Having served in the British Army, O'Neill was more at home in England. He made his contempt for Unionist MPs well known and this acted as a hindrance later when he became Prime Minister. O'Neill took over in a more relaxed time. The tensions between the Protestants and Catholics were easing around the world and the Nationalist and Unionist tension in Ireland was also easing. Sean Lemass, as Taoiseach of the Republic, made it clear he wanted co-operation with the North rather then partition. This was an ideal time for O'Neill to take over, with tensions easing off it meant certain policies could be created that weren't even considered before. O'Neill also made an attempt to respond to this atmosphere by being the first Northern Prime Minister to visit a Catholic school, this would have gone unnoticed elsewhere but in Northern Ireland, it was revolutionary and caused extreme Unionists like Ian Paisley to protest. At this stage it appeared that O'Neill would make a huge contribution to the affairs of Northern Ireland.
O'Neill's main aim however was not to reconcile with Nationalists. O'Neill hoped to defeat the Northern Ireland Labour Party by encouraging economic growth. O'Neill set up a number of committees to report on future economic policies. There was the Benson Report 1963; it recommended improving road transport and the closing of uneconomic railways like Belfast to Derry. There was the Matthew Report which suggested slowing down economic growth in Belfast and focusing economic development somewhere else. To Nationalists in the west this would have appeared quite fortunate to them because they believed that the economic development might move west where Nationalists were in a majority. However this was not the case, as most of the development remained east of the Bann. The people of Derry were aggravated when a new city named Craigavon was set up in Portadown, the government said that grounds on the west were 'too remote' and foreign companies wouldn't want to set up there which undermined the idea of growth centres elsewhere.