In 1963, the ‘liberal’ Terence O’Neill replaced traditionalist Lord Brookeborough as the north’s Unionist Prime Minister. De Valera’s successor, the pragmatic Sean Lemass, became the first Taoiseach to visit Stormont. The talk was of a new era and fairness for all.

New multinational industries with no vested interest in unionism seemed to herald fair employment. But ‘modernisation’ under O’Neill didn’t benefit Derry. 

One of the city’s last two rail links, the Great Northern line to Dublin, was axed under the Benson Report in 1964.  

In the same year, the Matthew Plan identified Portadown/Lurgan, not Derry, as the major centre for development in the north: a new city, Craigavon, was proposed.

University and unemployment

The Lockwood Report allocated the north’s second university not to the second city but to unionist Coleraine. A protest motorcade to Belfast in 1965, led by Catholic professionals and business people, failed to reverse the decision. 

In 1967, the south ward’s only major employer, Birmingham Sound Reproducers (BSR), established at Bligh’s Lane in 1951, closed with the loss of 1,000 jobs. The city’s unemployment rate, which had fallen to a post-war low of 10.1% in March 1966, soared back to 20.1%. Normality once again