Questions for Politicians

Questions for Politicians

Date: 04/06/2021 00:00

Questions for Politicians (1964) © ITV 

Our staff pick for June comes from the Broadcasting Authority of Ireland (BAI) Archiving Scheme 2 and has been digitised as part of the ongoing partnership between Northern Ireland Screen and the Public Record Office of Northern Ireland to make the Ulster Television archives available to all. The Digital Film Archive is a wonderful resource and offers a wealth of stories of our past.

The 1964 United Kingdom general election in Northern Ireland was held on 15 October 1964 with 12 MPs elected in single-seat constituencies using the first-past-the-post system. The Ulster Unionist Party won all the seats as it had in the previous election, but times were changing in Northern Ireland and it faced opposition in ten of the twelve seats from the Northern Ireland Labour Party who had its most successful election. Overall, the Ulster Unionist vote went down.

Northern Ireland had been relatively peaceful after the end of the IRA border campaign in 1962 but unrest was growing in other ways as the economy began to falter. The growth of the Civil Rights movement in the USA filtered across the Atlantic and the idea of peaceful resistance started to gain momentum. We can see this in other films from this time: small protests against housing discrimination and terrible living conditions grew from one man walking to Stormont to an organised campaign by the residents of Springtown camp in Derry. “We Shall Overcome” began to appear on posters and there was a growing impetus to address issues of poverty. As UTV began to evolve as a television station, it started to cover these issues more and more, (something that is becoming clear as the Digital Film Archive works with new material from the BAI project.)

In addition, Harland & Wolff and Short Brothers in Belfast were starting to lose business and jobs. Strikes were becoming more frequent as industry went into decline all over Northern Ireland and more work went abroad, especially to Asia.

In the light of all this change, this month’s staff pick is a vox pop from a variety of citizens who have some important questions for a panel of politicians in the run-up to the election. They include pensioners, farmers, city and rural dwellers, and politicians from smaller parties such as Tom Boyd from the Northern Ireland Labour Party. Among the topics are nuclear deterrents, entry into the Common Market, devolution of power to Stormont and the NHS under pressure. Many of the questions are still pertinent today.