Insurrection 1916…… a Unionist perspective

The Insurrection in Dublin during Easter 1916 involved less than 1,700 men and women. It was the brainchild and initiative of a minority, of a minority of a minority- a small conspiratorial grouping within the leadership of the Irish Republican Brotherhood, who had itself been using and manipulating the Irish Volunteers behind the scenes, who in turn had themselves broken away from the populist Irish (later renamed the Irish National) Volunteers. A group of self-indulgent individuals unrepresentative of Irish society in terms of class or political aspiration, and indifferent to that reality.

john bull When Patrick Pearse read the personally penned Proclamation of the Irish Republic on the 24th of April, while civilians self-styled as ‘Volunteers’ of the Irish Volunteers and Irish Citizen Army occupied prominent public buildings, the British army was indeed caught by surprise. Once that surprise had settled however, its personnel very quickly quelled and then crushed the insurrectionists. The unqualified defeat of the rebels did not take place nevertheless until the events they had initiated took the lives of almost 500 men, women and children; injured in excess of 2,000; and created damage and loss to Dublin City amounting to over £3 million pounds (a modern equivalent of between approximately £180 and £300 pounds). In purely military terms their actions had been an absolute and resounding failure.

Over and above modern political interpretations and hindsight opinion and thought, the one indisputable thing that the Rebellion delivered is death. The specific causes of each individual death are in many ways irrelevant. They died. The definitive figures now accepted are that 485 people lost their lives during the disturbances. Over half were civilians caught in the crossfire, with the last day alone seeing 45 deaths of non-combatants. Ordinary men and women, Catholic and Protestant, caught up in the middle of a Rebellion they knew nothing about and most would likely have had little affinity with. The more horrifying statistic is that among their number 38 of the dead were under 16 years of age. Men, women and children who had their life extinguished to placate ideological and borderline fanatical desires of a tiny few.

sufferersOn the cusp of the Great War, commentary on the Irish situation had all but come to the conclusion that civil war was not just possible but inevitable; reinforced by sources within the intelligence ranks of the Royal Irish Constabulary. In July 1914 the RIC Inspector for County Cavan commented on UVF and Irish Volunteer activity that the ‘outlook is dangerous’; while in nearby Monaghan, his equivalent stated in his July report that between the two parties ‘danger of collision is considerable’. Whilst the Ulster Volunteers had no presence in much of the South and West of Ireland (there were some pockets of anti-Home Rule Volunteers in Dublin, Cork, Wicklow, Sligo, Longford, Leitrim and Louth); potential battle-lines were being suggested. George Berkley, an Irish Volunteers commander in Belfast, related how a Southern Home-Ruler had asserted that ‘For every Catholic shot by the Orangemen in the North, I’ll get five Protestants down here’.

The War changed that instantaneously. Perhaps because of the conscious or even sub-conscious knowledge that it was an opportunity to step back from ‘the brink’ without loss of face, throughout Ireland the War effort was embraced across creed and class boundaries. The numbers involved are debated, but over 200,000 Irishmen fought in the War, while as many as 49,000 died, depending on the criteria used to define what was an ‘Irishman’. They enlisted for many different reasons. Some did so for Ulster, while some did so for Ireland. Others joined to make sure their wives and families would be provided for, others still to escape heavy laborious work in mills and factories. Some through peer and community pressure, and some simply joined for adventure. For all the reasons why were less relevant to both the men and to their families, than the simple fact they were physically ‘at War’, or dealing with the absence of those at War.

Within this specific context the Rebellion instantly generated a hatred and anger among hundreds of thousands, if not millions of Irishmen and women.  Individuals who felt a deep resentment that these people in Dublin should countenance such actions whilst their loved ones were in far off fields fighting and dying for the good of Ireland and for Ireland itself. This was not just a Rebellion, it was a mutiny.

Germany

On the 27th April on the fields of Hulluch Northern France, the 16th Irish Division found themselves on the end of a German gas attack. Just one of many events on the fields of the Battle of the Great War that week; in that one incident, the 16th Division lost 442 men, almost to a man Irishmen. Their deaths having taken place while the Easter Rebels were proudly emphasising they were supported by, and they de-facto returned support to, the perpetrators- people the rebels described as their ‘gallant allies’.

