2016 and the decade of centenaries: What’s that all about then?

Ireland’s past is not a foreign country. For the plain people, unionist as well as nationalist, it is familiar, static and reassuring. For all the emphasis by historians on complexities and discontinuities, there is a popular sense of deep continuities, of enduring patterns which stand outside of historic time.

Liam Kennedy, Unhappy the Land (that’s in need of heroes) (2015).

I must admit that this thought has occurred to me more than once during the shrill lecturing of the new First Minister as to why she (or indeed Unionism at large) is not planning to join in the celebration (for it does seem to be that rather than remembrance) of the Easter Rising…

…isn’t there at least some sort of honesty about her position, in so far as it acknowledges the very real distinctions of political and national views at odds here rather than the touchy feely ‘we’re all in this together’ kind of stuff being put out?

On the other hand nationalists and Republicans are, of necessity now expected to participate, or at least turn up, to not dissimilar events in Northern Ireland, so as always the fundamental power relationships shape – almost demand – different responses.

A high expectation was set by the last government (then abandoned by this one) that the decade of centenaries would be a period of all island reconciliation and was heralded by a commemorative stamp for the Somme’s 90th anniversary and the Cabinet’s attendance at Islandbridge.

For the current Irish state the unambiguous focus of 2016 is to be the moment the founding idea became real. It has been accompanied by wrangling over the rightful inheritors of an act that wiped the Irish Parliamentary Party off the Irish political map everywhere, but Ulster.

Broad reconciliation has been supplanted for more domestic near term concerns: with Sinn Fein desperate to claim complicity for their own thirty year campaign of war and alienation with the short if bloody violence of the Rising; and Fine Gael asserting a reminder of its own Republican heritage.

In the Irish Times’ Rite and Reason column Seamus Murphy SJ had some blunt things to say about this state of affairs:

The Republic of Ireland is not the Rising’s ghost republic of the dead. A real republic is created by voters, is established in structures of representative democracy and the rule of law, and lives in the people’s democratic practices and culture which in Ireland’s case go back to Daniel O’Connell’s mass mobilisation of the people. A group of unrepresentative gunmen can only create a pretend republic.

In its manner of commemorating the Rising, the Government betrays the Republic in its weak, fearful desire to placate the ghosts of 1916.

He certainly doesn’t pull his punches:

…today’s Government elevates an event violently anti-British and intensely anti-unionist.

Second, praising the Rising as the defining event in Irish history implies it was justified and is a model for political action. A democratic government speaking thus undermines its own legitimacy.

Third, the excuse often made is that “we must reclaim the Rising from the men of violence”. But the Rising’s leaders were men of violence: the ring of Sauron cannot be turned against its master.

To celebrate the Rising is to celebrate anti-democratic elitism and bloodlust. One cannot have the Rising without having its meaning, and that meaning empowers Provo-land.

This of course is not where the idea of the decade of centenaries began. The original line of thinking came to a shuddering halt with Fianna Fail’s defenestration in 2011. As early as 2006 for instance Brian Cowen argued a strong pragmatic line on the nature of the rebels themselves:

They did not represent an unchanging set of policies or seek to establish a Gaelic utopia. In fact they were all about the idea that the Irish people should be allowed to evolve. To use a more modern concept, they believed in empowering the Irish people to control their own destiny. They were not Luddites seeking to stop progress and they did not reject the outside world.

There is an almost limitless number of areas where the Ireland of today has changed beyond recognition in the last eighty years. We have lost valuable things, but we are also seeing unprecedented progress in many areas. If you believe that the leaders were fighting for an ideal world, then yes they would be disappointed. But equally, if you accept that they understood that human society is not given to perfection, then you have to admit that they would see much to admire today.

It’s a take  underlined by the historian Charles Townshend in his follow up to Easter 1916, The Republic: The Fight for Irish Independence, 1918-1923 in which he describes the inchoate idea the volunteers had of what the liberated Republic would look like, or how it might operate.

When he became Taoiseach, Cowen employed the words of de Valera to re-emphasise the point:

“Tom Clarke is dead. He has not our responsibilities. Nobody will ever know what he would do, for this situation did not arise for him. But it arises for us and we must face it with our intelligence and conscious of our responsibility. It would be impossible to conduct a struggle if we had always to be thinking what would Clarke do, what would Pearse do in a situation they had never to meet. We know what they stood for and we should be guided by that, but each crisis has its own problems which must be decided by those living them.”

Fianna Fail intended to frame all the events from 2012 in one (all island) bracket. One bracket, one story, but with many (conflicting) chapters.

With the removal of that frame partition once again becomes the governing idea in Irish politics. That’s a frame which as Murphy notes suits Sinn Fein very well since it’s their political aim to be the sole active bridge toward the reunification of the island.

Demoting the Somme as a meaningful part of the 2016 feast is like cooking fish pie for a cousin you know is allergic to fish, and then decrying them when they inform that you they can’t eat it.

In fact there’s been very little narrative power in any of the events so far. The Ulster Covenant was a fairly private low key affair, with the current leader of the DUP known to be focusing much more on the foundation of the state in 1922.

For their part they’d been well advised to heed the advice of Carson, who on the 4th February 1921 exhorted .

From the very outset let us see that the Catholic minority have nothing to fear from the Protestant majority. Let us take care to win all that is best among those who have been opposed to us in the past. While maintaining intact our own religion let us give the same rights to the religion of our neighbours.

