Towards a Unionist Rememberance of the 1916 Insurrection

Reading David McCann making the case at the beginning of this year for unionists not to shut out the event commonly known as the Easter rising (although equally thought provoking is Gladys Ganiel’s take on the religious spin involved in such nomenclature), what strikes me here is we have an attack, during the Great War, that while successfully repelled on our home soil changed attitudes irrevocably and touched many lives on both sides.

It is only right that fellow unionists acknowledge the bravery and sacrifice on the part of both ordinary Dubliners and professional security forces in ensuring this localised rebellion did not become something more serious in a global war that might still have went either way.

While there is a necessity in unionist participation it is also I believe too casual to promote ‘Easter Rising|The Somme’ as either side of this year’s commemorative coin. It is a common trait in Irish republican rhetoric to melt concepts down into a simplistic analysis that demands a certain superficial level of equality. This naturally suits the narrative advocated by themselves.

Thus we read David warning of a ‘hierarchy of commemorations’ similar to the ‘hierarchy of victims’ and might even be extended to a ‘hierarchy of football teams’ as some complained about last week.

These do not stand up to reality; there is still nothing concrete planned for the Republic’s football team in their own capital city nevermind what BCC is expecting up here despite the apparent clamour, the less said about treating self-described ‘combatants’ as victims the better and we run into similar problems when attempting to splice together a relatively small 6 day disturbance involving a thousand or so separatist rebels and a huge battle in a series of huge battles involving hundreds of thousands of men from all corners of the world against a common foe.

In a way the DUP’s Nigel Kells with his topline on this is correct – the two are ultimately incomparable in both scale and setting; it risks swapping historical accuracy for political fantasy (or journalistic expediency). But it does not follow that we should therefore ignore one completely in favour of the other. To do so would be historical luddism and a disservice to those who fell defending our realm on home turf.

On one level there is the idea that in the absence of unionist input Irish nationalists – of whatever shade – are given free rein to define how the event is remembered. In the Irish Republic, tricolours and proclamations have already made their way into schools, delivered by the hand of an Irish Defence Force soldier.

Take a second to imagine the notion of a similar action here during the centenary year of the UVF. It’s still a struggle for historians to adequately define the meaning of various aspects of Irish history – not least something as complicated as the 1916 period – so god knows what a 5 year old kid is meant to make of it. But by placing it front and centre in their primary schools, the southern state has largely made up their mind for them.

On an historical level, the attack is important as it is the scene for likely the only pitched battle between Irish loyalist volunteer militia and Republicans during the 3rd Home Rule bill period.

The old Loyal Dublin Volunteers, setup with the express purpose of civil defence in the event of Home Rule being passed had come and gone with the advent of WWI. The LDV dispersed variously into the pals battalions, whether in Dublin or northwards to the 36th though many of those who were unable to serve at the front joined a little known organisation calling themselves the Irish Volunteer Training Corps.

This outfit was modelled on the VTCs raised in the mainland rather than against any specific political threat, though like the LDV before it was a purely civilian invention having never received formal recognition by the War Office.

Here then was another Irish volunteer militia raised for the Imperial interest. 120 men of this Irish VTC seen action against the rebels in and around Beggar’s Bush Barracks with 5 killed – including the president of the IRFU – and 7 wounded.

One kilometre to the north west of these volunteers, the cadets of the Dublin University Officer Training Corps set about the defence of Trinity College. Occupying sniper positions at the front of the college they are surely the only officer training corps who seen action in the United Kingdom defending their own university.

On the subject of the key protagonists themselves, the UUP’s Jeff Dudgeon has already written extensively on one, Roger Casement, including touching on his important failure to raise an army destined for Ireland from Irish POW’s captured by the Germans. Casement sought a brigade to foment rebellion. 50 Irish troops were convinced to join him further underlining the complete lack of mandate which the rebellion had in the eyes of the Irish people at the time.

