Northern Ireland - Political parties

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Two new political parties calling for independence for Northern Ireland were formed in October 1977. The Irish Independence Party was inaugurated on Oct. 7, 1977, under the joint chairmanship of Mr Frank McManus, Unity MP for Fermanagh and South Tyronc at Westminster from 1970 to February 1974, and Mr Fergus McAteer, son of Mr Edward McAteer, the former Nationalist Party leader. They told a press conference in Belfast that the party sought a British withdrawal from the province by non-violent means, and believed that as a first step the Dublin Government should make a clear call for British disengagement.

The Ulster Independence Party, advocating an independent Northern Ireland with power sharing at all levels based on the elec-toral performance of the political parties, was launched on Oct.14, 1977, by Mr Eric Robinson, a Belfast architect. The party was believed to have the support of Mr John McKeague, a prominent advocate of independence, and the Ulster Loyalist Central Co-ordinating Committee, an umbrella group for Protestant para-military organizations.

The Vanguard Unionist Party was formed in March 1973 and as part of the former United Ulster Unionist Coalition (UUUC) contested the Westminster general elections of February and October 1974 and the NI Constitutional Convention election of May 1975. Following the split in the party over his proposal for an emergency coalition government including the Social Democratic and Labour Party, Mr Craig was expelled from the UUUC in October 1975 and ceased to take its whip at Westminster. The UUUC itself was dissolved after the unsuccessful loyalist strike of May 1977.

Following the dissolution on Feb.25, 1978, of the Vanguard Unionist Party, its leader and sole Westminster MP, Mr William Craig, joined the Official Unionist Party, thus increasing that party's representation at Westminster from six to seven. (The other Official Unionists were Mr Robert Bradford, Mr John Carson, Mr James McCusker, Mr James Molyneaux, Mr Enoch Powell and Mr William Ross; the remaining Unionists were Mr John Dunlop, United Ulster Unionist, Mr James Kilfedder, Independent Unionist, and the Rev. Ian Paisley, Democratic Unionist.)

The decision to dissolve Vanguard had been taken on Nov.27,1977, by the party's central council after six months of talks between Mr Craig and Official Unionist leaders on the possibility of a merger.

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