"He's coming!" With that, the assembled press hurriedly set up their equipment and got their writing utensils at the ready. All attention in the Central Hall was directed towards the grand marble staircase. Gazing down at them were two sets of eyes. Firstly the lifeless eyes of The 1st Viscount Craigavon, the first Prime Minister of Northern Ireland. While it had been just over two decades since the end of his premiership, the large life-size bronze statue still commanded the attention of all those who entered the Central Hall of Parliament Buildings, since its installation in 1945. The second set of eyes belonged to William 'Bill' Craig. Like his namesake, he was also of a towering and well-built nature - yet he was dwarfed by the former Prime Minister, on his pedestal. Craig's eyes squinted as he focused on the assembled press below him, both knew exactly why the other was there. For Craig was the Chief Whip of the Unionist Party, and thus had the unenviable task of announcing the results of the leadership election for the party of government in Northern Ireland. Unlike his predecessors as Chief Whip, the Larne MP was to announce the results of the first contested leadership election in the party's nearly sixty-year history. The candidates each represented two vastly different constituencies within the Official Unionist Party. The party establishment candidate, and the favourite for the leadership, Captain The Rt. Hon. Terence Marne O'Neill, 48, and the incumbent Minister for Finance. The Bannside MP was the representative of the landed upper-class wing of the party, which had generally held sway within Ulster Unionism from the very beginning. O'Neill was also the standard bearer of the liberal wing of the party, which had begun to emerge from its cocoon, after nearly twenty years of rule by the hardline Basil Brooke, the outgoing Prime Minister. Enter stage right - The Rt. Hon. Arthur Brian Deane Faulkner, 42, and the incumbent Minister for Home Affairs. The Member of the Northern Ireland Parliament for East Down was seen as the representative of the emerging middle-class constituency within the party. Faulkner was exceedingly popular among those on the party's right-wing - his handling of security during the IRA's Border Campaign was widely applauded on the right of the party. Faulkner, a self-professed traditional unionist, was very much the underdog in the race for the party leadership - indeed most of the assembled press considered him to have a little more than a snowball's chance in hell of emerging victorious. Besides the members of the Ulster Unionists Council, the party's ruling executive, and the candidates themselves, Craig was the only person to know what the final result was. This knowledge was printed onto a small white sheet of paper, which had been typed up by one of the party's secretaries little more than ten minutes prior. Craig held the contents of the sheet of paper tightly in his hand - God forbid he dropped it and someone from RTE would break the news of the result while the red faced Chief Whip of the Unionist Party tried to snatch the paper back from the little Fenian git. Craig maintained his glare and his stepped down the immaculate marble steps of the grand staircase until he was standing two steps above the press at the bottom (for he had to look good for the camera!) As some aides shot up the stairs, much to Craig's consternation, he started to unfold the crumpled piece of paper before the gaze of the press. His eyes squinted again as he became accustomed to the glare of bright lights hastily assembled by presumably the BBC, for RTE would probably not spend that much on new from the occupied six. Clearing his throat he began to address those listening in. "Gentlemen..." Good start. "...As Chief Whip of the Unionist Party and as Chairman of the Selection Meeting that has just taken place, I now announce the result..." Craig gave a slight grin as he proceeded to let the press wait for the results. Play with them for their scoop should be a pleasant and rather fun exercise for this time on a Monday morning in late March. After a pregnant pause that seemed to last for a considerable time, he began to announce the results of the election. "Mr. Brian Faulkner - seventeen votes." That was half the parliamentary party, surely O'Neill had the numbers to equal this. A seventeen all split would surely do wonders for party unity... "Captain T.M. O'Neill - fourteen votes." There was an audible gasp from the press as the surprise result was announced. Craig was naturally enjoying delivering what would be the top billing news for at least RTE and BBC Ulster. He proceeded to fold the dog-eared page over rather meticulously, so as to seeming waste the time of the press; before placing it in his pocket. His eyes squinted once again and he looked directly into one of the cameras - hopefully, that of the BBC - before delivering the rest of his address. "Afterward... it was moved... by Mr. Jack Andrews, and seconded by Mr. Harry West, that the meeting unanimously accepted the decision and swung in behind Mr. Faulkner... It is my understanding that Mr. Faulkner will assume the office of Prime Minister when the current Prime Minister tenders his resignation with immediate effect to the Governor, the Lord Wakehurst, later on this afternoon. Gentlemen, thank you very much." Before any of the press could even attempt to pose a question to the Larne MP, he had already lifted himself up the marble staircase and back towards the Unionist Party rooms, situated above the Central Hall in Parliament Buildings. The result which he had just announced was certain to affect the future of the six county province for many years to come. The general question was if Faulkner would be 'a Brooke' (a successful Premier whose tenure in office would be counted in terms of decades as opposed to years) or 'an Andrews' (a less successful one whose time in office would be numbered in the years and not decades). While the decision was certainly momentous and could have swung either way, no one could have predicted the political and social upheaval that would occur over the course of the next few years and decades, much of which is attributed to the stances, policies and actions of the Faulkner Ministry. As a result of these various factors the Unionist Party would see its precious and long held hegemony over Stormont challenged by forces on the left, centre and the right - indeed it would even face a challenge within Unionism itself, a fact that would probably have resulted in laughs of disbelief if it had been uttered in the weeks after the rise to power of Faulkner. For during those first few months and years, the grasp on power and control of the situation was firmly held by the Unionist Party. --- Oh... Its you again... *Waves* Couldn't take the hint could you? Huh? Oh... Never mind... Okay then... What is this? Well its a new Northern Ireland based timeline. Yes, I can see that. For those of us not from a country where the only safe thing to drink is Buckfast, explain exactly what this means. Well the idea is that Brian Faulkner, who was until he became Prime Minister of Northern Ireland in the early 1970s, the scion of right-wing Ulster Unionism; here he becomes Prime Minister at an early date. As a result of him not having to deal with the collapse of the Stormont system from day one, he is thus not forced to moderate as he did in OTL. Didn't you do something like this before? I don't know what you're talking about... Yes you did, it was that rather shitty first TL of yours that no one read. Don't have to put it that bluntly... Yes it was - wasn't that going to end in a Rhodesia style UDI in the mid seventies. Umm, yes? That's going to happen here isn't it? No... Yes it will... I can assure you it will not. Fine then, prove it. I will if you'd let me actually get started. Be my guest. With pleasure... --- Thanks to @Gorrister for helping me with the TL name.