During the Rebellion men from the Reserve of the 36th Ulster Division also traveled south to support the forces engaged in quelling the trouble. Several would die. Of the British soldiers killed in the execution of their duty during Easter Week in Dublin, 22 were Irishmen. As aforementioned, not much less than a quarter of a million fought in the Great War. About 1,600 men and women took part in the Easter Rebellion.

devestatedAt Easter 1916 a 38 year East Belfast man and his brother traveled to Dublin. James and Joseph Mitchell visited the Theatre Royale to watch a show, attended a function in local military Barracks, and on Easter Sunday James completed what he had visited Dublin for in the first place, he enlisted in the British army. On Easter Monday the brothers attended the races at Fairyhouse, where they became aware of the disturbances in the City, and shortly after found themselves confined to the Gresham Hotel. James kept a diary of events in the week to follow. As the Rebellion was coming to a close he penned a sentence that adequately reflected the opinions of those disgusted at the timing of the affair, ‘I felt relief and secretly exalted at the inglorious end of the creatures with such… selfish minds’.

Ireland’s religious divisions and boundaries have rarely been far from the surface since the Reformation, and the Third Home Rule Crisis had once again elevated them to a position of eminent importance. Rightly or wrongly, one of the central tenants of Irish Unionist objections to Home Rule was a fear of the Catholic Church. Fears that freedom of religion, of expression and even simply their individualism would be taken away from them in a Catholic dominated Ireland. Founded in centuries old animosities and experiences, these fears were very real for those who held them, and were manifest not by reference to Protestantism in the Ulster Covenant, but through the words that Home Rule would be ‘subversive of our civil and religious liberties’.

Easter 2Confirmation of the subversive links between Catholicism and the Rebellion first became underlined with its simple timing, coming alongside the religious festival of Easter. A Christian festival for all denominations, the scheduling was indeed intended to coincide with a holiday period when it would be easier to mobilise men, but it also had a much deeper resonance for the devoutly Catholic conspirators.  Some two weeks prior to the events, Papal Count George Plunkett was dispatched to Rome to seek the blessing of the then Pope Benedict XV. Plunkett later recorded the Pope as being ‘very much moved’ as he explained to him the reasons for the date of the Rebellion, and pledged the fidelity of the organisers to the Holy See and the ‘interests of religion’. After the audience the Pope conferred his ‘Apostolic Benediction on the men who were facing death for Ireland’s liberty’. Plunkett would later be Sinn Fein’s first chosen candidate for the Roscommon by-election of 1917.

During events themselves, within the confines of the Rebellion headquarters in the General Post Office, from the outset the rosary was recited on a half hourly basis. This particular element is cited as being one of the reasons responsible for the few Protestant participants converting to Catholicism during the proceedings. In its immediate aftermath, whilst pulpits across Ireland saw priests deliver messages of condemnation, they were short lived and did not reflect the church hierarchy. Of the 31 Catholic Bishops of Ireland in 1916, only 7 actually came out to condemn the rebels. As an additional relevant aside, at the Sinn Fein convention of April 1917 ten percent of all delegates were Catholic priests.

barracadeAcross the centuries, Irish Nationalist and Irish Republican leaders many times endeavored to convince the foolish non-Catholics of Ireland, that their religion and entwined social values and cultural traditions were respected, and would be protected if only they would see sense and conform to their view of Irish Nationhood. That their cause was about Nation and rights, not religion. With Easter 1916, the connection Unionism already believed there was between Irish Nationalist political ambition and Catholicism was clearly illustrated. The instantaneous establishment of the commemoration of the Rebellion remaining at Easter irrespective of the date, possibly the only non-biblical anniversary in the world that binds itself in such a way to a religious festival, permanently cemented Unionist opinion. The Rebellion and Catholicism were inextricably linked.

A central feature of the Rebellion, arguably the most symbolic element, was the Proclamation of the Irish Republic. Within it the insurrectionists, or more accurately the documents seven co-signatory’s, declared Ireland’s Independence from the United Kingdom, and with it outlined their motivations and goals to the Country and to the world. It included an apparent olive branch, an offer to the Unionists of the North East who were so at odds with the ideals of Irish Nation. This promise to cherish all of the children of the Nation equally, came with assurances of religious and civil liberties, equal rights and equal opportunities.

By the same token, as quickly as the hand of friendship was offered it was taken away. The Proclamation demanded and claimed a full legitimate entitlement to the allegiance of every citizen within the declared Republic. Rights were offered, but solely within the definitions of conformity.