Warren Little’s advice in the Impartial Reporter nails it somewhat from a unionist point of view…

It is argued that as First Minister Arlene Foster has a duty to represent everyone in Northern Ireland, including those who cherish the events of Easter 1916. It is a charge that will rightly be levelled at many partisan events over the course of Foster’s term in office, on which she should properly be judged. But not this one. The role of premier of any country surely does not extend to commemorating the violent roots of a movement that later sought – and seeks – to destroy it.

Murphy concludes that what’s at play in the Irish Government’s current framing of 2016 is a negation of the actual Republic’s constitutional journey towards rapprochement with unionism over nearly 100 years:

…the Rising was a shriek of protest at the prospect of constitutional nationalists compromising with unionists. But the real Republic committed to such compromise in the 1998 Good Friday agreement. To be serious about the agreement’s project, Irish governments must treat it as providing the norm for remembering the Rising.

The Good Friday agreement, not the Rising, is the defining event of contemporary Irish identity.

The latter may well be true, but as Cowen noted back in 2006 interfering with or denying access to tradition comes at huge cost…

…one of the greatest potential drivers of extremism is the attempt to deny people the right of tradition. One of the greatest supports which you can give to those who claim legitimacy for extreme acts is to say to the public that conditions today are the same as they were eighty years ago – that if you admire the men and women of 1916-21 you must be a closet terrorist.

This sort of nonsense was built on a crass and deeply anachronistic linking of contemporary events to historical events and movements. It has never ceased to amaze me how those who argue for an ‘unbroken chain’ and those who claim to oppose them most use exactly the same interpretative framework.

Thankfully, the public has never bought into this. They have chosen to see tradition in general, and republicanism in particular, as evolving rather than static. One of the many good things to come from this has been the growing willingness to embrace and seek to understand the other 1916 – that of the Western Front. The commemoration of both the 1916 Rising and the Somme show how we are willing to broaden our definition of patriotism, bravery and indeed service.

To be meaningful, political identity must involve differences, but I believe we are growing as a people as we come more and more to understand the overlaps and inter-reliance to be found between different traditions on this island.[emphasis added]

The offer it seems has been hastily redefined, if not changed. The First Minister has said she’ll come to seminars or such like events to discuss the rising, she just won’t ‘marking’, ‘commemorating’ or ‘celebrating’ what she said last night on The View “something that I believe was a mistake”.

Murphy pushes his point to an extreme in order to illustrate a narrative weakness, particularly in the current framing of 2016 as only really being about the Easter Rising. But he’s on very solid ground when he asserts that “the Good Friday agreement, not the Rising, is the defining event of contemporary Irish identity.”

Of course, Irish identity and Irish freedom are not contiguous concepts (or realities) by any means. Therein lies a useful and potentially powerful unifying paradox if anyone cares to pick it up and run with it from where it was so recklessly abandoned in early 2011.

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  • Starviking

    Your comparison is a bit of: being a Dominion only gained the status of being an independant nation with the passage of the Statute of Westminster, 1931.

    As for the Irish People being denied Home Rule by the Lords – that’s a moot point given the passage of the Third Home Rule Bill.

  • Starviking

    On your reasons:

    1. The UK was fully democratic by the standards of the time.
    2. Irish voters did not have any more power than other voters in the UK.
    3. Unionist had threatened rebellion, but Nationalists, with the exception of the “All For Ireland” party, had refused to make any accommodations for the northern Unionists.
    4. War powers, like those which were in place in the other Allied nations.
    5. Ah! The 1918 elections. So the 1916 Rebels, who were subverting the democratic wishes of the Irish People, get a free pass because of a subsequent event? Seems a strange principle of justice. And of course, by launching the Anglo-Irish War they prevented any future test of Sinn Fein’s popularity in a less-charged setting.

  • mickfealty

    The contrast between Robinson’s original terms and Martin’s was “Sons and daughters of the Planter and the Gael” as opposed to “Leaders of the Planter and the Gael”. “Smart nationalism”, as you put it, rather than “Republicanism”, of any sort.

    A good tribal stuff mapped onto a Troubles wrought identity and inter communal mistrust. I can see the attraction, but it’s hard to see how it leads to the professed outcome. Especially when we already know that under this “strategy” nationalism is hemorrhaging voters.

    I suspect you are mistaking strong tactics for a robust long term strategy…

  • mickfealty

    With respect Greenie, we have the electoral polling data to show just where the falling confidence is. And certainly it’s not by any stretch of the imagination taking place within broader unionism.

  • kensei

    I think you are eliding my main point there. The claim to lead everyone or that there is only one grouping can be in itself divisive, especially when backed by language, policy and norms that are appropriate to one side only. Unionism has a fundamental problem acknowledging what Chris calls “The Other” and that speech simply lays that neurosis bare – just as MMGs exposes some of nationalism’s. What happens when the “children of the planter and gael” is associated in a modern context, with the history and culture of one side? It actually makes the concept of a unified populace divisive. Without acknowledging the historic and existing differences and making suitable adjustments to reflect that idea, it is worthless.

    If we are going to get childish, Mick, I 100% guarantee I will win that battle and tempting me to post random pictures from the internet… Anyway, nope, I’m not confusing tactics with strategy and unless you want to get into the guts of it, that’s just hurling insults rather than getting anywhere.

