accepting voluntary power sharing and he broke from his own creation the Vanguard Unionists as many were not prepared to accept even that concession i.e voluntary coalition . Of course in 2011 mandatory coalition is the order of the day .

    Mr Craig was probably too honest a man to stay on top of the NI political quagmire and being Home Affairs Minister at the wrong time was his bad luck .

    It would be interesting to know if towards the end of his life whether or not his views changed and what he thought about the current power sharing set up ?

    RIP

  • orly

    Bit of a legend.

  • ItwasSammyMcNally

    The Vanguard movement threatened serious violence, which many observers interpeted as some variety of civil war in Ulster – the British government backed down in the face of this threat which was undelined by the organised presence of paramilitaries cooridnated by Vanguard in the Ulster Workers strike.

    If the fall of Stormont illustrated the inabilty of Unionists to run the country (Ulster) fairly the success of Vanguard illustrated the inability of the British to run the country (fairly) and helps illustrate the extent of British instransigence and why we had to wait more for more than 2 decades of violence before the British and Republicans to cut a deal.

  • joeCanuck

    It’s a sad reminder to all of us that, irrespective of any of our dearly held ideas, we are but here a short time and life goes on.

  • Mark McGregor

    Joe,

    Wasn’t me. I gave the warning. I assume Mick is being his usual strict self when it comes to obituary threads.

    You can’t say you weren’t warned.

  • SDLP supporter

    The Brits were ‘intransigent’ and the Provos, by implication, were ‘reasonable’ throughout, even while despatching 1600 to an early death, Sammy? Get a grip on yourself. You have heard about Sunningdale for slow learners?

  • PaulT

    Shame he didn’t do a “beyond the grave” interview/book, would love to have found out more about the behind the scenes stuffof Vanguard and the Strike

  • joeCanuck

    Yep, Mark,

    You did warn. I wondered if I was going too far and decided wrongly.

  • ItwasSammyMcNally

    SDLP supporter,

    “by implication, were ‘reasonable’ throughout”

    That is your ‘implication’ not mine.

  • The public “tributes” seem almost embarrassed.
    Craig lost his seat to Peter Robinson in 1979 and effectively left the political stage. So he was only say 55 when his career ended….save for a cameo for the next year or so.
    Much made of his “voluntary coalition” thing but he is really in a 1970s time capsule. The worst of times for us all. We all thought, said and did things…without a public record chronicling it all.
    Other figures from that time(even destructive and negative figures) managed to more obviously move on and create a better place. The ballot box dictated that we will never know if Craig could have been one of them.
    Over the next decade or so…we may see many similar news stories about figures from the 1970s but the footage of their negative contributions will be seemingly balanced by more upbeat footage from the 1990s or 20th Century.
    Some people made History.
    Bill Craig made a footnote.

  • Mark McGregor

    Joe,

    This is something people from all sides find difficult on Slugger – commenting on the death of someone they were totally opposed to in life.

    Mick seems to insist that the initial obituary thread is treated with respect. I understand that and also recognise many will find that ideal impossible.

    In this case what I find most notable so far is there is no rush to hagiography from any form of Unionism, as you said:

    ‘irrespective of any of our dearly held ideas, we are but here a short time and life goes on’

    While William Craig’s ideals seemed to have been central to many of our current political leaders and their followers at some point, his legacy and influence seems destined to history’s dustbin by many of those same men.

    An untimely death? Inappropriate to mourn during an election campaign fought by most on things he totally opposed?

    Would be terribly sad if Unionism doesn’t give him the place he deserves in death for fear of reminding themselves/the electorate what many of them once stood fully for.

  • I think Mark McGregor gets it absolutely right…thats exactly it…..the tributes seem to remind unionism (specifically in this case) but by extension us all of where we have all been.
    And none of us are entirely comfortable with where we have been.
    And if we are…..we shouldnt be.

  • anne warren

    Thought he and all he stood for had died a long, long time ago

  • alan56

    He was one of the first unionists to favour voluntary coalition?

  • alan56

    Wonder did he also ‘inspire’ Trimble to go for the GFA and Empey to create UCUNF !!!

  • ItwasSammyMcNally

    FJH,

    “Bill Craig made a footnote”

    You are clearlry doing Bill and Vanguard a disservice.

  • Sammy McNally,
    I dont think I do.Certainly not my intention.
    We could state that people like Hume, Robinson, Trimble, McGuinness, Paisley, Adams made History. And of course others.
    Bill Craig stopped short of actually doing that.
    History is a very long game and realistically Bill Craig was a player for little more than a decade (if we discount the 1960s build up).
    Its about political longevity and Craigs contribution was cut short in 1979. And the irony is that he was quite young.

  • PaddyReilly

    The funny thing is why in 1982 he, at the age of 58, suddenly just shut up and was never heard from again.

    Maybe his sabre-rattling was just designed to further his political career, and in the absence of that, he didn’t bother any more. Just settled down to a quiet retirement.

    In time the Afric lion milder grows,
    Nor to its keeper former fierceness shows…

  • ItwasSammyMcNally

    FJH,

    I’m not sure how you can describe the legacy and the impact of Vanguard as a footnote given that it undemined totally what was left (for many moderate Nats.) of the credibility of British rule in Ulster.

    We are talking about the capitulation by the British to the threat of violence by those supposedly loyal to them – a sort of reverse Falklands moment.

  • Im not denying any of that Sammy but the legacy of Vanguard itself is quite different from the legacy of Bill Craig.
    Craigs career stopped in 1979.
    Effectively Vanguard was a march up a cul de sac.
    Most who are embarrassed by their involvement feel very uncomfortable over last 24 hours.

  • ItwasSammyMcNally

    FJH,
    “Im not denying any of that Sammy but the legacy of Vanguard itself is quite different from the legacy of Bill Craig.”

    ???