The events of the Third Home Rule crisis had illustrated very clearly that the Covenanters of Ireland were not just a religious grouping. Everything leading to and surrounding the Ulster Covenant very clearly underlined that these individuals were an ethnic grouping in their own right, with their own views of Irish history, their own ideas of collective identity. These people considered themselves Irish, but within a broader British identity. The Proclamation reduced this massive section of its ‘Nation’ to impudent fools. The Proclamation, without any recognition of the irony, included a token gesture of friendship to these misguided ‘family members’, within a manuscript that holistically was confirming they were enemies and they were now officially at war.

Easter soldiersPrior to the events in Dublin the debate on the potential partition of Ireland had raged for several years. It was not an automatic given, but when partition was referred to specifically, Ulster Unionists initially were adamant that all nine Ulster Counties must be included in any partition solution. The stance was underlined by the monumental Ulster Covenant campaign, and many reaffirming public pronouncements. Behind the scenes however, many were beginning to waver as to the composition of any hypothetical ‘new’ Ulster.

In July 1914 the Buckingham Palace conference, called by King George V to bring together Irish Unionist and Nationalist leaders, first heard the idea of a six county partition solution mooted at a level of officialdom. They broke up with no agreement, but it did result in an amended Government of Act 1914, the Third Home Rule Bill, passing Parliament with the composition of the ‘Ulster’ referenced within it left ambiguous.

The Partition of Ireland was on hold, and while discussion continued on the subject, the War effort and cause kept the issue on hold, it being seen as of much lesser importance than the events on the Western Front and elsewhere. And with that hold there still was hope within all sides that partition could be avoided. Partition was NOT inevitable. The subject was deemed to be of secondary importance and it could ‘wait’, and perhaps solutions could be found. The Rebellion changed that, and indeed changed the entire dynamic of the partition debate.

Easter 3At a very superficial level the events in Dublin reaffirmed Unionist belief that Irish Nationalism was untrustworthy. In a single week Unionist predictions of revolt and subversion if stranded in an Ireland in which it was a minority, were realised. Beyond this infinitely important emotional hindrance to the idea of Home Rule within the Unionist psyche strengthened, at a practical level there were other new developments. British political relations with America were suffering as a result of events in the aftermath of the Rebellion, the Irish diaspora there having immense influence, and the Minister of Munitions David Lloyd George was determined to rectify this by forcing through an amended 1914 Government of Ireland Act to achieve greater Irish political stability. Lloyd George again raised the proposal to add the exclusion of six North Eastern Counties to the Bill; and Carson, made to believe that the option was the best within the context of the current ‘War effort’, agreed to the modification. It had to be sold to his people however, and that sale resulted in a further amendment, the addition of permanent exclusion.

The Rebellion was directly responsible for the Partition of Ireland defined in legislation, and saw its permanent exclusion enshrined in that legislation; both coming alongside further entrenching of existing alienation within Unionism ensuring that no stepping back or lesser accommodation would be possible. As Patrick Buckland commented in his 1972 book ‘Irish Unionism’, referring to the revolutionaries ‘if their aim was… to prevent a moderate settlement of the Irish question, they certainly succeeded.’

It is beyond question that the events of the Easter Rebellion aftermath generated empathy and sympathy for Sinn Fein, alongside a further long term legacy of establishing for some the legitimacy of murder and terror to further political goals. The quasi-military proceedings also had many other more immediate consequences…

  • The dead and wounded, inclusive of some 38 children including one just 22 months old.
  • Hurt and resentment from those who were active in supporting and fighting in the Great War then in progress- the H.G. Wells coined ‘War to end War’.
  • The entrenchment of sectarian battle lines in Ireland, and the reinforcement of fear of religious persecution.
  • The contradictory Proclamation of the Irish Republic, simultaneously extending a hand of friendship to Irish Unionists, and yet also a declaration of war against them.
  • And perhaps more fundamentally, the virtual guarantee of the previously just theoretical partition of Ireland.

The poetic, romantically christened ‘Easter Rising’ did indeed give much to Ireland.

 

Quincey Dougan is a Historical Consultant and freelance Journalist. Some of his work is available online at bygonedays.net

 

  • MainlandUlsterman

    “we”?

  • Dominic Hendron

    Did you ever read Bonar Law’s big speech at Blenheim Palace 29th July 1912. Not much respect for the primacy of parliament or legalities there. What you sow you will reap.

  • MainlandUlsterman

    are you labouring under the impression I am the ghost of Andrew Bonar-Law? Apart from anything else, he was a Tory … Seems unfair that anyone today should be punished for a foolish speech by a right-wing fool a hundred years ago that they disagree with. Can you explain again why I should?

