In defence of John Bruton

It was brave of former Taoiseach John Bruton to chose last week to return to the ultimate Irish counterfactual. He’s taken to task for it in the Irish Times by historian Dr Brian P Murphy OSB

I believe,” said Bruton, “Ireland would have reached the position it is in today, an independent nation of 26 or 28 counties, if it had stuck with the Home Rule policy and if the 1916 rebellion had not taken place.”

the choice to use force in 1916, and again in 1919, must be subjected to severe reappraisal in light of what we can see might have been achieved, without the loss life”.

Murphy goes on to quote Redmond’s later views..

 Redmond himself rapidly came to the conclusion that British politicians, especially Tory Unionist politicians, were not going to allow the evolution of Irish Home Rule in the manner that he had hoped for and which is now envisaged by Bruton.

Redmond expressed his views on the matter after Lloyd George attempted to amend the Home Rule Act, with provision for the Ulster Unionists, and following the declaration by Lord Lansdowne in the House of Lords, on July 11th 1916, that these structural changes to the Act would be “permanent and enduring” and the exclusion of the six counties would be “permanent”.

Redmond responded, on July 12th, by declaring that Lansdowne’s speech “amounts to a declaration of war on the Irish people, and to the announcement of a policy of coercion”.

But Lansdowne cannot be quoted as the ultimate  authority for the UK wartime coalition.  He had been a Diehard opponent of Liberal Lords reform and notoriously argued for exploring a negotiated peace with the Germans.

And notice the date for this exchange – July 12 – after the Rising. The fact is something else had changed utterly as a result.  The legacy of the Rising ended the double dealing  of 1914 about permanent or temporary exclusion from Home Rule for the Ulster Unionists. Ronan Fanning, so often quoted as the ultimate authority  from his  recent book  Hidden Path is even more emphatic.

 John Bruton’s clarion call represents ..an extreme because it flies in the face of two historical realities about the third Home Rule Bill. The first is that the Bill was always an exercise in hypocrisy. Asquith’s government never intended that it should be enacted in the form in which it was introduced.”

Fanning concludes that the Home Rule Act “disguised but could never reverse the British government’s commitment to the principle that Ulster’s unionists had rights of self-determination comparable to Ireland’s nationalists..

The enthusiasm with which John Redmond and his party greeted the announcement of the royal assent to the Government of Ireland Act in the House of Commons, on September 18th, 1914, and which John Bruton now asks us to embrace was as misplaced as the embitterment of the unionists who walked out of the House en bloc.

For the other inescapable historical reality was that the apparent achievement of home rule was illusory: the Suspensory Act disguised but could never reverse the British government’s commitment to the principle that Ulster’s unionists had rights of self-determination comparable to Ireland’s nationalists.

Quite so.Why the surprise?   Bruton accepts the reality of partition. Fanning seems to deny it. Home Rule was still there for those who wanted it. Who therefore is being the more fanciful with history?

Ask yourself a few questions.

In Asquith’s position in 1914 and Lloyd George’s  after 1916, what would you have done?

Why does the  nationalist  assumption still survive that Westminster had been morally compelled to deliver a united Ireland to them somehow, even at the cost of using the same physical force  they deplored when used against them?  This was – and perhaps remains – a fond belief that has to be questioned as much as Redmond’s gamble of 1914 when  he pledged the Volunteers to the war effort.

Why is Ulster Unionism dismissed as a false consciousness, the passive tool of the imperialist British?

Why did nationalists make so little effort made in earlier decades to make Home Rule appealing the unionists? Why did  they think they could succeed by appealing over their heads to London?

And the killer question for me. If nationalism had accepted  feeble Home Rule terms and gone on to demand more powers, how could they conceivably have been denied?

Granted, by 1919 and after the lunatic proposal to apply conscription to Ireland at least in theory, everybody was spoiling for a fight. But let’s not dignify it with principle.  Self determination for the North was recognised at last in 1998. Even if disagreement survives over the foundation story, that recognition is the agreed  basis for the future.   Equality cuts both ways!

 

.

,

  • Megatron

    Self Determination for area defined as Northern Ireland was established in 1998. The area under question changed a bti over the years.
    I still don’t get the idea that because a minority of the island just happened to be concentrated in one place that makes separate settlements justifiable.
    If nothing else this sowed the seeds for future conflicts as it was manifestly unfair for people on both sides caught on the wrong side of the border.
    Nobody suggested after the scottish referendum that the north lanarkshire should be granted independence.

