After a succession of junior offices, Captain O'Neill, as he was known, became Minister for Finance in 1956 and in 1963 succeeded Brookeborough as Prime Minister. His policies were new: to attract investment to the ailing shipbuilding and linen industries, to forge new links with the trade unions, to bring Protestants and Catholics into working relationships, and to end sectarianism and the long injustice of Protestant rule. A historic event was the visit of Seán Lemass to Belfast, at O'Neill's invitation, in January 1965, the first such contact since partition. He met opposition from within his own party and was attacked by Ian Paisley, then emerging as a leader in the entrenched opposition to any concessions to Catholics.
When the civil rights campaign began in 1968, peaceful demonstrations were met with violence, and a dormant IRA became revitalised as Catholics sought for protection. The violence intensified, and O'Neill called a snap general election in February 1969, warning that Northern Ireland was at the crossroads. No mandate for reform resulted, and he resigned soon after and retired to a quiet country life in England.
I have brought together of how Captain T. O'Neill dealt with the controversy of being prime minister and how he dealt with the situations above.
On the 15th November 1945 all the nationalists mps and senators, together with around 500 other delegates, met in Dungannon. There they formed the Irish Anti-Partition League, 'with the object of uniting all those opposed to partition into a solid block'. The Nationalists abandoned their erratic abstentionism of the inter-war years, and soon had the enthusiastic backing of de Valera and Irish organisations in Britain and America. During the crises of...