  • Dominic Hendron

    Not about you. Point is the British establishment played footsie with people who were willing to use violence if the democratic wishes of parliament, ie Home Rule, was introduced. This set the tone with two opposing volunteer forces on the Island. What was going to happen?

  • kensei

    The threat of a weapon is often equivalent to its use.

    Happy to have this debate while I point a loaded gun directly at your head with my finger on the trigger.

  • kensei

    Interested in the claim that Unionism only reluctantly accepted 6 counties. I’ve read they rejected 9 as they’d not have a stable majority, and 4 as too small.

  • Am Ghobsmacht

    Jebem te!!!!! 🙂

  • John Collins

    So men like Garrett Fitzgerald, Des O’Malley Liam Cosgrave, Eamon De Velera, Jack Lynch, Sean Lemass and John Bruton are all gangsters. If they are I wonder what Paisley, who was involved in the formation of three different Paramilitary groups, and McGuinness, of whom we need to say no more, are. Gangsters indeed.

  • Jollyraj

    I would be of the opinion that Martin was and is, Paisley was in many ways, and I’ve the vague feeling that De Valera at least started out as such. Just my personal opinion, mind.

    The other fellers I couldn’t comment on, foreign affairs not being my strongest suit. I only really know a bit about Dev because some of our local gangsters seem to idolize him.

  • John Collins

    Well Johnny when Beverbrook signed the Anglo Irish Agreement he is quoted as saying ‘I have just signed my political death’. He had done more than that , he had also signed the political death warrant of the Liberal Party. This was the party that had brought in the OAP and, in a huge victory for democracy, destroyed the power of the HOL, yet when Labour began to grow it was vastly more at the expense of the Liberals, that at that of the Tories. This I feel is evidence that any GB political party would have conceded nothing to Southern Irish people, without force been used.

  • John Collins

    As the WASPs, among other immigrants, in The USA, Canada, Australia New Zealand have done for generations. They have all integrated and become Americans Canadians, New Zealanders and Australians primarily, as the case may be..

  • John Collins

    We must have a funny state down here. Martin Ferris was jailed for many years for importing arms. I think that was the correct course of action, but according to you it was fine to import guns. So we have one law for one group of people and another for other parties.

  • John Collins

    Peter
    (1)St Patrick herded sheep in Slieve Mish in Antrim. How come he regarded this as Ireland. We are told he heard the Irish ‘calling him back’. Since he spent his time initially in Slieve Mish, in his time, is he not referring to it as being in Ireland.
    (2) How come the National Saint is buried in Downpatrick, if Downpatrick was not in Ireland. After all I am sure St Andrew, St George and St David are all buried in the countries of which they are respectively the National Saints
    (3) How come the Archdiocese of Armagh, since time immemorial, has an Archbishop who is titled Primate of All Ireland
    (4) How come Brian Boru, a man born in the heart of Munster. who was killed at Clonfert, is buried in Armagh. Have you ever heard of a country that willingly, and in the full flush of victory, would have buried their King in a foreign country.

  • John Collins

    But a number of Gb banks might and they could not risk a chain reaction.
    Anyway there is 4.7 million people in the Republic Ireland today and your country’s’ debt is rising at the rate of £5,000 a second. For the last eight decades GB were here, the backside fell out of our population, but it has gone up by over 50% since they left.
    Anyway William Hague, eloquently and graciously, explained why GB gave that loan, but true to form, you seem to know more about these things that the British Foreign Secretary

  • John Collins

    Well that is fair enough. I think we have had good and bad and the odd gangster thrown in, but I think you will agree that in most countries politicians are overall reasonably decent men. My grandfather, long ago, often quoted the line that ‘politics is the last refuge of a crook’, but I think that was a bit cynical.

  • John Collins

    NY
    After the Act of Union the mainland British population grew from 15 million to 41 million in 110 years, in the same period the population of the island of Ireland dropped from five million to four. Something had to give.

  • John Collins

    And when the Liberal Party led government eventually the granted Southern Ireland Home Rule, with the Anglo Irish Agreement , the said Liberal Party, as Bevarbrook might have said, signed its own political death warrant.

  • John Collins

    And English banks were sunk as well. It was in GBs interest to give us a loan which will be paid. Your Government was quick enough to write off ALTOGETHER German debt in 1953,after they had waged three vicious wars against ye in seventy years. Remember Bill what Kissinger said back in the seventies., ‘in matters of foreign policy there is no such thing as morality , only interests’ The fact was it was in GBs interest, and that of their banks, to give a loan to the Irish Government.