    Bill set it up and led it at the height of its power…

  • ItwasSammyMcNally

    FJH,

    “Effectively Vanguard was a march up a cul de sac”

    A cul de sac that it tooks most Unionists decades to reverse out of with many still not arrived back yet – that’s a big legacy.

  • Rory Carr

    I suspect that one of the first things that many nationalists of my generation felt inclined to do on learning of Craig’s demise was, as I did, that is to check that they had a solid alibi for the time of death.

  • Fearglic

    Only The Good Die Young.

  • tacapall

    Lets be honest no nationalists will lament over craigs death he typified the unionist mindset of that era, but lets not blame him for that, he was brought up that way.

  • Cynic2

    As a Unionist, in my dim and distant youth I once attended a Vanguard Rally. I forget what we were protesting about but I listened to the speeches, looked around me at those there and never went back.

    Craig was a man of his time and as others have said was also shaped by that era in Northern Ireland politics. That isn’t an excuse however. We all have free will and our own intellect and he helped create the political atmosphere that led into the Troubles and was a major player on the Unionist political side in the early years of the violence. Aa a Unionist I dont think that was a positive contribution but history will judge.

    Given what followed many Unionists may be embarrassed at what we supported at the time but it then seemed the only alternative and there was no leadership on a different path. If there had been I doubt we would have listened.

    There are many other figures from that era with similar records and others with far worse who are now eulogised for stopping the mass murder of their fellow Irishmen and giving back to their families the bodies of those they murdered and buried in bogs and on beaches..

    So RIP Bill Craig. For better or worse you helped make NI what it is today and in your time were a major figure in the landscape.

  • Cynic2

    It Was Sammy

    “the capitulation by the British to the threat of violence by those supposedly loyal to them”

    Pot and kettle? What Vanguard did was solidify Unionist opposition and make it clear to the British (and Nationalists) that this wasn’t a one way street towards a United Ireland. This limited what the Brits could do by way of settlement and must have given the brighter brains in PIRA pause for reflection.

    I stress that I am not supporting that as a strategy but in the circumstances of the time, from a Unionist perspective with the smoke still rising and murders every day, where was the alternative? Answers on a postcard please ….

    Where I think there is much greater interest and culpability is in the 1960’s – the 10 years leading up to the violence. With the benefit of history, it could all so easily have been avoided.

  • (mostly copied from my own blog)

    We remember the DUP as having been historically the junior of the two Unionist parties until they overtook the UUP a few years ago; but from the mid-1970s perspective, the DUP were level pegging not with the UUP but with Vanguard. In the 1973 Assembly election, Craig won seven seats to Paisley’s eight; in both of the 1974 Westminster elections, he won his own seat in East Belfat, Robert Bradford’s in South Belfast and John Dunlop’s in Mid Ulster, three to Paisley’s one; and in the Convention election of 1975, though Vanguard polled slightly less than the DUP, they won 14 seats to the DUP’s 12. Perhaps significantly, it’s difficult to rate the party’s performance at the 1973 local council elections, as many councillors elected as ‘Loyalists’ or ‘Unionists’ seem to have drifted in and out of Vanguard; other parties were more disciplined about who was in and who was out.

    Craig was, however, clearly better at the tactics than the strategy. Having played a key role in provoking confrontation with Nationalists in the 1960s and in rousing the Loyalist masses to bring down both the original Stormont in 1972 and the power-sharing executive in 1974, he allowed himself to be trapped by Paisley as an apparent compromiser at the Convention in 1976, and Vanguard split, Craig carrying a minority with him (his deputy leader being one David Trimble) while the more hardline majority group, naming itself (with no apparent irony) the United Ulster Unionist Party, was led by the former Vanguard deputy leader Ernest Baird (with Reg Empey as its own deputy leader). Neither faction did well in the 1977 council elections, the UUUP winning a mere 12 seats out of 526 and Vanguard only 5; Craig and Trimble wound up Vanguard and rejoined the UUP at that point, while the UUUP staggered on until 1984. Both Trimble and Empey went on to lead the UUP; Baird died back in 2003, and Craig last weekend.

    For all its rather unpleasantly uniformed thuggish glamour, Vanguard was in some ways a broad church, and Craig himself was a bit of an internationalist. His wife was German, and taught her native language to adults at QUB (my father was one of her students). Craig campaigned in favour of the UK staying in the European Economic Community (as it then was) in the 1975 referendum, and was nominated as one of the UK delegation to the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe from 1977 until he lost his East Belfast seat (to Peter Robinson, by 64 votes) in the 1979 election. Back in the 1970s, neither Ulster Unionists nor Westminster Tories had yet become hypnotised by the sterile nationalism and Euro-phobia that both are obsessed with today, and there was a Unionist worldview that quite sincerely saw no inconsistency between fighting off Rome Rule at home and collaboration with European allies abroad. In fairness, Irish nationalism was a very different thing back then as well.

  • JoeBryce

    There was better leadership around, it’s just that we rejected it at the time: Terence O’Neill and Brian Faulkner were both better men and wiser statesmen. The UWC strike was a dreadful mistake. We refused to work with Gerry Fitt and our fitting punishment has been we have been brought to work with Gerry Adams. I could see all of this as a schoolboy. Scratching around for an excuse – and it’s all it can be – the Republic in those days was not what it is now, the Second World War and de Valera’s stance over it were living memories for many. There has been much improvement on all sides, and it will hopefully not be possible for the republican ultras to derail it.

  • ItwasSammyMcNally

    Cynic2,

    “and must have given the brighter brains in PIRA pause for reflection. ”

    Yes, and that reflection may well have been that Britain, as in her other overseas territories, often only seems to move when a dirty great gun is waved in her direction – something the Dissers will also be well aware of.

  • Paddt Reilly, 11.45. I believe, Craig suffered from depression for a long time, which probably explains his silence for that time. An embarassment to unionism, which probably explains their silence on his passing.