    Let’s take UK Labour as an example. Labour very successfully shifted right during the 90s. They, in your parlance, shaped the battleground. They did so not simply by opening up to new ideas and reshaping their identity, but also by hitting Tories heavily on their traditional weaknesses, picking issues that exposed divisions within them, spin and much else. They also quite happily ran similar tactics against their own internal enemies.

    That approach was successful for a good while, but contained a fundamental strategic weakness that is now laid bare. It is more or less impossible to win without the centre, but it is equally as impossible to win if you alienate your base. And New Labour systematically alienated it’s base to the point where it got a wipeout in Scotland and a Corbyn style backlash elsewhere.

    There are a number of lessons there. Yes, new ideas and new doors need to open. Maybe you need some sort of Clause 4 moment. But if you can engineer your opponents shooting themselves in the foot, you polish the gun and hand it to them and make sure people see it. If there is some sort of polite norm that violating gives you advantage, work out the best time and do it. Whatever the new direction, it can’t contain something that undermines the traditional voting block over the medium term. You have to balance it all up. Just because an action might fit on a tribal model does not mean that action is not a bad idea within other strategic plays. It is perfectly possible to offer cooperation with the OO in one sphere and press them hard in another.

    As for something more concrete, my opinion is that Northern nationalism’s strategic focus at present should be on the catholic / nationalist middle class rather than any flavour of Unionist. In part due to the lost votes, though I think it’s a little overplayed at present. If you are looking to connect North and South, you are looking at a block of people that are sympathetic but probably won’t risk real losses and have an inflated opinion of how unsectarian they are. If you can’t make an offer that attracts them, they you have no hope with more challenging groups.

    But I make no claim to being a great strategist. I just think if Nationalism followed your prescription they’d get played by more assertive opponents.

  • Nevin

    Roger, the 1998 Agreement’s ‘Ireland, North and South’ doesn’t seem to have gained much traction.

    Reading and interpreting a Bertie Ahern speech is always great crack; differentiating between Ireland-32 and Ireland-26 requires a certain skill. ‘Ireland’ is mostly used for Ireland-26 and ‘island of Ireland’ for, er, the island. It’s hard to tell whether he’s dealing in sleight-of-hand or whether the script-writers are attempting to generate a bumbling personna.

  • mickfealty

    Ken,

    You’ve nailed it here:

    “But if you can engineer your opponents shooting themselves in the foot, you polish the gun and hand it to them and make sure people see it.”

    In the literature, that tactic is usually referred to as polishing a t***… rather than a gun. 😉 As for the rest, the focus needs to be not just on the those who already vote for you but on creating a narrative that’s attractive to those who currently don’t.

    The Catholic middle class are drifting off the field, so you are probably right that that’s where you’d start. But in the east at least that class is more integrated than the current working class engine room voters of Sinn Fein.

    If you don’t do something in that regard, you just end up recycling dirty water, and in the process losing a percentage of those whom you already had, and the whole project shrinking.

    Simples.

  • kensei

    “…not *just* on those who already vote for you” i.e. you can’t lose sight of those that already vote for you. And that’s the challenge and why proffered solutions from various quarters tends to come across as well meaning.

    You talk of Sinn fein, but there is a fundamental difference between Sinn Fein and nationalism as a whole. The type of unity exhibited between the rising and the civil war is an extremely rare occurrence. What is right for Sinn Fein, their engine room and their growth prospects does not map to what is good for republicanism and nationalism as a whole. One party cannot cover all positions on the field in normal times, there are too many inherent contradictions.

    The inherent weakness in nationalism at the moment isn’t from SF in my opinion. The SF piece of the jigsaw basically does what it does. It’s from the SDLP and the gap where there should some more parties that the problem is. And that’s a harder solution. You can’t fix something that isn’t there.

  • mickfealty

    Go back and read Cowen’s 2006 speech. It’s surprisingly* good on this: http://goo.gl/3qYU5j.

    *Not a dig at COWEN by the way, it would be surprising coming from any Irish politician of any stripe.

  • Gingray

    Starviking

    Home rule, which was broadly favoured by the Irish electorate for over 40 years, was designed to provide an Irish legislature with responsibility for domestic affairs. Dominion status had been granted most of the white protestant parts of the Empire by 1916.

    The Irish people elected time and time again politicians who favoured a closer tie with the UK, much in the same way Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland do now.

    In 1874, the Home Rule party first stood and won a majority of Irish seats. In 1880 they won an even larger share.

    But the 1885 election was the game changer – the Irish electorate trebled as franchise was made the same as GB (not very democratic to have different eligibility criteria for differing parts of the UK, part then Ireland was majority Catholic, and disenfranchising the papists is traditional).

    In 1885 the Home Rule party won 85 of the 101 Irish seats – however the First Home rule bill was defeated, largely praying on the fears of Rome Rule. Obviously when it failed, it was time to celebrate, the notorious Belfast Riots, which resulted in the deaths of over 30 Catholics.

    1886 saw another win for the Home Rulers, and again in 1892 which led to the second home rule bill. This one passed in the commons, but was defeated by the unelected Lords.

    1895, 1900, 1906, 1910 and 1910 again all produced overwhelming majorities in favour of Home Rule and resulted in the 3rd Home Rule Bill. Which passed (although was delayed by the House of Lords).

    So note this Starviking, as it does not seem to fit your agenda – the Irish people voted repeatedly over 40 years for home rule for all of Ireland. They did this and got rejected, first by English MPs, then by English Lords, and finally by WW1. Is it any wonder that they lost faith with GB, which had consistently treated them as less than equal, largely because of their faith?