  • John Collins

    I especially blame Redmond for not dispelling this nonsense. He would have known that about 50 percent of the German Army was Protestant and about 30% was RC and that anybody raping a nun would be liable to harsh treatment, or even death, for such a controversial move.. Yet he stood by without rising a figure which young Irish lads,who believed these lies. went to their deaths in the trenches, to avenge the imaginary rapes of these nuns. The only difference between Redmond and Pearse was that the latter ordered a cease fire, after six days to prevent unnecessary loss of life,whereas Redmond allowed scores of Irishmen, who joined up in this false premise, to die in the conflict.

  • John Collins

    Refer to my reply to Barnshe above.

  • John Collins

    I refer you to my reply to Barnshee above. It was, as William Hague pointed out, solely in GBs interest to give that loan. And it is to be paid back, like any loan.

  • John Collins

    The loan was given be hard headed business men, for their own reasons, and not by the St Vincent De Paul

  • John Collins

    Douglas De Hide, Maurice Dockrell, Ernest Blythe and Erskine Childers among others, never felt the need to convert to Roman Catholicism.

  • John Collins

    He was no fool. He was the Leader of His Majesty’s Loyal Opposition and a future Prime Minister. That statement seems to have done his political ambitions no harm at all.
    As we are at it let me remind you that Beaverbrook said, at the signing of the Anglo Irish Agreement in 1921, ‘I have signed my political death warrant’. He had done more than that , he had also signed his party’s political death warrant.
    The Liberal Party, the party that granted the OAP, gave universal suffrage and ended the totally undemocratic veto of the HOL, were banished to the sidelines at the next election, never to regain their once lofty position in GB politics. A clear indication that the majority in the mainland were in no mood to see even a partial break up of their beloved UK

  • PeterBrown

    1) A reference for that quote would be useful but I suspect the was referring to the island not a country of Ireland

    2) Seriously the burial place of a saint is a criteria for nationhood – that is arguably more bizarre than surnames – having a national saint does not make you a country. Asia and Africa have saints but that makes them continents not countries

    3) So an Archbishop referred to as a primate makes you a country – that must be interesting news for the virtually every other primate (and for geographers and diplomats who have presumably mistakenly thought that nationhood was a geo political concept when in fact it is a religious one)

    4) Presumably because it was the ecclesiastical capital (I have acknowledged he was the high king but that does not confer nationhood particularly where as Wiki puts it “Ireland was never ruled by them as a politically unified state, as the High King was conceived of as an overlord exercising suzerainty over, and receiving tribute from, the independent kingdoms beneath him”

  • Anglo-Irish

    But not the PUL community in Northern Ireland, which is the primary cause of the trouble.

  • Barney

    You are not clear, your theory seems to preclude the possibility of changing ethnicity and if so is your theory biologically based geographically based or based on some other criteria. You need to be clear as your lift from wiki doesn’t explain exactly what your theory is.

    I can’t see any ethnic division in Ireland.

  • NotNowJohnny

    I presume you mean Birkenhead (who was a Conservative) rather than Beaverbook.

    I’m no expert on the history of the Liberal Party but I don’t think the sighting of the treaty had anything to do with the demise of that party at the expense of Labour.

  • MainlandUlsterman

    it’s not “my theory”

    You can change ethnicity but it’s hard. One might want to explore the motivation of someone who seeks to change other people’s ethnicity to theirs and ask, if you respect others as you respect yourself, why would you?

  • MainlandUlsterman

    someone else said they had signed their death warrant with that same agreement – and as he was a leader of militant nationalism of the time, it was barely a metaphor.

  • MainlandUlsterman

    yes, the Republic didn’t become a Catholic country at all …

  • Barney

    The theory you are promoting

    What exactly is it, as I said, I don’t see any ethnic division in Ireland you clearly do. It would be nice if you could explain what this division you see is and how you can change from one ethnicity to the other (or others) however hard it may be.

    If it’s possible as you now say to change ethnicity the theory is clearly not biologically based, physical movement rules out geographical based theories. Above you ruled out confessional change as a catalyst. So I simply ask what is it that marks this ethnic division you claim exists?

  • MainlandUlsterman

    I agree and it’s why Mitchell squeezed SF into giving up the threat of force, not just using it. However, the point here was that a group of people that had armed without using its weapons was equated with a group that actually did use its weapons and killed many people. The two are clearly not the same in deed, even if in threat they were.