As an aside, reading a learned Ulster Unionist review works on Irish Republicans delivers a fascinating insight into the deeply polarising nature of Irish history (even by the standards of historians!). None of this is something to be taken lightly, and perhaps means an attempt at populist commemoration in anything like what the Republic’s government are engaging in is doomed to failure from the start. However it is an election year after all…

To conclude then the bravery of both the Dublin volunteers and the security forces who repelled the insurgent force is the real comparison for unionists when looking at the domestic situation in 1916 Ireland. In helping to protect what might be characterised as the Imperial achilles heel at the time, the unquestioning devotion of this segment of a civilian population in defending their way of life deserves recognition.

If for no other reason than the benefit of the 5 year old kid whose Great Great Grandparent happened not to fight for a rebel proclamation, but instead did so from inside the barracks at Beggar’s Bush and the halls of Trinity College in defence of the United Kingdom.

, , ,

  • Karl

    Unionists can and do remember 1916. If I recall correctly, the UUP go to Dublin to lay a wreath for the British soldiers / police who lost their lives. The nationalist narrative is that the Rising was the beginning of a nationalist awaking that led to independence from Britain.
    There is no need for unionists to be invited to partake in something that they wouldnt have agreed with at the time or now, that was in direct opposition to their interests and desires. There is an insecurity about FG type nationalism that wants to see other people legitmising it by standing beside them and saying ‘we’re nice people and this is all forgotten’. Theres nothing nice about putting a bullet in someones head, firing a 100mm artillery shell or dropping a 1000lb bomb from 25,000ft.
    Sharing is not necessary. Remembering is. Not rose tinted remembering. Those ceramic poppies at the tower of London should have been crushed by a cement roller to represent the lives that were smashed in that war. The outcry would have been huge from a people who no longer remembering the horror of war but the propaganda of legitimising the decisions of politicians both then and now.
    The Rising has been legitimised by the existence of a separate state for 90+ years. Nationalism has made a mistake in joining the unionist narrative in commemorating WWI as a noble sacrifice for freedom rather than the pointless butchery it was. Nationalists should commemorate all Irish men who went off to fight for whatever reason (it sure wasnt freedom) and remember the thousands who died by being ripped apart by shells and bullets, shot by their own side for refusing to participate and the support they received from a government that dumped millions on the streets when the war was over.
    You dont need to sing GSTQ to remember 17 year old boys from Belfast or Cork whose time in action lasted no more than the 20 seconds it took to reach the trench parapet. You dont need to wear a poppy to reflect on the lives destroyed on an industrial scale. You dont need to look at a union flag and listen to the last post to read the works of Sassoon and imagine what it was like to be there.
    You remember whats important to you and I’ll remember whats important to me and if we remember the same thing, so what? You dont need to hold hands to respect someone you dont know.

  • Brendan Heading

    It is a common trait in Irish republican rhetoric to melt concepts down into a simplistic analysis that demands a certain superficial level of equality.

    What I find fascinating, and a bit sad, are the desperate attempts, often founded on ignorance or at the very least a selective view, by people to defend the honour of their respective “side”.

    It isn’t the republican view that 1916 and (say) what happened in 1912 are equivalent. Republicans believe that the UVF threat against Home Rule was an attack on democracy and that 1916 was the awakening of a suppressed democratic desire for independence which was later confirmed – as they see it – in the 1918 general election. (there are all kinds of things about this that I dispute. But we’re talking about what republicans think).

    However, it’s certainly my view that these events were equivalent. Before I explain myself, I should help you calibrate your bias-filters. I’m not a republican, or a nationalist. My great grandfather served the Empire for 27 years, and two of his sons, my great uncles, volunteered upon the outbreak of WW1 (probably on their father’s insistence) without waiting to be asked by Carson or Redmond, and fought for the duration of the war – one in the stifling heat and humidity of Cawnpore, India, and the other on the killing fields in northern France, where he sustained a non-fatal bullet wound a few weeks before the final armistice was called in 1918. On the other side of my family my great-grandparents and their siblings – and ancestors – were RIC families from Sligo and Roscommon who, following partition, found themselves having to move North in a hurry.