    In the end Home Rule was given to the North, and Dominion status to the south, all because the UK Government refused to accept Catholics as being equal.

  • John Collins

    ‘Poor is the Nation that has no heroes.
    Beggared is the one that has and forgets them’.

  • John Collins

    Well Roger I understand that Unemployment Benefit in the South is about twice what it is in the North and the OAP is £40 a week higher in the South than the North

  • WarrenLittle

    I find that a bit platitudinous to amount to valid justification. The fact is Home Rule was signed as law and irreversible in 1914, already hard won by constitutional nationalism before the Rising. The quotations of nineteenth century politicians were by then either outdated, irrelevant or wrong. As constitutional developments after the treaty show (even with no MPs never mind a reduced number) the most likely outcome would have been for Ireland to continue its move towards independence just as Australia and Canada did, and as Scotland is likely to do in future. There would also have been a much better relationship between North and South, whether or not only one of them seceded.
    The leaders of the Rising simply hijacked the train of inevitability, killed the driver, then took credit for bringing it to its original destination with a lot of blood on the floor.

  • WarrenLittle

    ” If partition of Ireland was justified because of the concentration of Unionists in a small area, then this logic can be equally applied to any subarea of Northern Ireland with a Nationalist majority; ”
    That’s not quite how the logic applied as I understand it. The principal logic of partition was that there was effectively two emerging nations on one island and partition was proposed to recognise that using territory allocation. The idea of partition was conceived and accepted (by most) before the question of where the line would be drawn. Drawing the line was thus a mechanism to give effect to the compromise rather than the point of it. Yes it’s clear that the six counties had more unionists and the 26 counties more nationalists, so that obviously guided the eventual placement. However it doesn’t follow that you can eat away at the compromise by endlessly re-slicing the cake using even more arbitrary ‘sub-areas’. That would be to use the mechanism at the expense of the point. The point was the deal, recognised as imperfect but accepted as such. And a deal is a deal.

  • kensei

    The “deal” was a fait accompli; the partition was agreed before the Anglo Irish treaty and it was agreed by Unionists. The deal also included a Border Commission that at best could be said did not do it’s job.

    But the main force of the argument is both moral and practical. If the current ring of Nationalist councils in the South and West of NI decided they’d rather join the Republic and had a plebiscite that confirmed it handsomely, what possible moral argument have you for denying it against their will? And even if you could conjure something, how would you propose to keep it against a well orchestrated campaign of civil disobedience except through repressive force. Yiy could not.

    This is the game of separating Northern Nationalists at the point to make them weakest. Here, Northern Nationalists are.lumped with Southern Nationalists and must abide by the rules of a game.rigged by their opponents and uniquely among people and Parliaments, be bound by a previous congress. If they were treated as another, separate “emerging nation” then by your own argument they must be treated in the same way and we must discuss further partition.

    Effectively your argument is post hoc and suited to your premises. If you feel that picking off chunks of areas and endlessly subdividing historicallly unified political units is problematic, particular if they contain substantial minorities, congratulations! You have reached empathy for what happened to Northern Nationalists. If you want to go further, imaging a pogrom or.two.thrown in.

  • WarrenLittle

    What possible moral argument? International law, and what it says about sovereignty. Councils do not have sovereignty, and most people do not believe they should. Respecting international llaw is the moral thing to do. The opposite is anarchy. There’s your moral and your practical.

    The treatment of Ireland as two emerging nations was by the British government, whose prerogative it was to deal in its own sovereignty. Practical arguments about the possibility of civil disobedience of course factor into the consideration to do a deal, but only for expedience.

    Of course the deal didn’t and couldn’t satisfy everyone, which is why I was careful to call it imperfect. That’s the nature of a compromise. Southern unionists were hardly over the moon, with one famously complaining that he had been ‘left without a country’. My own grandfather had to move North, though he was lucky not to be burnt out as some Protestants were in Cork. So there’s your empathy.

  • kensei

    It’s a good speech, but the golden rule that commemorations are always about now (in this case 2006) still applies. It’s hard to see the joins but you have him chide SF for their use of Countess Markievicz, which neatly ignoring FF’s rather ambivalent attitude to violence in its early days. Equally 1916 provided an enduring touchstone for more than just democratic parties, and more than just pragmatists. Eoin Macneill and Bulmer Hobson countered patience. Cowan touches on some of the reasons. One may cite the later opinions of some of the surviving participants but one cannot cite the opinions of the key men: they were all killed. Moreover, the fate of Northern nationalism is carefully avoided – I’m unsure if we are counted in “the Nation” here – as indeed is the North in general, aside from the point that the Republic was able to make strides – some since rolled back – that Northern Ireland could not due to it’s constitutional position.

    You might think I’m nitpicking, but it really matters from a Northern perspective. 1916 can be treated very differently if you can ignore 1969. “It is undignified for a nation to confine itself to purely constitutional action in the parliament of their overlords.” remains an explosive statement in this context. This is also the problem with taking 1998 as a critical inflection point. There is some value in it, but there remains a wall of blood before it that neither can be ignored, nor is ignored.