  • chrisjones2

    “I still don’t get the idea that because a minority of the island just happened to be concentrated in one place that makes separate settlements justifiable.”

    Because that minority decided it should be so old chap. They call it self determination

  • Ernekid

    The majority of people in Fermanagh and Tyrone in the early 1920s voted for nationalist councils that democratically decided to be part of the Free State. These councils were promptly abolished and gerrymandered by the new Northern administration Where was the principle of self determination then?

    Not a single person in Ireland voted for partition in 1920.

  • Ernekid

    There’s no guarantee that if the rising didn’t happen that Home Rule would have still gone ahead. Remember that Bonar Law and the Tories were still dead set against Home Rule and wanted with the unionists to do anything to stop it. Bonar Laws 1922 government could have easily repealed home rule or rapidly emasculated any nascent Dublin parliament. The powers of a Dublin Home Rule Parliament were much less that what we have with modern devolution. So there’s no guarantee that Home Rule would have lead to independence. If Ireland was still part of the UK by the 1940s. The landscape of Dublin would likely be quite different as it would have been levelled by the Luftwaffe

  • Slater

    The only problem with self-determination is how do you define the area to be so determined.
    The Irish insist it is the island and the definition criteria is seawater. The problem is that people had ships.

  • barnshee

    i`m sure with will on both sides these counties can be transferred (along with their DLA and Dole claimants ) to the ROI

  • Megatron

    so how do you define it?

  • Paddy Reilly

    Why did nationalists make so little effort made in earlier decades to make Home Rule appealing the unionists? (sic)

    Because Unionists are the people who, by definition, do not find Home Rule appealing. You might as well expect people on Death Row to give up appealing their sentence on receiving an offer of free balloons, comfortable pillows and generous provision for widows.

  • Zorin001

    I take it in the interests of Equality we are including the Protestant DLA and Dole claimants as well?

  • kensei

    Firstly, let’s assume that the Ulster Unionsists have comparative rights to self determination. You still do not end with the present state. There are too many Nationalists embedded all over it that were not considered. Derry City and huge parts of Fermanagh, Tyrone and Down did not belong in the Northern State if you are trying to tailor the border. If Ulster Unionism was a problem for Irish Nationalism, Northern Nationalism is a serious problem for Ulster Unionsim. The Civil War probably delayed the out working of that until the Troubles.

    In any case Unionism got to draw the boundaries to their best sectarian advantage with any protections for the Nationalists stuck in it. A 9 county Ulster would have been preferable as it would have had the numbers for a feasible counterweight. But establish Ulster as the unit of self determination and you’ve a UI in 50 years, tops.

    But let’s address the fetishing of Redmond, good Imperialist. He encouraged tens of thousands of Irish men to their deaths in one of the most brutal conflicts in history on the off chance that the British Government might give Ireland what it had been voting for peacefully for the last 30 years. In a union that was established on highly limited franchise and essentially, under the gun. And yet Pearse is the butcher and Redmon a jolly nice chap. Bruton can go to hell, in my opinion.

  • kensei

    Oh, and once you accept partition as a principle, you get into recursive arguments pretty fast. NI as is can basically only exist because Nationalism wants a UI. If Derry or South Armagh or the West of the Bann decided they were happy to join the Republoc and screw the rest, they could become ungovernable fairly sharpish.

  • Jollyraj

    Don’t remember that particular provision of the GFA

  • Ernekid

    John Bruton strikes me a guy who has read one book on the IPP but hasn’t read anything else about Irish politics during the period.

  • Jollyraj

    Obviously what should have happened was a population swap with unionists moving north of the border, and nationalists moving to Ireland. Jobsagudun.

  • kensei

    The GFA is meaningful only in the same way that any constitutional document is meaningful. It relies on the consent or at least acquiescence of the governed.

    There is no legal treaty you can put in place that can bind a future electorate if it decides against it. If the vast majority of the people of Derry, just for example, declared it was going to join the Republic and peacefully made the place unworkable until it happened, there isn’t a law that could be passed that could stop it. You could enforce jurisdiction with well, force, but modern democracies tend to baulk at the measures needed.