    With that out of the way : it is a straightforward historical fact that the Irish nationalists under Redmond and Parnell pursued home rule using what we would today characterize as “exclusively peaceful and democratic means”, building allegiances and using Parliament to secure progress. This is what democrats are supposed to do. However, they were confronted by parliamentary opponents who don’t like to play fair when they’re losing. The Home Rule crisis was whipped up by Bonar Law’s Conservative Party and their friends in the military establishment who were keen to preserve the long term balance of power in Parliament.

    A line was crossed when the threat of violence was used to persuade Parliament of the consequences of passing Home Rule. I don’t want to argue about whether that threat was justified or not, because it doesn’t matter. If you are going to say that there are circumstances where you have to take up arms if Parliament is threatening your “material well-being”, then you must expect that others will act in the same way. The UVF, and the rump of Irish Volunteers who participated in the Rising, were two sides of the same coin.

    For that reason, I find Arlene Foster’s argument for refusing to participate in the commemoration of the Rising strange. (I emphasise that I don’t find the decision strange, just the reasoning). Eschewing commemoration of those behind the Rising on the basis that they were a threat to the state is on shaky ground, now that we are in an age when the Queen laid a wreath to those who died in the course of realising that threat. But more importantly, Northern Ireland was born of the same threat of violence that has been credited with securing Irish independence. Given that the other year we were treated to the sight of a convicted UVF double murderer dressing up as Carson, complete with top hat, and “inspecting” mock UVF troops carrying wooden imitation rifles in commemoration ceremonies in Belfast, I find it a bit over the top.

    As for my own opinion on the Rising, such as it is, I won’t be taking much interest in it. This doesn’t seem particularly inconsistent to me, as when I lived in Dublin back in the late 90s there were no official Easter parades at the GPO – aside from naming railway stations and (cringe-inducingly) the tower blocks at Ballymun after the leaders of the Rising, the Irish government do not seem to have consistently taken care to commemorate the Rising each year, although I know they did in 1966.

    But I view it in the way that it was viewed by most people at the time when it happened – an utterly pointless skirmish that led to needless death and destruction. The commemoration this year is not so much of the Rising itself, but of the outcome of the colossal mistake made by the British government when they chose to execute those who organised it.

  • MacRiada

    “Take a second to imagine the notion of a similar action here during the centenary year of the UVF”

    And yet it is that event, and not (as Unionists would like to pretend), WW1 that is the true ‘other side of the coin’.

    It ensured that even if (and in reality there was not even an if) Home Rule happened then Northern Ireland would be carved out (a bit like the Crimea today).

    The British Conservatives (aided by the establishment as a whole) supplied the means for the UVF to get 10,000 weapons (from the Germans) -so that Britain could then say to the Irish: “We must protect you from the people we armed!”

    Ta.

    It is the 1912 UVF gun running at Larne that is the seminal moment in the establishment of the modern state known as the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland.

    Yet Britain completely ignored the event during the year. I believe the Telegraph (the conservative paper of record) didn’t write a single article about it!

    Telling.

    In fact I believe on the day itself, during the main commemoration event there was a point where journalists were told that they had to go away as they were not invited to the final speeches (Tommy O’ Gorman RTE’s coverage).

    So what does that tell us?

    Britain refuses to acknowledge the true beginning of its current constitutional arrangement…and the journalists that try to cover it (100 years later) are told they can’t!

    So let’s at least have the maturity to stop this nonsense about it being 1914 v 1916 – it is 1912 v 1916.

    Apologies if the chronology (etc) doesn’t suit unionism -either of the Irish or British variety.

  • kensei

    Looked at from a properly zoomed out viewpoint, the Easter Rising is very much part of WW1 – it almost certainly wouldn’t have happened without it. Irish opinion was not as hostile at the start of the war as it would later turn but Ireland was not England and was far more ambivalent towards it.