    1916 is in part fascinating because it is a true kaleidoscope. The key men involved came from different backgrounds and from different perspectives. The conflict between them lead to a fundamental compromise of the whole operation. Ireland was in turmoil, the world was in turmoil. It evoked the worst tendencies of the British and effectively united the Nationalist populace in the immediate aftermath. I think I’m right in saying that all non Unionist parties on the island bar the SDLP have some of it’s DNA incorporated within it as do nearly all nationalist paramilitary groups. It’s just too easy to see what you want to see in it.

  • kensei

    The law is neither moral or immoral. There are too many instances of bad law – would you like me to list Irish examples? – for it to be otherwise. In any case “International law” barely exists; what court enforces it? The moral question is a simple one: why should a majority of people Derry be held in a state against their will because of the opinion of people in Belfast? The border, like most, is entirely arbitrary.

    In the republican tradition the people are sovereign and governments can only rule by the consent of their people. Regardless of what “most people” think, if the the people in council areas ceased to consent to be ruled by their current government, then the government loses sovereignty in the most elemental sense. It isn’t expedience, it’s the fundamental heart of the matter.

    You talk of a “deal”. The Government of Ireland Act was in 1920, the Anglo Irish Treaty was in 1922. Northern Ireland as an entity was already selected and selected for the maximum gerrymander that was thought feasible for a unionist majority area. Provisions of the “deal” that were meant to modify it – like the Council of Ireland and the border commission never functioned as intended. I’m not sure why you think it’s such a fair deal.

    But that remains beside the point. Who made this deal? I didn’t, I wasn’t alive. Neither were any of the other people in any of the areas we are talking about. Why do you believe that we should be bound by it? Because our great and great great grandfathers agreed to it?

    Now you might say that the various governments still exist (dicey, you’ll not find “Southern Ireland” or even “the Irish Free State” on a modern map, and the old Stormont is long gone). And sure, I’ll concede governments should not break their commitments without good cause. but we are not talking about a government. We are talking about the people in the areas. If they change their mind, they change their mind. It’s not like they are declaring UDI that is unviable. They’ll be perfectly stable, in the Republic.

    In which case, the only way you have to exert sovereignty in the face of a well run civil disobedience campaign is the use of force to suppress it. Do you propose putting this entirely peaceful hypothetical rebellion down?

  • Roger

    Happy to oblige. The Collins government in Jan. 1922 was the “Provisional Government of Southern Ireland”. It was formed under the terms of the “Treaty” to administer Southern Ireland during the gap between the signing of the “Treaty” and the IFS coming into existence. The “Treaty” expressly contemplated this arrangement. If you read the Treaty carefully, you will see reference to it. Interestingly, in Jan. 1922, the legislation required to actually give the force of law to the Treaty had not been passed yet. The Treaty did not have the force of law until 31 March 1922. At that point in time, Orders in Council under the UK’s Irish Free State (Agreement) Act, 1922 (the law that made the Treaty law) were then passed to formally empower Collins et al. Colins et al’s appointments as Crown Ministers were then Gazetted in the Dublin Gazette. So in January, the position was actually a little in limbo from the legal perspective. Politically, the UK had agreed to the Treaty, Collins’ signified his acceptance at Dublin Castle of the Treaty by endorsing his name on it (and the name of the other ministers). Provisionally, that was accepted by the UK as sufficient to start giving Collins power but the position wasn’t really properly formalised until after the Irish Free State (Agreement) Act, 1922 was law.

  • WarrenLittle

    Ok Kensei, let’s ignore all the non-sequiturs in that and play it on your terms. What’s to stop nationalist councils declaring themselves part of the republic of Ireland? If you’re right: nothing. But they haven’t. So even in your very nebulous idea of sovereignty it remains intact.

  • Starviking

    Well, as a part of the UK the votes of all MPs were relevant.

    Dominion status was for colonies which had achieved the economic means to support themselves – it was not intended for parts of the UK.

    As for English this-and-that, are you saying no Scots or Welsh or Irish parliamentarians voted against Home Rule?

    In the end Home Rule was given to the North, and Dominion status to the south, all because the UK Government refused to accept Catholics as being equal.

    I love these kinds of summary statements, which ignore the fact that the franchise was extended, hardly the act of villainous oppressors. The intransigence of the Irish Nationalists in the final arrangement is also ignored – it all has to be 100% British/English/Unionist fault.

  • kensei

    Um that is the nature of hypotheticals?

  • Kev Hughes

    Care to counter Mick?

  • Gingray

    Starviking
    I love these kind of summary statements that like to prentend Ireland was just another equal part of the United Kingdom.

    Sorry chum, this place was a British colony, with protestant colonists from GB taking plum land across the island, particularly in the North East. Of course it was ok, because UK law then and now (the Roman Catholic Relief act poses problems on having Catholic advisors to the Monarch, that have never needed to be tested as the UK has yet to have a Catholic PM) actively discriminate against Catholics.

    Expanision of the franchise in the 1800s to Catholics in Ireland still cause them to be underrepresented in the electorate – only 25% of Irish Catholics could vote in 1890, compared to 40% of Irish Protestants.

    In a lot of ways it was no different to South Africa – the natives disenfranchised and economically weak. Despite your position that Dominion Status meant it could support itself, in South Africa it meant it could support the descendents of the protestant colonists, the natives got treated as second class citizens.

    Happy for you to keep pretending it was all equal tho, it may ignore the reality of the time, but hey ho, whatever lets you justify sectarianism and discrimination.

