Murphy praises leader who sent troops to NI

 

BRITAIN: Northern Secretary Paul Murphy has paid tribute to the late James Callaghan, who as British home secretary in 1969 was responsible for first bringing British troops into Northern Ireland during the period of the civil rights movement.

Mr Murphy said the former British prime minister was a great statesman and British Labour Party leader. Mr Murphy said that Lord Callaghan was committed to bringing stability to Northern Ireland and achieving a settlement in the North.

"He was deeply sincere in wanting to get an accommodation here," he said yesterday. "I had known Jim Callaghan for a quarter of a century and he was always kind and supportive of me, personally as a fellow Welsh MP and later as a minister. He was a hugely inspirational figure," added Mr Murphy.

"He was a man of great honour, compassion and dignity and my thoughts and prayers are with his family," he said.

The DUP leader Ian Paisley said that while he did not share his political views while Lord Callaghan was in office, he later developed a good relationship with him.

"He was a decent man and I certainly had a good personal relationship with him when he was on the back benches. He was always keen to talk about Northern Ireland and he was always keen to find out what the Democratic Unionist Party's views were on it," he told the BBC.

SDLP leader Mark Durkan said people can "reflect positively" on Lord Callaghan's intervention as home secretary in 1969 at the height of the civil rights movement when he brought in the troops.

"But that intervention should have been more complete and decisive. He had the opportunity and should have abolished Stormont at that time. He was also the prime minister who stuck us with [ northern secretary] Roy Mason and his anti-political security agenda," he added.

"Subsequent developments proved that there was much more that he could have done to develop Anglo-Irish relations. He was avuncular and apparently sincere, so it will always be a disappointment that on Ireland he did not act more, act better and act sooner," said Mr Durkan.

Senior Ulster Unionist Assembly member Sir Reg Empey said the image of Mr Callaghan taking a megaphone in his hand and addressing the crowd in the Bogside in Derry would be a lasting historical image. He said that the RUC, which only had a force of 3,500 at time, was so overwhelmed that history would probably judge that he had no alternative but to bring in the troops.

"At the time it was said they would be home by Christmas, but as was the case here and as may be seen in Iraq, sometimes Christmas never comes," added Sir Reg.

He said Lord Callaghan would have been viewed as hostile to unionists but when he moved on to become foreign secretary and prime minister, it was probably seen that he developed a more rounded view of unionists.