  • vanhelsing

    I’m not quiet. Bill Craig was a Unionist first and foremost and whilst every politican has made mistakes in NI he stood up for what he thought was right – isn’t hindsight a wonderful thing.

  • Bill Craig created a political channel for unionist fears in a period of huge upheaval. It was a time when unionism could easily have been overtaken by paramilitarism. Yes there were the rallies and events, but they provided voice and focus when others would have sought more direct conflict and response. In the shadow of the collapse of Sunningdale Craig managed to bring together the Convention. It was Paisley’s last minute objection which caused the project to collapse.

    No surprise then that when Robinson beat Craig he might think it time to retire: at that time the DUP represented a harsher more bitter unionist representation. Craig having had his day, retired. He left the future to others; far better than playing out days sniping from the sidelines. A Unionist of integrity and of a time. It was a period of ‘what ifs’ or ‘if onlys’.

    This is not a major piece of reflection, just some notes for perspective.

  • Rory Carr

    Just logged on this morning to find, somewhat to my surprise, that Bill Craig is still dead. There you go.

  • ItwasSammyMcNally

    vanhelsing,

    “Bill Craig was a Unionist first and foremost and whilst every politican has made mistakes in NI he stood up for what he thought was right ”

    There has been much standing up for what people thought was right in Ulster and much of the standing up was accompanied either by violence or the threat of it.

    ….not having listened to the Dissers Easter message but I would guess there were quite a few promises of the standing up variety – seems to be an Irish cultural/paramilitary tradtiion to be found on both sides of the constitutional fence.

  • Was Bill Craig such a small footnote, after all? fitzjameshorse1745 may think so; but I’m not wholly convinced.

    After all, the mark of the younger, barely into his 40s, Craig is still with us. At this distance I’m none too sure how much of the implementation of the Matthew plan derived from Sir Robert Matthew’s blueprint, how much was O’Neill and Professor Tom Wilson, how much was Harold Wilson’s long-range reconnaissance force, and how much was Bill Craig as Minister of Development. Even so, Craig took the kudos and the flak for the demotion of Magee as the second tertiary college, and for the new city — not many get to name a city in their own image, even by proxy.

    Equally, in typing this, I found myself humming along with:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ztVaqZajq-I&feature=related

    For, the later Craig, full of bombast and bluster, had learned his teaching well.

    It was, after all, a frenetic time across the whole UK. Harold Macmillan had, allegedly, ordered Downing Street to be bugged after Profumo: the bugs supposedly stayed until Callaghan ordered their removal as late as 1977. There was the infamous Mountbatten-King Cabal of 1968, then the military occupation of London Airport, then the Clockwork Orange business … And more: Chris Mullin’s A Very British Coup was too close to reality for many (in rightist circles it is still cited against the BBC, thirty years later).

    One does not have to be a fully-paid-up member of the Global Conspiracy Theory to get the whiff of sulphur. In GB it would lead all the way to Thatcher, Ridley, MacGregor, “The enemy within”, and a lot of decent folk brutalised along the way. Mid-life crisis Craig, and his type, were merely going with the flow:

    “We must build up a dossier of the men and women who are a menace to this country, because if and when the politicians fail us, it may be our job to liquidate the enemy.” [Craig in Ormeau Park, 18 March, 1972]

    Ho, hum hum …

    And you, of tender years,
    Can’t know the fears that your elders grew by,
    And so please help them with your youth,
    They seek the truth before they can die.

    Teach your parents well,
    Their children’s hell will slowly go by,
    And feed them on your dreams
    The one they picked, the one you’ll know by.

    “Extraordinary how potent cheap music is” — Thank you, Noël. Don’t call us. We’ll call you. [Private Lives, Act I, spoken by Amanda, since you didn’t ask.]

  • vanhelsing

    ItwasSammyMcNally

    I understand what you are saying and I wouldn’t patronise you by outlining the differences between Bill Craig and the Dissident terrorists [or the PIRA], the old one, not the new one, but they are pronounced.

    The Dissenter says it well,

    “Craig having had his day, retired. He left the future to others; far better than playing out days sniping from the sidelines. A Unionist of integrity and of a time.”

  • ItwasSammyMcNally

    vanhelsing,

    I’m with you on the differences where we part company is on the similarities i.e. a readiness to take up arms to fight (for Ireland/ulster) if not best pleased with the exisiting/proposed constitutional arrangments.

    The silence of Unionists that Mark referred to above is in some cases clearly replaced by denial.

  • Nunoftheabove

    the dissenter

    There’s a fine line between providing a channel for unionist fears and demagogery.

    Perhaps he left more of a bootmark on history than a footnote.

  • Comrade Stalin

    There are a lot of good contributions above.

    Craig’s death has made me reflect on something suggested to me a while ago, that unionism since the late 1950s has essentially been less about how the union can be protected or strengthened, and more about a power struggle for who can claim the leadership.

    Time and time again, we saw that whenever previously “extremist” unionist elements – Faulkner, Craig, Trimble, and finally Paisley – gained leadership and increasing support (often through rabble rousing), they became more open do doing a deal of some kind with nationalists.

    A lot of people died in order for Ian Paisley to assume the role of the leader of unionism. Food for thought.

  • Cynic2

    Comrade

    You can apply the same to republicanism> Mice on the shoulders of giants?

  • pippakin

    William Craig was a man for and of his time. He could have been a visionary and a moderniser, but he was not. RIP

  • Drumlins Rock

    I can’t remember the 70’s and by the time the 80’s came around we had reached “an acceptable level of violence” as it was crassly put once, but reading back on the period some highlight the missed opportunities but what has stood out to me was the fact full scale war of a Balkan type didn’t occur. The emotions of the time must have been extreme and all sort of crazy schemes considered, but it is clear, even with hindsight, that Vanguard and even Paisley were lesser evils and as such were a restraint on loyalist society.