    Ultimately the point, as per the thread, is thus:

    The Irish people, as recognised as a distinct Kingdom within the UK, had repeatedly voted for home rule over the course of 40 years. They had been let down by successive GB politicians, both elected and appointed, and there was no reason to think this would ever change given the British attitude to natives in South Africa, Canada, New Zealand and Australia (all of whom had Dominion status which disenfranchised the natives).
    Substitute black for Catholic, and I wonder would you still be supportive of a system which denied them equality of franchise, current laws which banned them from office, and ignoring their mandate as a distinct part of the UK. I think it would be branded as racist.

  • John Collins

    What exactly do you mean by ‘platitudinous’? Correct the facts of my argument if you can, otherwise leave it be. The quotations are quoted in 1902, a mere 14 years before 1916, and are direct quotations from prominent GB Politicians. What happened in the 19th Century has a direct relationship to what happened in 1916 and those remarks cannot be dismissed as irrelevant. If they are not relevant why are people blaming the actions of dissident republicans today on the actions of the men of 1916, one hundred years ago?
    If independence could be gained as easily as you say why are Scotland still tied to England? Do you really think that all the foreign investment put into this country by multinationals would have occurred if we were still under GB rule? Remember HR as proposed in the 1912 Act was only a very limited form of HR, with little or no control of finance. Would foreign companies have been given special grants to set up here on the scale that happened afterwards ? Would they have been special Corporation Tax conditions set down years ago under GB rule ? Most definitely not as it has taken until now, and only due to Southern example, for that to happen. Overall the ROI is far better off away from GB.

  • WarrenLittle

    Your hypothetical could apply to any piece of territory or administration anywhere in the world. The issues raised by it go to the heart of jurisprudence on sovereignty and international law that are far from unique to an Irish setting. You can get into that philosophical debate if you want but it’s probably beyond the scope of Mick’s blog. For now, we can agree that the UK is sovereign in Northern Ireland via both international treaty (in your focus on 1922 you seem to have forgotten the one made when you were alive – 1998) and in any case on an academic consensus on the nature of sovereignty.
    I’m going to leave this thread now

  • WarrenLittle

    It’s platitudinous to say blithely “people die in revolutions” as if the fact that people die can be discounted from the consideration as to whether a particular revolution was justified or not. It can’t; in fact it creates a moral presumption *against* revolutions, if anything.

    “If they are not relevant why are people blaming the actions of dissident republicans today on the actions of the men of 1916, one hundred years ago?” – They aren’t; they just see similarities in the blind arrogance and self-righteous mindset.

    “Do you really think that all the foreign investment put into this country by multinationals would have occurred if we were still under GB rule?” – Ireland famously entered a 60 year period of disastrously isolationist economic policy after independence. It wasn’t until it finally shook off the policies of the Rising generation that it began to invite and attract investment. And it wasn’t until 2008 that Ireland finally repaired the damage to its relationship with the UK sufficiently that it could ask for a massive multi-billion loan from the UK to bail it out…
    But in any case, do you really think improvement in the economic outlook of a country is justification for killing particular groups of its citizens…? I’m getting dangerously close to Godwin here…

  • kensei

    I would have thought espousing a principle that has general applicability was a strength of the argument myself.

    Toodle pip, old chap.

  • John Collins

    Hold it again.
    De Valera signed an economic agreement with GB as early as 1938, which also involved the return of the ports by mutual agreement.What is all this talk of an 86 year disagreement with GB? There was also a Free Trade agreement in the sixties but why let the facts interfere with a good argument. There was a 60 year period of bad economic performance in the South. Really. The country did have had a poor economic performance up until about 1960,but it certainly was no worse that the eighty years prior to independence, when the population more that halved, something it certainly never did under any southern administration.
    You are going on again about the loan GB gave the ROI. No less a personage that William Hague clarified the situation with regard to this loan. Speaking at the time of the Queen’s visit to Ireland he said that it was in GBs own interest to have a vibrant Irish economy.. He said that Ireland was GBs fourth biggest customer for British goods and the fifth biggest exporter of goods and services to GB.. and as such it was equally important to GB that we stayed afloat. It should be also noted that since English banks had imprudently loaned vast amounts of money to Irish banks they too would go under if Irish banks failed. And it is a loan and will be paid. Wevare not the Germany who took a massive write down of their debts back in 1953, after causing three major European wars in seventy years.
    As a Unionist your country has gone into various other countries, often without the slightest invitation, not to mind a democratic mandate, and conquered them with vicious force, often forbidding them to speak their own languages or practise their own dearly held customs or even their religions and yet you come on here condemning a small nation that took on the might of an Empire. And I do not hear, or see, that many British Politicians or indeed Historians beating themselves up over their past excesses.
    However I think Mick is right when he says (below) that this is not the time for moral judgements with the GFA in place and agreed upon on both sides of the island.

  • WarrenLittle

    You must have missed my point at the end there. I said the economic position after independence is surely irrelevant, given that improved finance is surely not justification for a country killing some of its citizens.

    “you come on here condemning a small nation that took on the might of an Empire”
    I’ve done no such thing. The Rising leaders were a small group of dissenting militants within a wider but still small group of militants who had tried to call the whole thing off. They were not a ‘nation’.
    As for the rest – ‘the excesses of the British’ – pure whataboutery. which will never justify waking up on a peaceful Easter Monday and shooting an unarmed Irish bobby in the head.
    We have reached the unfortunate conclusion of every discussion on the Easter Rising I have ever had. All the best, John.