    The idea that England would be stretched therefore providing an opportunity for a Revolution was critical. Being forced into being a cheerleader for the war destroyed Redmond and the Nationalist party. The mere threat of conscription provided the critical issue, long with the impact of war time price and wage controls.

    Nor is the Rising a unique moment of awakening, though it is the decisive turn. It fits perfectly with the Gaelic Revival and the general build up of nationalist sentiment that followed it. There is debate on tactics and ideals going into the Rising which feed directly into the War of independence and Civil War.

    The elements of nationalist thinking that venerate rural life fit into wider European patterns of people struggling with modernity. The Rising is not just about bloody protest either there is a multitude of people and a debate of ideas. The Rising pushes some out and some forward; the cauldron of ideas will influence other places. Lenin and Mao study Collins. The Irish experience is well noted in India.

    Equally you can’t look at 1916 and not see 1912. The psychological impact of Unionists bringing the gun into Irish politics was huge and the consequent wavering of the British government on Home Rule and the perceived difference of opinion reinforced it. Pearse references it. Eoin McNeill calls for the IVF in The North Began. It allows elements and ideas that were hitherto in the shadows to come to the fore. The undermining of democracy corrorided faith in Home Rule which again opened up space for violent republicanism. Pearse was a constitutionalist untims urprisomgly late. A lot of nationalist leaders were.

    It’s not like there were no players connected to Ulster linked with the Rising either. Connolly was active in Belfast; Sean McDiarmada spent time there; Clarke spent part of his childhood in Dungannon. Eoin McNeill went to St Malachy’s. Bulmer Hobson was an Ulster Quaker, albeit an unusual one. There were some mobilisations in Tyrone, stifled by confusion on orders.

    And of course the consequences have profound impact on everyone on the Ireland in both jurisdictions in the short, medium amd long term. Unionism might not wish to commemorate but there is a mountain to reflect on. But why change the habit of a lifetime?

    If course it is also vital to get a mkan about football at every opportunity. Bravo, boss.

  • Saint Etienne

    “The UVF, and the rump of Irish Volunteers who participated in the Rising, were two sides of the same coin.”

    Not quite. The UVF, and the majority of Irish Volunteers who subsequently split with republicans and became the National Volunteers at the request of Redmond, were equivalent. They were the popular militias backing the two main political strains in Ireland at that time.

  • Brendan Heading

    The Irish Volunteers came into existence in the first place in response to the formation of the UVF. Had the UVF not introduced the gun into the Home Rule debate, there would have been no Irish Volunteers and no Rising.

    Fair ?

  • Karl

    Out of curiosity, which of the following are ‘jointly’ commemorated?
    Waterloo
    Franco Prussian War
    Battle of Stalingrad
    6 Day War
    The Tet Offensive
    The Falklands War
    Is this commemorating together a new ‘getalongerist’ thing?

  • Robin Keogh

    I dont necessarily agree with all your points but can I just say that your comment is beautifully put and incredibly thought provoking, thank you.

  • Robin Keogh

    Excellent 😊

  • mickfealty

    The idea has very explicit roots in the post Belfast Agreement thinking in Fianna Fáil, on which more tomorrow I hope.

  • Starviking

    “it is a straightforward historical fact that the Irish nationalists under Redmond and Parnell pursued home rule using what we would today characterize as “exclusively peaceful and democratic means”.

    Except when they were trying to take down the All For Ireland Party.

  • Saint Etienne

    “Had the UVF not introduced the gun into the Home Rule debate”

    I’m not sure the gun was ever out of it contrary to the oft-quoted mantra.

    Over the home rule crisis subject in general I think much more needs to be done to take into account the perceived wisdom, social mores, etc. of the day. The UK in the home rule period was more in touch with today’s USA than today’s UK on gun law. Rifles, shotguns and pistols were prolific. Tim Bowman makes the case for this if you’re interested.