  • JR

    Like you Drumlins I only remember the 80’s and having spent last summer in the Balkans I have often thought how things could have gone the same way here. A lesson from there should be noted and always remembered here though. While our devisions here go back to the 1640’s theirs go back much further and there have been many periods of peace between the ethnic groups over there which broke down into bloody violence.

    I see your point about the lesser evils but I would also make the point that each injustice feeds another.

  • ItwasSammyMcNally

    DR,

    “Vanguard and even Paisley were lesser evils and as such were a restraint on loyalist society.”

    Lesser evils that what ? Loyalist paramiltaries?

    Vanguard promised violence – far worse than what was served up by loyalist paramiltaries in later years – if they didnt get their way.

  • “he typified the unionist mindset of that era”

    Mindset is an ill-defined beast. Here are two uses by John Hume from his book Personal Views:

    p59 … the unionist mind-set, which is “we are a minority in ireland, so to protect ourselves we must hold all power in our hands and exclude everyone else”

    p109 … our next major challenge: to reach agreement between two fundamentally different mind-sets — the unionist and the nationalist

    When I started looking at Hume’s 3-strand analysis in the early 90s it struck me that Unionists and Nationalists appear to have little understanding of one another. When I began looking at our political history around the same time I found it useful to broaden the classification to Unionist, Nationalist and Socialist for the 1960s era, not forgetting the impact of events elsewhere.

    It also became clear to me that these three classifications in themselves were very broad churches and so the very terms Unionist and Nationalist mind-set tell you little more than Unionists desire for NI to remain part of the UK and the Nationalists desire for NI to become part of a UI.

    I was a member of the Young Unionists around 1969-1970 but moved away from politics, including party politics, in 1971. [A chance visit to Corrymeela in the summer of 71 and an invitation later the same year to join a newly formed Coleraine inter-schools group took me along a very different and exciting path.] A trip to the YU annual bun-worry – that year in was in Co Fermanagh – proved to be a rather strange affair. Our branch – there were four of us – and some other branches had a sit-down protest when the President (Bill Craig) and his wife entered the room; almost immediately afterwards Mrs Craig presented the General Knowledge trophy to our branch; when the Craigs departed some other YUs started up a chorus of “We will follow, We will follow Paisley”. Two of the four are council candidates (again) and, funnily enough, they are both still in the UUP!

  • Comrade Stalin @ 12:05 pm:

    Nicely observed. Indeed, I recall an assumption of the time (to which I subscribed) that Unionism inevitably fragmented and split … further and further towards the right. Craig’s VUP was part of that. [Curiously and ironically, was Enoch Powell a moderating influence? DIscuss, using not more than one side of the A4 page.]

    By contrast, there now is a neat slither, both sides of the fence, towards the centre ground. I note that the DUP policy summary gives priority placing for social issues (education, health, senior citizens) above the old “core” matters of victim-support and policing. Meanwhile, that photograph heading the SF manifesto suggests to me that the removal of a couple of older faces (and their residual images) could soon change the ball-game. So, I’m less than gob-smacked by the outcome of the BelTel’s “True Colours” survey.

    We are, fortunately, moving on from the moment of 1972 …

  • Valenciano

    I saw an interview with Craig, circa 1999, after a reporter tracked him down. He denounced the Good Friday Agreement as a sell out to terrorists and was generally unapologetic about his role Unionist politics from the mid 60s to mid 70s. If he’d continued his political career, it would most likely have followed a trajectory similar to that of Bob McCartney. He even mulled over the possibility of standing in North Down at the 1983 election.

  • Neil

    It’s fascinating to hear some Unionists (the morally superior types who usually express their belief that Unionists generally had no truck with violence and certainly didn’t vote for their paramilitaries) try to make out the Bill Craig was a respectable force of restraint.

    Or even to frame their comments above where it seems perfectly understandable for Unionists to take on the UK state when things didn’t go the Unionist’s way. So it seems that it’s ok for Unionists to threaten the state (even go so far as to suggest independence from the UK) yet it is totally incomprehensible that Nationalists should do the same thing.

    Anyway, a wee reminder of that restraining figure’s words and deeds wouldn’t go amiss on this page so here you go:

    “We must build up the dossiers on the men and women who are a menace to this country, because one day, ladies and gentlemen, if the politicians fail, it will be our duty to liquidate the enemy”. 18 March 1972 in Belfast’s Ormeau Park – trying to restrain folks at the time he was. lol.

    “We are prepared to come out and shoot and kill. I am prepared to come out and shoot and kill, let’s put the bluff aside. I am prepared to kill, and those behind me will have my full support.” At a meeting of the Conservative Monday Club, a group of right-wing MPs at Westminster. He told them he could mobilise 80,000 men to oppose the British government.

    And

    As Minister for Home Affairs he banned the march of Northern Ireland Civil Rights Association on 5 October 1968. He also accused the civil rights movement of being a political front for the IRA.

    Yeah, Unionists are morally superior beings alright. Never resort to violence especially against the state. It all underlines the duplicitous nature referred to in John’s post a week or so back. Unionists actually believe they have nothing to answer for and that their hands are completely clean. This in spite of swathes of evidence to the contrary.

  • Jo

    ““We are prepared to come out and shoot and kill. I am prepared to come out and shoot and kill, let’s put the bluff aside. I am prepared to kill, and those behind me will have my full support.” ”

    I recall these words with a chill and the preceding, superficially civilised “ladies and gentlemen” made it all the more sinister. The duplicitous, supposedly opposition to violence that certain members of the TUV maintain to this day echoes Carig’s chilling threat above (issued at a time when sectarian assassinations ran at several every week). One gets the impression that certain people miss the violence. Certainly Craig wouldn’t be out of place in the TUV today – his sheer unadulterated bitterness in the Peter Taylor clip on the BBC site virtually drips out of the monitor.