  • Starviking

    The land was taken before the UK formed.

    Laws on Catholics were promulgated because of the very real conflict between Catholic and Protestant States.

    As for the franchise, I guess the disparity was because of property requirements – not uncommon in that age.

    As for South Africa – so what? I was talking about economic supportability, that’s all. As for Apartheid, that was not supported by the UK.

    Happy for you to keep pretending it was all equal tho, it may ignore the reality of the time, but hey ho, whatever lets you justify sectarianism and discrimination.

    Nice to see the person you are – attribute things I did not say to me and then condemn me for them.

    The Irish people, as recognised as a distinct Kingdom within the UK

    No, not a distinct Kingdom.

    there was no reason to think this would ever change given the British attitude to natives in South Africa, Canada, New Zealand and Australia

    I doubt Irish people of the time gave much thought to natives of those lands.

    Substitute black for Catholic, and I wonder would you still be supportive of a system which denied them equality of franchise, current laws which banned them from office, and ignoring their mandate as a distinct part of the UK. I think it would be branded as racist.

    I think comparing racial origin, which is something fundamental to human beings, with religious orientation – which is part of belief systems – is silly. There were religious struggles all over Europe at the time, and these influenced legislation at the time. It’s not laudable legislation – but it is understandable. Was it sectarian? Yes. Was it racist? Certainly not. Were the laws rolled back? Yes, with the exception of those regarding succession to the throne – as you can’t have a Catholic as the leader of the Church of England.

  • Gingray

    Starviking
    Look I get why you support the supremacist of the colonists descendants. Thats ok. No doubt that is why you seem to think the religous wars still went on in the early 1900s, not sure thats the case but hey ho.

    Not all the anti catholic laws have been rolled back in the UK, but thats ok, the UK is one of the most sectarian, legislatively at least, states in Europe, that must make you happy 🙂

    Sorry dude, the UK was one of the main driving forces behind the creation of aparteid. Well know. But some Brits like to pretend all is perfect.

    “http://www.independent.co.uk/voices/apartheid-made-in-britain-richard-dowden-explains-how-churchill-rhodes-and-smuts-caused-black-south-1370856.html”

    Obviously why GB ignored the sectarianism in Northern Ireland for over 50 years. The good old days for you my friend, eh, when them Catholics knew their place

  • John Collins

    Thanks Warren. I do not think we will have a meeting of minds on this issue. However the best of luck in the future.

  • Jack Stone

    “pure whataboutery. which will never justify waking up on a peaceful Easter Monday and shooting an unarmed Irish bobby in the head. ” What are you talking about? Economic reasons, workers rights and the brutal suppression of workers by the police and British establishment were direct causes of the Rising. Do you know nothing about the history of Dublin preceding the Rising? Perhaps that unarmed irish bobby was there when the Dublin Metropolitan Police baton charged worker’s rallies in 1914. Remember, the British Government (in Dublin in particular) used force against protesting workers often during the strikes that preceded the First World War. Perhaps that Bobby was involved in the murder of James Nolan and John Byrne (and the injury of 300 others) when the DMP attacked a rally in 1913. Why do you think James Larkin (a Catholic), James Connolly (an Atheist) and Capt. Jack White (a Protestant) founded the Irish Citizen Army during the Dublin Lockout? Or do you not think one of the largest groups and the de facto leader of the Easter Rising was important to the Easter Rising? Perhaps instead of focusing on the economic situation AFTER the Rising, you should look to the events leading up to it.

  • Starviking

    Look I get why you support the supremacist of the colonists descendants.

    Huh?

    The good old days for you my friend, eh, when them Catholics knew their place

    What are you talking about?

  • Gingray

    Now you are backtracking chum:-)

    At every turn you have defended the anti democratic colonial rule in Ireland, as is your right, finding caveat after caveat to justify Englands actions. They would never have given home rule to Ireland, just found more excuses to deny the Catholic Irish the right to self determination, while bowing to the demands of the violent planters.

  • Starviking

    Backtracking? You seem to be making insinuations that I support racial discrimination and discrimination against Catholics.

    Please clarify.

  • Gingray

    “As for the Irish People being denied Home Rule by the Lords – that’s a moot point”

    “Dominion status was for colonies which had achieved the economic means to support themselves – it was not intended for parts of the UK.”

    “Laws on Catholics were promulgated because of the very real conflict between Catholic and Protestant States.”

    “As for Apartheid, that was not supported by the UK.”

    “There were religious struggles all over Europe at the time, and these influenced legislation at the time.”

    “Were the laws rolled back? Yes”

    ————

    Starviking

    As is typical of many who support the establishment of Northern Ireland, you have ignored the right of the Irish people to self determination, putting the rights of the descendents of the colonists first. Thats ok, why would you support democracy for the catholics in Ireland eh.

    Not sure what religious wars you seem to think were still raging across Europe in the late 1800s and early 1900s, personally I think you are taking out of your rear end here.

    The UK at that stage was profoundly anti Irish Catholic, lots of that still exists, and we still live with the repecussions of that.

    You have done your best to pretend this was not the case, and to pretend everyone was doing it. Pure BS.

  • barnshee

    A bit like the refusal of catholic Ireland to allow Protestants in Ireland the right to self determination

  • barnshee

    Its not OK for Nationalists to attend Unionist commemorations – its hypocracy

  • Starviking

    Thats ok, why would you support democracy for the catholics in Ireland eh.

