In March 1963, Terence O’Neill became Prime Minister of Northern Ireland. He had previously been Minister of Finance. O’Neill wanted to modernise Northern Ireland politically and socially. Partly to underpin the sort of change he envisaged, he continued his attempts to develop Northern Ireland’s economy, particularly;
- by helping to attract inward investment on the part of British, American and Continental-European manufacturing firms;
- through diversification, the aim of which was to reduce dependence on declining traditional industries (such as linen manufacture); and
- through inducements in the form of direct grants for new factories and the construction of associated infrastructure (such as the trunk-road network).
Reactions to O’Neill’s modest reform proposals and his efforts to reach out to the Catholic community were decidedly mixed. However, after his departure and especially after the start of Direct Rule, much more radical reform was imposed on Northern Ireland by the UK Government.