    While that’s not to say there wasn’t a cold war arms race in quick time prior to war breaking out, though both militias were formed out of people who were already drilling or preparing for violence, i.e. there was a need to keep them under political control. Whether one came before the other is largely immaterial; it was who used theirs to greatest effect.

    The IRB on the other hand stood on the sidelines itching for a fight. It was in their words “England’s difficulty” that presented them with that opportunity and not the UVF.

  • Jack Stone

    Do you think that Unionist acknowledgement of the destructive British response to the Rising could actually have a greater effect than some Unionists tepidly attending some memorial or commemoration?

  • David McCann

    Saint Etienne,

    I appreciate you taking the time to respond to my post and there are some really interesting points in your post.

    I hope you continue to write on the site about these type of issues over the coming months.

  • kensei

    You are basically wrong here. The IRB Constitution at the time forbade armed rising without popular support. Constitutional Nationalism was ascendant and Redmond and the rest of the leadership understood perfectly well about the need to maintain a strong grip of the movement – the leadership of the IV passed to Redmond more or less when he demanded it. Quite a number of the leaders were in favour of the constitutional route until quite late, Pearse included.

    It’s difficult to overstate the psychological impact that the establishment of the UVF had on Nationalist Ireland. it sets the idea that the constitutional future will be decided by those that can show force rather than parliamentary means. The IVF is a complete reaction to it. No 1912, no 1916.

  • Saint Etienne

    I find it interesting that someone would use a constitution to argue the pacificity of non-constitutional republicans!

    Michael Collins himself put independence (which is ultimately what nationalists contend is the end result of the rebellion) down to the Gaelic Movement and Sinn Fein. These roots were sown well before 1913 (the UVF were founded in 1913, the Covenant was 1912). Hypothetically if the UVF didn’t happen, and instead of a disciplined force on either side we had some more serious outrage than say the likes of Castledawson, it’s easy to speculate the inevitable consequences.

    While you are no doubt correct on the broad assertion ‘No 191(3), no 1916’ the battle precipitated in 1916 by the earlier date isn’t in Dublin; it’s at the Somme. Along the same lines I believe it’s more accurate to say ‘without the 36th there would be no 16th’ since again they were the real end results in terms of popular military support at the time. This is why the IRB backed schism at home stands out all the more.

    While it’s true that republican propaganda of the time was positively glowing in it’s fanciful editorials on the UVF, it’s more accurate to look at this as support for anything that was construed as “Redmond’s difficulty”. The idea that the UVF were somehow a battle away from joining their republican foes in the south wasn’t real and the editors knew it. The idea that the UVF undermined Redmond was.

    However it was not this that ultimately led to a changing of the guard in nationalist political power. Primary sources of the time ask why people joined the Irish Volunteers “UVF was strong in the local area”. Yet these sources did not take part in rebellion, they served at the front with the 16th as Denis McCullough came to realise on returning to Belfast with a new hole in his hand.

    If the IRB rebels really wished to attack where they may have had a chance of popular support surely they would have utilised Boer tactics in isolated rural localities where they could piggyback off agrarian tensions. Who knows what would have happened in a prolonged conflict scenario. It’s what largely happened a few years later after all and it would have lasted longer than a week.

    When reading nationalist histories of the events it’s tempting to conclude that this absence of popular support drives the writer to jump to the ‘rise of the UVF’ as the accepted ‘reasoned excuse’ for the rebels treachery in a nationalist, though Imperial, city. Indeed it’s often set out as a wry quip, a quip that has been overplayed in pop history to the point of losing whatever value it may have had – another danger we find this ‘decade of centenaries’ presenting us with.

  • Karl

    Im not sure cause and effect has ever properly entered unionist political thinking of any era. Given their actions in the recent and distant past, you have to wonder. Not an inch seems to pervade. To use a military analogy, Hitlers ‘no retreat’ directives were useful during the Soviet winter offensive in 1941, catastrophic at Stalingrad and terminal at Seelow Heights.
    We are now at the beginning of the end. 1969 – 1998 was just the end of the beginning.