  • quality

    Playing devil’s advocate, is weighty rhetoric on a par morally with actual violence?

  • granni trixie

    I remember Bill Craig from a conference in Corrymeela circa 1987.I was surprised to interpret from his contribution, that he had altered his thinking – being all reconciling-like.

  • It should be pointed out that there are at least two dissertations doing the rounds or about to be published on either Bill Craig himself or the Vanguard movement.
    Necessarily they will be better than any contribution any of us can make here.
    Indeed it might even make Craig more than a footnote….and please note that was in context of 1970s rather than the prologue (good?) years of the 1960s. Actually refreshing my memory on Craig last night his fingerprints are on a lot of 1960s Norn Iron but a curious thing is just how little time he was at some Departments.

    Anyone who went into “coalition” with Ian Paisley took a risk. Molyneux survived it. Craig didnt.
    Molyneux didnt compete. Craig did.
    I dont want to dwell on Craig in the early 1970s except to say I was a young man in West Belfast and he was built up into a kinda bogey man. In part he contributed to that image (we see that footage, funny clothes and funny haircuts). Thats where we all were.
    And I think Craig became pompous (the speech pattern did not help) and less scary as the decade wore on.
    Of course the Ormeau Park stuff was a very deliberate re-enacting of a much earlier crisis. And that 1912 stuff divides unionism……”my grandfather signed the covenant”…..”not law and orders finest hour”.
    So rather quickly Bill Craig became a forgotten man.
    And as Ive said a slight embarrassment.
    To modern unionism obviously.
    But more so to us all.
    We have come from a bad place to a better place.
    And there are constant reminders of very public people around us who have made that journey.
    Whether we agree with them or not, theres a respect from most of us that they have at least made a journey.
    His election defeat in 1979 and his virtual invisibility for 30 years means that there is no public record of Craig making a journey.
    The value of our politicians is not where they have been.
    Or even where they are now.
    Its the journey they made.
    Thats the difference between History and a “footnote”.

  • “a neat slither, both sides of the fence, towards the centre ground”

    Slither is an interesting choice of word, Malcolm: to glide or slide like a snake. Unless you’re talking sliotar .. The image of Ford between Robinson and McGuinness is a tantalising metaphor 🙂

    I think encroachment on the centre ground is more apt. The violence has certainly been toned down dramatically but when you turn over the stone – as distinct from clodding/hurling it – you might be surprised at the number of clusters of developers, businessmen, politicians and paramilitary godfathers.

  • Greenflag

    Jo,

    ‘Certainly Craig wouldn’t be out of place in the TUV today ‘

    Not where he ended up politically -I mean prepared to accept voluntary coalition government for NI . I believe that is the present official TUV position except they WILL NOT share power with what they call SF/IRA no matter how many votes the latter party get in the election ,

    On an earlier post somebody wrote that

    ‘ Vanguard was a march up a cul de sac’

    which I thought was an apt description of the movement.

    So I guess the TUV have now taken on the role of the new up the cul de sac marchers along with the dissident gobshites who now threaten to kill Catholic priests, GAA officials and PSNI policemen 🙁

    There is more than a streak of brainless mind numbing insanity among the ultras on both sides of the NI communal divide . Could not all of them not be rounded up and deported to some uninhabited Arctic island -Just a random thought in passing 😉

    A cul de sac that it tooks most Unionists decades to reverse out of with many still not arrived back yet – that’s a big legacy.

  • ItwasSammyMcNally

    “Playing devil’s advocate, is weighty rhetoric on a par morally with actual violence?”

    That question is the (violent orange) elephant in the Unionist living room which Unionists are determnined to sidestep (having been invited to answer a few times) as we can see from the above – when you have armed paramilitaries on the street in whom you are in league with and you are thretening wholesale slaughter there can only be one honest answer.

    …but with Trimnle and Wee Reggie now part of the British House of Lords then its a bit soon perhaps for the HET to have butchers into the files.

  • Greenflag

    correction

    That last sentence in the above should have been deleted .

    Fitzer1745 ,,

    A good summing up above at 2.05pm.

  • Greenflag

    IWSMWDI

    ‘.with Trimnle and Wee Reggie now part of the British House of Lords’

    Strange that neither opted to be called Lord Vanguard which has a kinda nice ring to it if you are into that kind of thing -but then as Fitzer points out pertinently above they both had moved on in their journey’s away from the politics of No . Ironically just as with Craig they also got the timing and circumstances wrong and it was left to Paisley to decide the right time for the journey forward.

  • Alias

    When you threaten a civil war to get your way, you have to make sure that you are seen to be doing it for Queen and country (and, of course, only in defence of your civil rights and as a last resort sort of thing). That way you have a great chance that the British state will take your side. To threaten a civil war, as Craig did, and to threaten it for an independent Ulster, was just suicidal/genocidal. Catholics outnumber Protestants, so that’s a war they could never win. He was a very dangerous little man.

  • Comrade Stalin

    Cynic2:

    You can apply the same to republicanism> Mice on the shoulders of giants?

    No, you can’t apply the same to republicanism. The republican movement (whether you like it or not; I’m in the “not” camp) has been notable by its ability to remain coherent and united throughout the “physical force” period, and mostly united following its belated conversion to peaceful means. Adams and McGuinness, again whether you like it or not, have made a remarkable accomplishment in being able to change the direction of the IRA while keeping it more or less together – something which has not, historically, been easy to achieve.

    The other key distinction here is that Adams + co argued their case internally and used the IRA’s (ironically, intensely deliberative and highly democratic) internal procedures and structures to argue the case for abandoning armed struggle. They suffered a few defeats along the way but pressed on.