    It’s not enough for promoters of the Rising to say, ‘well, unionists could have done what the Rising leaders did, they looked like they might.’ Yes, but they didn’t. And those unionist leaders may well have argued that they gave no sign of initiating Rising-style violence, let alone actually doing it. That would have been a whole step on from importing arms.

    We’re all capable of bad stuff but it matters whether you actually do it or not.

  • MainlandUlsterman

    what did you mean by “what you sow you will reap” then? I assumed you meant that present day unionists should suffer consequences because of Bonar-Law’s a***-headed posturing of the pre-WW1 era. Or why were you mentioning Bonar-Law to me in particular?

  • MainlandUlsterman

    it was a major constitutional crisis and for good reason – it was a clash of Westminster wishing to enact HR in the face of the reality on the ground of HR not being acceptable to one region to which it was to have been applied. There was no mechanism at the time for dealing with that and giving power over this to the people in the area affected, not just to Westminster.

    That was corrected. The principle of NI consent to its political arrangements stands today – a constitutional convention that tempers the (technically, almost absolute) sovereignty of parliament. A good thing too, that all the parties are now signed up to and fully support. I don’t really see why some nationalists seem to hanker after Westminster being given more power to impose legislation like the Home Rule Act on an unwilling region – the opposite of devolution and self-government, surely?

  • MainlandUlsterman

    A selection of elements by which people from the two ethnies can differ:
    national allegiance
    origin myths and actual origins
    religious tradition and culture
    wider cultural tropes (e.g. individual figures respected vs disliked, football teams, feelings about places outside NI)
    responses to symbols
    group identification
    sense of own history
    even some speech patterns and words

    I’m not boxing people into categories – as I say, you can escape your ethnie by rejecting your upbringing or just not strongly belong to one or the other. But to ignore the ethnic nature of differences between C/N/R and P/U/L is to ignore the elephant in the room. It is changing and the more we inter-marry, the more it will change. But the reality is, now more than ever, that we tend to live in and mix with people from our own ethnicity (I won’t say religion, because I’m atheist but it doesn’t somehow make me a bit Catholic, it just doesn’t work like that). We have largely separate schools, we tend to vote for different parties, there are whole sports that only one group plays, etc etc.

    I suspect the problem isn’t in recognising we have two main tribes – we wouldn’t be here on this site if there only one, there wouldn’t be a divided island – it’s a problem with the word ‘ethnicity’. It makes some people think of race. But really, that’s not what it means, so rather than ditch the word, just get au fait with what it actually means and you will find it an indispensable concept in understanding Ireland. Ever wondered why unionists don’t seem open to persuasion towards Irish unity? Look at ethnicity and it’s less of a mystery. Nationalism has treated it like it’s purely a political issue when it’s also in large part about the anthropology of group belonging. Miss that and you’re not going to ever get Ireland.

  • Dominic Hendron

    I’m saying that democracy was thwarted by violent threats in 1912 and Unionists have no right to preach to nationalists about it.

  • MainlandUlsterman

    democracy in our part of the world would have been thwarted if Westminster had imposed Home Rule though. I’m not excusing the gun-running, just saying we ended up with a better solution than either blanket Home Rule for the whole island or blanket Union for the whole island. All’s well that ends well, eh.

  • Barney

    But you are boxing people into categories by suggesting an ethnic division which you can’t define. If I suddenly thought that the interests of Irish people were best served by being part of the U.K. that revelation wouldnt change my ethnicity it changes my political outlook.

    The ethnic argument serves only one purpose to justify an undemocratic decision to divide the island. It’s racist or at best xenophobic as demonstrated by your inability to explain exactly what you mean.

  • Dominic Hendron

    A rather sarcastic comment so I’ll return in kind: I’m from Tyrone and “democracy in our part of the world” was thwarted. Nothings ended yet, eh.

  • John Collins

    Well Peter I did a Thesis a few years ago and on the first day I handed in my faltering first chapter, my supervisor took one look at at my references and noticed I had too ‘many quotes from wikipedia’. She warned me that my sources would overall have to be ‘more reliable’ and that wiki should be seldom, if ever quoted, so I am amazed that a man of your very apparent erudition should be so quick to quote it, as an unchallengeable source.. Seriously I do not believe a national saint would be buried in a foreign country.
    Overall I think that England must not be ever a single state either,according to your argument, because William dethroned Harold, Edward was deposed by the simple means of having a red hot plumbing iron stuck up his anus, two princes, one of them the rightful the heir to the throne, were ‘disappeared inside the Tower’ and Henry 7 also achieved his throne by dubious means. I will not mention the murder of Mary Queen of Scots, who was also next in line to the Throne.So England was hardly a unified state either, according to your highly dubious wikipedia inspired logic.