  • kensei

    A lot of what was ascribed to “Sinn Feiners” had basically nothing to do with the party. It really only came to the fore post 1916 and into the War of Independence. The Provisional Governemnt of 1916 was titular only; the comparison to the first Dail is notable. The difference is one was SF led and the other wasn’t.

    The IRB might have liked to have formed an armed Irish militia. Desire is not capability. Any attempt for it to form one would have been suppressed. The UVF opened the door; it could encourage broader Nationalism to support the project and put it’s men in key places. Even when formed, the IRB sanctioned essentially handing the IV over to Redmond to prevent a split. They weren’t acting from a position of strength.

    The rump separatist IV was badly hit by the split precipated by Redmond , but its strength was growing from 1915 on.

    Whether to attempt to tale the capital or do Boer style “hedge fighting” was in active debate with the movement. Eoin McNeill’s preference for guerilla style tactics was one of the reasons he did not support the Rising and countermanded the order. But others felt that it was important to take the capital (inspired by Emmett) from a symbollic standpoint, that city fighting offered opportunities for a small force to take defensive positions, which were naturally stronger and that it would have the element of surprise. In the latter at least they were right – Dublin was lightly garrisoned. Better planning and luck and the fighting would have ran for a lot more than a week.

    You do not need to read “nationalist histories” to be convinced of the criticality of the UVF. Just look at the primary sources. The North Began explicitly references it as the rational for setting up the IV. If need to dig the quote out but there one from I think Bulmer Jonson that states that Natiknalist Iteland needed ro show the Unionists theyd not be bullied. Maybe you should steer more clear of revisionist histories.

  • Surveyor

    Is it only the 1916 uprising in Ireland you have a problem with and not for example the American War of Independence or other uprisings directed against British rule?

  • Saint Etienne

    “The North Began explicitly references it as the rational for setting up the IV.”

    Yet the author was against the rebellion, emphasising the disconnection between that act and what came before it.

    And the question has to be asked, was ‘The North Began’ the beginning of nationalism’s acceptance of the inevitability of partition through gritted teeth?

  • kensei

    McNeill opposed rebellion at that time and under those circumstances. Had he not been convinced that the Castle Document was a forgery then he would have been in favour. There is no disconnection. The period was characterised by a jumble of ideas and energy. There isn’t one or even two strands, there are several. The Rising was one outcome of the set of circumstances that proceeded it.

    Given the North Began is at pains to state that a large body making up the alliance of Unionist were Home Rulers, I’d go with no to your question.

  • Brendan Heading

    We are now in the straw-clutching phase of the discussion.

    Rifles, shotguns and pistols were prolific. Tim Bowman makes the case for this if you’re interested.

    I’m not aware of Tim Bowman’s argument, but this is worth exploring. I am not sure exactly what your point is but it can only be one of two :

    If you are suggesting that weapons were generally to hand, why did both the UVF and the IV feel the need to commit treason, as well as risking their lives, by acquiring large shipments of guns ? Clearly neither felt that any arms available to the population in general were sufficient to raise the kind of challenge to the state that they wished.

    Alternatively (or additionally) if you are suggesting that this was an age when the force of arms was generally used to solve problems – a suggestion which has doubtful historicity – and that there was, as such, nothing particularly unusual about raising a militia to challenge the state; then what is the problem with commemorating the 1916 rebellion ?

    Needless to say, I disagree on both counts. To restate – a matter which was being resolved entirely democratically through parliament was, for short term political reasons, met by a threat of violence initiated through the UVF by elements within the establishment and their local puppets.

    Whether one came before the other is largely immaterial; it was who used theirs to greatest effect.

    Okay, so what you’re trying to do now is downplay the impact upon the process when the UVF (and their string-pullers) decided that it was a good time to focus the minds of those in Parliament by issuing a threat of violence in the event that Home Rule went the wrong way. You’re also making the argument that Republicans make – that their use of violence was effective in forcing concessions.