    Up and coming unionists like Craig and Paisley seeking to gain control did the opposite – they actively disrupted and destabilized the parties and their country and routinely went to the polls on a split ballot. They threatened civil war, violence, and marched up and down the streets talking about “liquidation” and “hand-to-hand fighting”. Paisley deliberately engineered confrontations knowing that riots would result; he used to talk about how “every Protestant must be prepared” for the violent conflict that he predicted was imminent (see here (note a very young Gregory Campbell and P Robinson!).

    Paisley’s conversation to the idea of powersharing coincided precisely with his final victory over the UUP in 2003, after which he proceeded to negotiate the powersharing deal he spent four decades blocking and disrupting. It does, therefore, seem reasonable to conclude that his first objective was not securing the union but was to become top dog.

    To add to that, it has always been my view that the IRA was a reaction, albeit an entirely unjustified, undemocratic and disproportionate one which acted to reinforce hardline unionism rather than soften it. The IRA had abandoned violence in the 1950s and, had Stormont acted swiftly to address the concerns of the civil rights movement I doubt the PIRA would have come into existence.

  • Comrade Stalin

    Playing devil’s advocate, is weighty rhetoric on a par morally with actual violence?

    [Quote the line that suggests that, or don’t make the reference – Yellow! Mods]

    Politicians who call themselves democratic have a duty to condemn without reserve everyone who attempts to subvert the democratic process. There is no difference between a politician who puts on a balaclava at night and shoots someone or plants a bomb, and a politician who exhorts other people to do this.

    In fact, politicians who call themselves democrats and at the same time act to encourage or justify violent acts are in some ways more dangerous. They make violence seem acceptable in that it is being conducted to defend democracy.

    What message does it send out if a politician says “people must arm themselves and prepare to kill” and then receives a huge mandate ?

  • Drumlins Rock

    Maybe some context is needed, this was the year when the IRA threatened to demolish Belfast brick by brick, the difference being they then attempted to do so, not only with the 22 bombs on Bloody Friday, but in up to 1,300 bombs throughout that year, maybe we don’t have threatening speeches recorded by Adams & Maginnis during that period, but as they say actions speak louder than words.

    In an attempt to rewrite history, so clearly shown by republican commentators on here, making loyalist violence equal or greater than their own sickening record, republicans trawl through the records for crumbs of support to their claims, skipping over their own bloody trail to the Executive table. But at the end of it it all the fact remains they killed twice as many people as the loyalists, and 6 times as many as the Security forces, not to mention the destruction of property and lives.

    Maybe like many others during those years Bill Craig has been stained by association with those who took innocent lives, but don’t compare him in anyway with those republican “statesmen” who are up to their neck in innocent blood. Who knows, but for losing by 75 votes to a more extreme politician, he might have taken the steps Paisley eventually did, but possibly years sooner.

    Finally as for “fiery rhetoric”, although a small number may have taken it seriously, in most cases it provided a vent for the frustration and fears of Unionists, making them feel something was being done by someone, rarely did it go beyond words, and there was little if any real actions to back the words up. Pearse’s dire poetry has probably incited more violence than every speech a unionist politician in the last 100 years.

  • Neil

    Finally as for “fiery rhetoric”, although a small number may have taken it seriously

    Yeah, like the small number of Irish Nationalists in NI at the time. The various strikes, especially the UWC strike didn;t make a sould nervous DR, it was all japes really.

    I would imagine the 5 people who died as a result of his ‘rent and rates’ strike thought it was all a jolly good laugh what ho old boy?

    rarely did it go beyond words, and there was little if any real actions to back the words up.

    Well he got his way didn’t he. Let me flesh it out further for you DR, see if you can get the picture: say for example one person says to another person ‘give me yhour money or I’ll cut your throat’. From here one of two things may happen, 1) person b gives his money to person a, and he doesn;t get his throat cut or 2) person b says ‘no you’re not getting my money’ and person a cuts his throat.

    Craig threatened (and backed up by nearly 200,000 people) to murder whoever got in their way, should their demands not be met.

    Their demands were met, as a result of the threat. So fortunately Craig never got round to carrying out his threats, being as there was no need.

    Cold comfort to the people who died over the course of the various strikes but then you say there was little if any real actions . Apart from the dead people you’re quite right.

    And good on you, you stick to your guns. Unionists never did nathin! Good luck selling that bullshit story.

    I wasn;t seeking equivalence, as I pointed out. I’d just love to see a smidgen of honesty, after all you think he ‘restrained’ Unionists at the time. Fuck knows what would have happened had he been on hell raiser mode.

    But then all these strikes, killings, associations with murderers, threatening the state when you don’t get your way – it is just fine and dandy isn’t it. It’s only when them fenians do [exactly] what Unionists have done that you get upset. Just like the UWC strike, rent and rates strikes, Holy Cross and Drumcree.

    Sorry I don’t really see the point in the whataboutery but I’m certain you’re ready to rhyme off some list of atrocities so I thought I’d join in.

    there was little if any real actions to back the words up

    Quote of the day for Unionist sidestepping that Orange elephant in the sitting room.

  • When Nevin @ 2:17 pm so adeptly elided “slither” into “sliot(h)ar”, my first reaction was: “What? The puck?” or something adjacent.

    so, onward and upward, with James Nicol: Poems, chiefly in the Scottish dialect (1805):

    Fir’d wi’ hope, he onward dashes,
    Thro’ heather, sclithers, bogs, an’ rashes.

    Back on topic, I’m not surprised, but a trifle peeved, that nobody has managed to acknowledge what I was trying to do, much earlier in this thread.

    Craig, before he went rogue at Home Affairs (a promotion too far?), had a useful career as Chief Whip and (as I endeavoured to nudge others to recall) as Minister of Development. On 1 Jan 1965, as the incoming Minister for Development, Craig had the promise of a £900 million budget (remember: at 1964 prices). Wilson and the Westminster government were prepared to turn on all the taps of tax allowances, grants and employment premiums.