  • John Collins

    Glenn
    SF had only ever minimal support, as in 2 or 3% in the ROI during the troubles, where they had about 20% of the vote in your part of the country.
    BTW, the Brits are in no hurry to send us down The Dublin/Monaghan bombers either.

  • John Collins

    I wonder how many of that ‘half a million’ were names that were signed a second or indeed third time

  • John Collins

    Johnny
    You are right. Birkenhead was his name.
    I disagree with the gist of your last paragraph above, for the following reasons
    (1) Why did Birkenhead make that remark, after all he was at the ‘cliff face’?
    (2) How did what he said come through within a few years, if he was not right?
    (3) Why did the English electorate abandon the Liberals, who had otherwise given them so much, in preference to the Tories, who had given them very little?

  • NotNowJohnny

    I don’t think you have provided any reasons. What you gave provided is questions which I don’t have the answers to. As I said, Birkenhead was a conservative so I’m not sure why what he said about his own political death has much to do with the demise of the liberal party. By this stage the liberal party had split and I understand that this split is deemed to have been a major factor in its decline at the subsequent election. But as I said, I’m no expert on the demise of the liberal party.

  • PeterBrown

    St Patrick became the patron saint centuries after he died – I still don’t get the point and you should perhaps have spent more time dealing with my point rather than Wiki?. And as for the rest compare apples and apples – the reason those monarchs died was because the crown was important because England was a unified country

  • John Collins

    A unified country??
    From 1640 to 1745 alone we had the Parliamentarian /Royalist Civil War, The Rebellion of 1685, the Battles of the Glorious Revolution and and two major Jacobite Wars.
    A Unified country indeed.

  • John Collins

    Well that is fair enough, but as you know the first major split in the Liberal Party was caused by divisions over the implementation of HR in the 1880s, when Gladstone was the leader. So anyway you look at it the Irish Question played a part in the eventual decline of the LP

  • PeterBrown

    But England isn’t a country anyway because their patron saint is buried in the Holy Land? Your criteria not mine….

    It was still a politically unified entity during that period even if the government changed the area governed did not unlike Ireland until the 17th century or arguably for the Free State 1922

  • kensei

    Nope, this doesn’t fly. Unionism was explicit on the consequences if the 3rd Home Rule bill was enforced. if you throw match on a dry wood, you are responsible for it burning.

    But more to the point, Unionist violence in the period is not theoretical. Belfast 1920-22 was a pretty dark period, and the 1912 guns were used to arm the Specials – and the Catholic populace in Belfast certainly came off worse in that conflict. It’s not a stretch to see Belfast in 1920-22 as a taste of what could have happened if WW1 had intervened.

  • MainlandUlsterman

    Fair point about some of the 1912 weapons ending up in use in the sectarian meltdown of 1920-22 brought on by Irish separatism. And I’ve been clear I think the arms importation in 1912 was irresponsible posturing. But there are a few disconnects between that and the violence of 1920-22 – an awful lot happened in the meantime, not least WW1, the Easter Rising and the launch of large scale IRA attacks. There was appalling sectarian violence in Belfast, unionist and nationalist, from which Catholics / nationalists came off worse. Those responsible for leading the violence (mainly on the loyalist side) take huge blame for that, just as nationalists take huge blame in the 1969-98 period. But it’s quite a stretch to blame unionism in the round for it, just as I don’t blame the whole of nationalism for the 1969-98 period. In both cases, the violence comes from underpinning belief systems, in part, yes – but we have to put blame squarely on the people who carried it out. I can’t think that most unionists wanted sectarian killing in 1920, any more than most nationalists wanted it in 1970, 1980 or 1990. Some unionists opposed the arms importation (as I hope I would have), many others saw it as justified for theoretical future defensive purposes. Those unionists would have been appalled at their use for sectarian killings in Belfast. Use of violence on either side has very rarely enjoyed majority support and we need to remember that.

    So the UVF militia did arm itself illegally before the war, which was deeply wrong, but it’s no small point that it didn’t become a domestic terrorist organisation, unlike say the IRA of that time. That’s not excusing what some of its members did after the war outside the confines of the UVF, which was equally bad to what the IRA was doing in soon-to-become Northern Ireland and more widespread.