    Firstly, far from being immaterial, it completely changed the course of history. Had the threat of violence not been issued, Home Rule would have occurred as normal.

    Secondly, on the issue of whom had the greatest effect through the use of violence – let’s talk about that (and here is the part where I’m really going to lose the republicans reading this). The Government of Ireland Act 1920 which granted Home Rule status was little more than the codification of everything that had been promised to Redmond prior to the outbreak of WW1. The Rising, and the Irish war of independence, accomplished almost nothing; they led to a treaty which granted little in material terms other than dominion status – a technical difference which would, as we now know, have come about anyway by the time the 1931 Statute of Westminster came about.

    It is partition which was the “greatest effect” of the threat of violence wielded during the latter stages of the Home Rule crisis. It occurred for no reason other than Ulster Unionism’s threat to overthrow the authority of Parliament and the King.

    I should add that I really wish Unionists would stop trying to make the argument that there is a significant moral difference between those who raise the threat of violence and those who actually pull the trigger. If we were having this discussion face to face, and I pulled out a loaded pistol and put it on the table, it would completely change the nature of the discussion – and the fact that I had initiated this course of action would be completely relevant when assessing the outcome of the meeting.

    The IRB on the other hand stood on the sidelines itching for a fight.

    There is no doubt that the IRB and others were waiting to spill blood – some nutters, like Pearse, believed the nation couldn’t be legitimate until this had happened. But the IRB at that time were nothing in comparison to the tens of thousands of armed men that the UVF were able to call upon by 1914 with the backing of the British army and the Conservative Party.

    Ulster Unionism in the early 1900s was a far greater existential threat to Parliamentary democracy and the authority of the State than the ne’er do wells who engaged in an ultimately suicidal attempt to bring down an empire by taking over a post office and a biscuit factory. As I said in my first comment, I find it sad watching people trying to play down, or play up, one side or the other depending on their own birth-assigned political views.

  • Saint Etienne

    “We are now in the straw-clutching phase of the discussion.”

    I don’t know, maybe we hit that when I addressed tangential nationalist queries with an honest response! I’m not sure what else you’re looking for me to say other than difficult people had different perspectives. For example you yourself and Kensei express differing opinions on Pearse and his blood lust within this very thread.

    “Ulster Unionism in the early 1900s was a far greater existential threat to Parliamentary democracy”

    Right up until the rebels became that threat you mean? I guess the phrase ‘treason’ is loaded though. For northern (& mainland) unionists, the idea that they might be forced from their status quo just because they happened to share an island with the home rulers to their south was enough to label the liberal government treasonous.

    Your labelling of republicans as a kind of upholder of parliamentary democracy is particular curious too, given what actually happened.

  • kensei

    Pearse was complicated man. For all the talk of “bloodlust”, he unconditionally surrendered the volunteers – some of which remained in relatively strong position and had to be talked down – to prevent further bloodshed.

  • Alan N/Ards

    The Presbyterian Church is holding an event next week at Church House, about 1916 and the rebellion is part of the agenda. . I have no doubt that the vast majority of people there will be unionists. There are people from unionism who are prepared to discuss it. They mightn’t want to go to Dublin to celebrate it but, are happy to discuss and recognise that it happened.

    https://www.presbyterianireland.org/Training-Events/Events/Church-in-the-Public-Square-January-2016

  • Brendan Heading

    I don’t know, maybe we hit that when I addressed tangential nationalist queries with an honest response!

    I’m not a nationalist.

    I’m not sure what else you’re looking for me to say other than difficult people had different perspectives.

    I assume you mean different people, rather than difficult.

    I’m quite satisfied with you saying that, as it is a reversal from the comment that prompted me to pursue the matter, ie when you said “It is a common trait in Irish republican rhetoric to melt concepts down into a simplistic analysis that demands a certain superficial level of equality.

    Right up until the rebels became that threat you mean?

    The Unionists, and their allies, were working to undermine Parliament from within. Had they not been appeased who knows what damage would have been done with Unionist and Tory MPs in open armed rebellion against the Crown.