    Now, the $64,000 dollar dilemma: did Craig blow it by deliberately, crudely and cruelly favouring prod areas? Or, was the plan fatally flawed anyway (as Geoffrey Copcutt and others argued)? Either way, the perception from the nationalist view-point was a sour one; and was an ingredient in what ensued.

  • AGlassOfHine

    “In an attempt to rewrite history, so clearly shown by republican commentators on here, making loyalist violence equal or greater than their own sickening record, republicans trawl through the records for crumbs of support to their claims, skipping over their own bloody trail to the Executive table. But at the end of it it all the fact remains they killed twice as many people as the loyalists, and 6 times as many as the Security forces, not to mention the destruction of property and lives.”

    Maybe neil would have been more sympathetic to Bill Craig,if he’d actually carried out his threats ? neil,crystal ball in hand,knows for a fact,Craig would have done so ? Sidestepping facts neil,with ifs and buts,is pretty laughable.

  • ItwasSammyMcNally

    AGlassOfHine, Drumlins,

    Leaving aside the whataboutery, excuses, passage of time, amnesia et al.

    Do you think that threatening civil war (when you are part of an oraganisation which is liasing with paramilitaries) unless an elected government changes its policy is a serious criminal offence or not?

  • Zachariah Tiffins Foot

    It seems in the view of Irish Republicans that the late Bill Craig’s crime was to only threaten violence. No doubt given the track record of that community’s great and good Craig would have garnered more kudos if he had actually lead a murder gang. Hell Irish Republicans would probably have voted for him in that case.

    Keep plugging away boys (oops) at the very least you’re convincing yourselves that those rascal Prods were the real baddies.

  • As unionists have always played the “law and order card” since 1922, when a line was drawn not only accross Ireland but underneath History…they are very unsympathetic to unionists/loyalists who step outside the law, or who are seeming to threaten to do so.
    They will of course….indeed they did….turn out in their thousands to hear Bill Craig and people like him. But in 2011, they would prefer not to think about it.
    People like ex-loyalist prisoners do not enjoy the same esteem as their republican counterparts. It is of course not just a fact from 1970….but rather a fact going back generations.

  • Greenflag

    Comrade Stalin,

    ‘It does, therefore, seem reasonable to conclude that his first objective was not securing the union but was to become top dog.’

    Securing the ‘union’ could not be accomplished by either Molyneux’s ‘no talks ‘ policy or his integration fetish nor could it be secured by Paisley’s ‘No to power sharing ‘ nor by Craig’s threats of liquidation of ‘enemies. The ‘union ‘ in the end can only be temporarily secured by a power sharing Executive which has a coalition between the two main community parties or an amalgam of the remaining parties plus the AP . Paisley in the end proved to be a much more effective politician than any of his contemporary unionist competition -that in itself is an interesting outcome given Paisley’s background.

    ‘had Stormont acted swiftly to address the concerns of the civil rights movement I doubt the PIRA would have come into existence.’

    I tend to agree or even if it did it would have become a very pale shadow of what it eventually became . As Home Affairs Minister Bill Craig was very much in the front line of events . Nowadays we see regimes in other parts of the world being toppled (Egypt, Tunisia , Libya and in the former eastern bloc countries Russia , Poland ,Hungary etc ) because the state forces of law and order and/or the army -refused to shoot at unarmed demonstrators or use disproportionate violence against protesting civilians . As Home Affairs Minister Bill Craig was no slouch when it came to sending in the B Specials and the RUC . Of course at the time there was no question that the RUC & B Specials were nothing other than the armed wing of the old Unionist Party .

    In Syria today the police are equally politicised which is why that regime has killed 400 plus of it’s citizens and ditto for Iran where the death toll has been much higher . But these regimes are both on their last legs . Once the people have risen then the politicians who can’t or won’t adapt end up being buried by the forces of revolution and or reaction . In Bill Craigs case he was snookered between both forces -failing to react quickly enough with reform to the one and in retro being too quick to accept ‘voluntary coalition ‘ for the forces of reaction . The fact that those same ‘reactionary ‘ forces were later to find a new accommodation with their political enemies must have bemused Mr Craig in his later years.

    To add to that, it has always been my view that the IRA was a reaction, albeit an entirely unjustified, undemocratic and disproportionate one which acted to reinforce hardline unionism rather than soften it. The IRA had abandoned violence in the 1950s and, had Stormont acted swiftly to address the concerns of the civil rights movement I doubt the PIRA would have come into existence.

  • ItwasSammyMcNally

    AGlassOfHine, Drumlins

    Any answers?

    Zachariah Tiffins Foot,

    Just more whataboutery.

  • Greenflag

    error last paragraph in above at 6.39pm is superflous forgot to delete:(

    Drumlin’s Rock,

    ‘Maybe some context is needed, this was the year when the IRA threatened to demolish Belfast brick by brick, the difference being they then attempted to do so, not only with the 22 bombs on Bloody Friday, but in up to 1,300 bombs throughout that year,’

    A good point and one which is forgotten by most who have commented including myself . Not that it excuses Mr Craig from his bloodthirsty comments which heightened tensions -but probably no more so than the Paisley or others among the Unionist ‘right wing ‘ of the time.

    Mr Craig in the end can be seen as a politician who said more (threatened more than he ever actually did 😉 We cannot now know that had he usurped or won ‘top dog’ position in unionism that he would have made good on his threats with actual deeds . I suspect that he would not have , for in the end -even he came down on the side of voluntary coalition long before Paisley or even Trimble or Empey .

    In the end his political career was russian fronted by competing political forces within unionism . It would seem that the same fate awaits Jim Allister’s TUV.

  • ItwasSammyMcNally

    Greenflag,

    “A good point and one which is forgotten by most who have commented including myself ”

    I would have to disagree there – it a point which is used by DR to excuse Craig.

    The key point is surely this, was it correct for Craig, Trimble, Wee Reggie et al to use paramilitary muscle to defy the government of the day?