  • kensei

    Still nope. Given the litany of quotes I could pull out from all the Unionist leaders, it is not credible to suggest that it was simply posturing. Had Home Rule the UVF would have rebelled. Their leaders made clear that was the case.

    Moreover, even if Carson et al had been posturing, they could not have stopped violence, just as they could and did not stop violence in the 1920-22 period; if you create Frankenstein’s monster, you are responsible for it’s actions. If you train a dog to kill and then let it look, you are responsible for its actions. Unionism has never reconciled itself with this – not in the 1912-22 period, and not in the 1968-98 period. It is moral cowardice, among other things.

    Unionism said it’d prefer blood to Home Rule, and it got it. 1912 was the decisive moment in returning the gun to Irish politics. It’s never left it since. Unionism bears a heavy moral burden, in the round, for doing so, that is equal or greater.to that of other actors.

  • MainlandUlsterman

    You’ve still not joined up the disconnects though.

    Why you pick 1912 as the fons et origo of all political violence in Ireland is a little obscure, is it not? Don’t repeat the argument because I’m familiar with it already, but it still doesn’t account for (1) the fact that it wasn’t unionists that kicked off the violence – it was nationalists; and (2) nationalists formed violent groups like the IRB and used violence from the mid 19th C onwards. And of course there is a long history of inter-communal violence going back centuries. Very convenient for nationalism if something unionists did without firing a shot in 1912 is somehow the start of it all, given the scale of nationalist violence subsequently.

    We can all blame each other for provocation, non-proximate causes etc etc – that’s always an option and it’s always a bit bogus. How about holding everyone accountable for their own violence? I’ll make no excuses for unionist violence and I hope you’ll make none for nationalist violence. If that’s unfair, I give up.

  • kensei

    Yes, there was sporadic violence going back centuries – the natives weren’t keen on dispossession even prior to nationalism being A Thing. And that undoubtedly had a strong influence on the Rising – the exam ple of Emmet was definitely on Pearse’s mind.

    But Constitutional Nationalism was very very strongly in the ascendency. The third Home Rule Bill was its noontide. The IPP had a stranglehold on Nationalism. After unsuccessful campaigns of in the mid to late C19, the IRB had amended its constitution to explicitly disallow rebellion without popular support. You have voices in it such as Bulmer Hobson who favour passive resistance to violence. Pearse – Pearse! – is a constitutionalist until maybe 1914. Nationalism has not got the appetite or capability for a violent campaign.

    1912 shatters it. Nationalism played by the rules it was given, and when it won under those rules the rug was pulled. Moreover, the threat and success if threateimg rebellion transforms the debate. Its impossible to read anything around the period and not see the transformative affect the UVF and the gun running has on proceedings, particularly when married to British tolerance. Space opens for the violent republicanism to re-emerge; faith in politics and British promises is destroyed. The IVF is a natural reaction to the UVF and from there, things are out of control.

    So no, I don’t think violence can be compartmentalised, this is yours, this is mine. Action begets reaction. If Unionism was not prepared for the consequences of 1912-22 they never should have threatened violence. Violence cycles, feeds on itself. Nationalism bears blame from some of the Unionist reaction in the period and in later periods. We are codependent.

    “Woe unto the world because of offenses; for it must needs be that offenses come, but woe to that by whom the offenses cometh”. There is plenty of sin to go around. Nationalism has at least engaged with some of that over the 1916 anniversary. I’m not sure Unionism ever has.

  • Thought Criminal

    A load of nonsense. Every single country on earth is defended with the ability to use violence if necessary. Get real.

  • MainlandUlsterman

    I have no problem with the state doing it. Just not anyone else. Complex states can only function on the basis of having a monopoly on the use of force. Democratic disagreements should be settled peacefully, if not by agreement then using peaceful demonstrations, civil disobedience and political work. We effectively ended the Anglo-Irish Agreement that way, by simply never working with it. We got the Good Friday Agreement, which cut off the Dublin role in NI’s internal affairs and threw in the defeat of the IRA to boot. I think it was a good approach.

  • John Collins

    There was going to be partition anyway. Over the previous seventy five years the Catholic population of what is now the twenty six counties would have dropped by about fifty five to sixty per cent. There was no way we were going to put up with that. Remaining with GB might have suited the Protestant NE, it simply did not work for us down here.

  • John Collins

    Quincey
    They hardly brought in 30,000 guns to shoot duck. Get real.

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