    This is not to make excuses for the 1916 rebels. But none of them were directed or supported by MPs or the establishment.

    I guess the phrase ‘treason’ is loaded though. For northern (& mainland) unionists, the idea that they might be forced from their status quo just because they happened to share an island with the home rulers to their south was enough to label the liberal government treasonous.

    No, the word “treason” isn’t loaded (at least, not intentionally on my part). In the UK it is a well defined legal concept under the terms of the Treason Felony Act 1848. The relevant part defines (among other things) treason to be :

    .. imagine, invent, devise .. to levy war against her Majesty, within any part of the United Kingdom, in order by force or constraint to compel her to change her measures or counsels, or in order to put any force or constraint upon or in order to intimidate or overawe both Houses or either House of Parliament

    It seems very clear that the not only was the Rising an act of treason under the above terms, so were the threats made by the UVF and those who supported them including the mutinying soldiers. Heck, the definition of treason up there is wide enough that it covers everyone who signed the Covenant.

    In terms of whatever wider definition of “treason” you might apply, I guess Unionists might once have argued that it is treason for a government to give away parts of its land or jurisdiction. Leaving aside for the moment that this is not generally considered to be treason, Unionists had absolutely no problem with Home Rule in the end as their concerns were mollified by partition. Accordingly not even the Unionists at that time regarded home rule as treason.

    Another definition might be the government somehow harming the interests of the monarch. But we know that isn’t the case either, as the government had the full support of the monarch – the Parliament Act was passed when the King assented to the government’s proposal to create 400 peers if the House of Lords continued to block the agenda they had been duly elected to implement which included Home Rule.

    So no, I don’t think the government can be accused of treason. Those rebelling against the will of the elected parliament, on the other hand, certainly can.

    Your labelling of republicans as a kind of upholder of parliamentary democracy is particular curious too, given what actually happened.

    At no point have I labelled republicans as upholders of parliamentary democracy.

    The Irish nationalists sitting in Westminster, where they took an oath of allegiance to the King, were not republicans in the sense that we currently understand it. They were elected on a mandate to achieve home rule under the British crown with Ireland remaining a part of the United Kingdom. The parliament they wanted would have been a mirror of the parliament that was established in Northern Ireland and (later) seated at Stormont. They stood against Sinn Féin in the 1918 general election – against a background of sustained intimidation and murder, and their successor party sat at Stormont.

  • Saint Etienne

    “I assume you mean different people, rather than difficult.”

    We’ll put that down to Freud…

    “This is not to make excuses for the 1916 rebels. But none of them were directed or supported by MPs or the establishment.”

    I thought I was making the exact opposite point earlier – it was the fact that both the UVF and the National Volunteers had the undoubted support of their respective constituencies that makes a comparison between either of them and the faction-within-a-faction of the rebels as mostly baseless in my eyes. It’s this that then leads nationalists to fixate on the potential use of force as a fairly glib means of comparing everyone, at much the same level as republican’s seek to compare the IRA with the security forces in the recent Troubles (notwithstanding Cowen’s warnings on the danger of such comparisons that Mick highlights).

    Whatever can be said about the two main armed camps at the time, they had clear mandates from their respective parts of the world.

    “I guess Unionists might once have argued that it is treason for a government to give away parts of its land or jurisdiction.”

    I think that was obviously the feeling evident among imperialists in this an era still dominated by Realpolitik and a way of life dictated by the running of an Empire. And that undoubtedly added a layer of complexity to the Irish question.

    “Unionists had absolutely no problem with Home Rule in the end as their concerns were mollified by partition. Accordingly not even the Unionists at that time regarded home rule as treason.”

    Self evidently because their demographic majority was being recognised surely? Added to that, the opinion of the time being the strife torn region to the south was engulfed in a war of the Sinn Feiners doing, and the settlement ensured they would not be a part of it. There was a big difference in Ireland 1914 and 1919. Again this goes back to giving adequate attention to the feelings of the day.