    Once again, you do not directly answer my question, and you directly state that I am anti-catholic. I will rephrase my earlier question to you:

    You insinuate that I am a sectarian and racist Protestant who agrees with discrimination against Catholic. Is that your position?

  • Gingray

    Oh
    Oh Starry

    I think what you are definitely engaging in is a form of historical revisionism in support of colonial paternalism.

    Despite what you claim, at the turn of 20th century, religious wars were a thing of the past.

    The democratic mandate on Ireland was undermined over a 50 year period because those voters were both Irish and Catholic.

    Your repeated defence and excusing of it makes you clearly an apologist for a system that discriminated.

    No worse than a modern day citizen in Japan or South Africa defending discrimination against the Ainu or Blacks 100 years ago.

  • Starviking

    Well Gingy,

    You seem to have revealed yourself to be one of those people who cannot understand the difference between people understanding why something happened and someone supporting what happened.

    You also seem to be one of those people who just have to misrepresent what people wrote in order to win an argument. Examples below:

    Despite what you claim, at the turn of 20th century, religious wars were a thing of the past.

    I never said they were, I was talking why anti-Catholic laws came into being, not wars in particular. The Penal Laws, as you may be aware of, date from the 17th Century. As for the 19th Century, we had the Kulturekampf in Germany, and in the middle of that century we had the Sonderbund Wars in Switzerland.

    The democratic mandate on Ireland was undermined over a 50 year period because those voters were both Irish and Catholic.

    You focus on the “undermining”, I focus on the extension of the vote.

    Your repeated defence and excusing of it makes you clearly an apologist for a system that discriminated.

    See my first paragraph above. You mistake understanding for agreement with.

    I’ll dive into your earlier replies now.

    “As for the Irish People being denied Home Rule by the Lords – that’s a moot point”

    Gosh, however did you forget to append the rest of the sentence: “given the passage of the Third Home Rule Bill.”

    Taking quotes and stripping the context – tsk, tsk!

    “Dominion status was for colonies which had achieved the economic means to support themselves – it was not intended for parts of the UK.”

    That’s a head-scratcher, I don’t know how that has bearing on my supposed sectarian and racist nature.

    “Laws on Catholics were promulgated because of the very real conflict between Catholic and Protestant States.”

    You have to go back further in history.

    “As for Apartheid, that was not supported by the UK.”

    Well, it wasn’t. Apartheid was instituted in South Africa in 1948, and was not supported by the UK.

    As is typical of many who support the establishment of Northern Ireland, you have ignored the right of the Irish people to self determination, putting the rights of the descendents of the colonists first. Thats ok, why would you support democracy for the catholics in Ireland eh.

    Well, being an Irish Catholic, I do support democracy in Ireland, North and South. I don’t dwell on the past as much as some – I try to look to the future more. As for your insinuations of racism, having a multi-racial family, I abhor it.

  • Gingray

    Ha ha ha
    Sorry Starry, you are backtracking so fast here, its hard to keep up, but using filler to hide it is a good way to cover your tracks.

    “There were religious struggles all over Europe at the time.”

    We are talking the late 1800s and early 1900s here. So no, there were not religous struggless all over Europe, you are just plainly wrong.

    “As for Apartheid, that was not supported by the UK.”

    Not true – Churchill in his role as under secretary for the colonies at the time dominion status was awarded admitted as much:

    “‘We must be bound by the interpretation which the other party places on
    it and it is undoubted that the Boers would regard it as a breach of
    that treaty if the franchise were in the first instance extended to any
    persons who are not white.'”

    The UK supported a treaty which worked to deny the franchise to non whites. And you think they didnt support apartheid, funny if it was not so sickenly racist.

  • Starviking

    Gingy,

    When you say “we are talking”, you really should be writing “I am talking”, for I was referring to the start of the laws.

    Apartheid: 1948 – long after Churchill had been undersecretary to the colonies.

    As for the Boers – left the Cape Colony after the UK banned Slavery. Who stood up to defend these racists when they fought the UK? Irish republicans.

  • Gingray

    Jeepers Stirry, calm down, you have lost control a bit here 🙂

    I get that you are an apologist for all things British, your attitude reminds me a little analogy Malcolm X used for types black slaves – the house and the field. One type will always defend their masters.

    And I love your mention of slavery – its so like, yeah the Brits decided to stop it, so everyone should stop and the Boers are bad for not obeying. Before was ok, but now we have changed our minds. Sickening.

    Irish nationalists did indeed support the Boers, a sad state of affairs, with around 200 going out to fight. Some people will choose to support any enemy of my enemy, particular when the British Empire was at that stage oppressing a large portion of the world.

    I presume tho given you want to play whataboutery, you post regularly about the UK supporting racist sectarian states in the middle east to this day (Hi Saudi Arabia!)?

    No – thought not. HYPOCRITE.

    British masters good. Those they oppress bad.

  • John Collins

    Well almost 60,000 in every year from 1886 to 1900 emigrated from this country, North and South, so heavy emigration was always here.
    It should also be noted that for every five that emigrated from this country during the recession four came from abroad to the ROI. This hardly happened from 1841 to 1911 when the population of the island was halved.

  • John Collins

    Backward??? When are you people having your referendum on same sex marriage?

  • John Collins

    Very well said Mick. A sensible approach for the future, which after all is all that matters