  • Jo

    “As unionists have always played the “law and order card” since 1922, when a line was drawn not only accross Ireland but underneath History…they are very unsympathetic to unionists/loyalists who step outside the law”

    I for one don’t recall any Loyalist funeral in the 70s or 80s or 90s that was shunned by the community that the deceased came from. Billy Wright? John McMichael? John Bingham? Joe Bratty?

  • Comrade Stalin

    Drumlins:

    Maybe like many others during those years Bill Craig has been stained by association with those who took innocent lives,

    You call hanging around with murderers, and exhorting them to commit murder, a “stain” ?

    But at the end of it it all the fact remains they killed twice as many people as the loyalists, and 6 times as many as the Security forces, not to mention the destruction of property and lives.

    So what ?

  • Comrade Stalin

    Finally as for “fiery rhetoric”, although a small number may have taken it seriously, in most cases it provided a vent for the frustration and fears of Unionists, making them feel something was being done by someone, rarely did it go beyond words, and there was little if any real actions to back the words up.

    Ah yes. The UDA/UVF/UFF must be a figment of my imagination then, together with the ~800 people they killed (mostly civilians).

  • Zachariah Tiffins Foot

    IWSMCN

    Whatchamacallit,

    From a past master of the art form I gratefully accept your accolade as recognition for my poor effort. I of course remain a mere apprentice, sensi.

  • joeCanuck

    Time to put all this away. He is dead and his family will be grieving.

  • PaddyReilly

    A certain monk lived to a tremendously great age, and considered this a mark of God’s favour. However he had the misfortune to be visited by one of the great saints of his time, who had the power to read men’s hearts and discern the intentions of God, but was, in my opinion, a bit of a Jeremiah. (I was told the name, but this is from a sermon I heard 20 years ago, so I have forgotten.)

    Well, said the saint, you are very old, are you not, Brother Methusaleh?
    Yes, said the monk, God is well pleased with me and I am now 102.
    But, said the saint, are you certain that this is a mark of God’s favour? Could God not be retaining you in hanc lacrimarum valle because there is some great fault you once committed, which you have not yet repented of? Is it not a fact that you once allowed the most holy lamb to fall on the floor and failed to confess it? (For the benefit of non-Catholic readers, I should explain that this refers not to the Sunday roast but the communion wafer, to which Romishers ascribe a perhaps excessive reverence.)
    By gum, said the monk, I think you’re right, and made a beeline for the confessional. (As we say in Irish, is furasda an t-aos óg a mhealladh).
    He confessed , was given absolution, and died that very afternoon, fortified by the sacraments of the Holy Catholic Church. Sacred Heart of Jesus have mercy on his soul. Holy Queen of the Rosary, pray for him.

    As for William Craig, I’m glad he lived to visit Corrymeela in a suitably conciliatory frame of mind. And I seem to remember that the priest at Dominic McGlinchey’s funeral said, there’s a little bit of bad in the best of us, and a little bit of good in the worst of us.

  • Valenciano

    Paddy Reilly: “The funny thing is why in 1982 he, at the age of 58, suddenly just shut up and was never heard from again. Maybe his sabre-rattling was just designed to further his political career, and in the absence of that, he didn’t bother any more. Just settled down to a quiet retirement.”

    ===============
    Or maybe more likely he saw the writing on the wall? If he had hung around post 1982 a UKUP/NIUP style future is the best he could have hoped for with his career thereafter. His options weren’t exactly rosy. He’d already quit the UUP not just once but twice and had burnt his bridges there.

    Highly unlikely that he’d have thrown in his lot with the DUP. I’d hazard a guess that there must have been a bit of bad blood between him and Paisley over the way the latter shafted him during the 1975 convention.

    That only left him with the option of going it alone, but where? He’d last represented his original base in Larne a decade before. East Belfast had firmly rejected him in 1982. That only left North Down. Even in the unlikely event that he’d beaten Kilfedder there in 1983, he’d have been reduced to being no more than a bit player. The leader and solitary MP of a North Down centred micro party a la Kilfedder or McCartney. It’s not really surprising that he chose to throw in the towel.

  • Malcolm, with regard to the puck, I think we’re on the same wavelength!

    CS, ‘people like X’ can speak for themselves. I’ve flagged that one up …

  • Greenflag

    IWSMWDI,

    ‘The key point is surely this, was it correct for Craig, Trimble, Wee Reggie et al to use paramilitary muscle to defy the government of the day?’

    You could ask the same question of the men of 1916, the UVF in 1912, the Irregulars in the Irish Civil War and the long running Provo campaign of the 60’s through 90’s? And probably of many conflicts around the world today such as in Iran , Syria, Libya, Kosovo , the Basque country etc etc .

    Paddy Reilly hits the right note above with his comment re Mr Craig’s later visit to Corrymeela in conciliatory mood and at this point I’m heeding JC’s advice

    ‘Time to put all this away. He is dead and his family will be grieving.’

    Errare est humanum -applies to all of us . Forgive and move on.

  • Comrade Stalin

    You could ask the same question of the men of 1916, the UVF in 1912, the Irregulars in the Irish Civil War and the long running Provo campaign of the 60′s through 90′s? And probably of many conflicts around the world today such as in Iran , Syria, Libya, Kosovo , the Basque country etc etc .

    I don’t think you can ask the same question. Unionists always talked about democracy, peaceful means, can’t negotiate with terrorists etc. Yet the means they used routinely contradicted these values.

  • AGlassOfHine

    The figures speak for themselves ! I know in republican world,everything is the fault of themmuns,but really,when it comes to bloody terror,republicans are top of the league,with an outstanding goal difference ( even if there were a few own goals )

    In the words of the Prime Minister,calm down dears………..Bill may well have threatened violence………….his republican counterparts carried through out thier threats !!

    RIP Bill,in the knowledge that the Union is safe and secure.