Letter: Unionists no bigots

Sir: Given the particular significance of the Crown in the affairs of Northern Ireland, a voice from that quarter seems conspicuously lacking at this critical time. It was not always so.

On 22 June 1921, King George V opened the new Ulster Parliament at Stormont. Rejecting the hard-line tendency of the official address provided, the King chose instead to express himself in language intended to appeal to the whole of the Irish people. He spoke, he said, "from the heart".

"I pray that my coming to Ireland today may prove to be the first step towards an end of strife amongst her peoples, whatever their race or creed. In that hope I appeal to all Irishmen to pause, to stretch out the hand of forbearance and conciliation, to forgive and forget and to join in making for the land which they love a new era of peace, contentment and goodwill."

The King's speech had an immediate political effect. When, the following day, Prime Minister Lloyd George unexpectedly offered de Valera a conference between the British government and representatives of northern and southern Ireland it was done, he said, "in the spirit of the King's words". A J P Taylor considered that George V had performed the greatest service by a British monarch in modern times.


London SW9