    People tend to get annoyed at this point, but the same people will also tend to say partition is inevitable because Ulster Unionism, and see no contradiction.

  • Gingray

    Unionists at the time found Home Rule in the 6 counties very appealing, a chance to create a Protestant state for a Protestant people after all …

  • Gingray

    Or, take it that one step further, just send the Unionists back to GB and leave Ireland for the Irish – silly claiming to be British when you do not live in Britain 🙂

  • Reader

    Nope, unionists at the time wanted direct rule.

  • Discuscutter

    The people who ascribe to Bruton’s position were a few hundred in Dublin at their biggest meeting while 400k attended the Dublin rising celebration on Sunday.

    People reject his bitterness and the privileged nonsense that it represents that shipped tens of thousands of nationalists and unionists off to wholesale slaughter in France so that families like the Bruton’s could fatten.

  • Reader

    kensei: If the vast majority of the people of Derry, just for example, declared it was going to join the Republic and peacefully made the place unworkable until it happened, there isn’t a law that could be passed that could stop it.
    Well, there is actually. The Republic of Ireland could pass such a law, or simply continue to enforce the relevant law they already have. It would only need the RoI to decide that such a change would do more harm than good, or would defer a United Ireland indefinitely.
    And wasn’t there already a 30 year campaign of making the place unworkable?
    However, supposing you stick to your point; North Down could similarly refuse to go into a United Ireland, couldn’t it?

  • Reader

    Ernekid: The landscape of Dublin would likely be quite different as it would have been levelled by the Luftwaffe.
    Like Belfast? Just a symbolic target. The Luftwaffe also dropped a few bombs on Dublin, probably by accident. A Home Rule Ireland could have had another night or so of the same, then it would have been back to more strategic targets, or easier ones.

  • Jollyraj

    “Or, take it that one step further, just send the Unionists back to GB and leave Ireland for the Irish – silly claiming to be British when you do not live in Britain :-)”

    I sense so much confusion in you. You’re aware that ‘GB’ and Britain are not the same thing, but you aren’t sure why.

    Ireland for the Irish? Your definition of ‘Irish’ includes us, doesn’t it. So we can choose for ourselves then? Yay! We’ll stay with Britain, thanks.

    Jayz boys. Easier nur I thought to settle the whole question.

  • kensei

    Second question: nope, not in that way.

    Point one and three: yes, to an extent, but it’s asymmetric. The border is more porous than the sea and is surrounded by terrain more likely to have goodwill, regardless of the stance of the government. The Republic could make life hard but I think it’d have trouble holding out versus a sustained campaign of civil disobedience; chance it could spill across the border too. North Down could make itself ungovernable for a very long period, but it’d be much more doomed without British support. With it, indefinite.

    It’s a useful corrective for all sides. Winning ideas and hearts is important. But it is asymmetric for Unionism I think. The present settlement rests in accepting it’s assumptions – which it has been very successful in establishing! But that doesn’t mean it has it be that way, always and forever and repartition campaign.would be terribly hard for it to stop.

  • Ernekid

    Well if we are playing the counterfactual game then if Ireland entered WW2 as part of the U.K. Then the treaty ports would have been a core part of the war effort. This would have made Ireland a real target for the Germans. Who knows? Maybe the Germans could have staged an invasion on Ireland’s poorly defended southern coasts and used it as a landing stage to attack Britain.

  • Brendan Heading

    It isn’t a provision of the GFA, but it’s the logical conclusion of the people who are making an argument that it’s legitimate to use force of arms to secure the self determination of any arbitrary place on a map you care to draw a circle around.

  • Brendan Heading

    Bonar Law’s concern was with “Ulster”; with partition in place, which was inevitable long before the Rising and WW1, I don’t see that he would have had any particular cause to reverse the Home Rule acts.

    Irish people at the time were perfectly happy with the idea of home rule and the relatively limited powers it offered at the time; they repeatedly voted for it.

    Northern Ireland was part of the UK in the 1940s. Belfast was not “levelled” although it sustained a number of serious bombing attacks. Had Dublin been in the UK it is not clear that it would have been much of a target given that there was little in the way of manufacturing etc. there.

  • Reader

    kensei: But that doesn’t mean it has it be that way, always and forever and repartition campaign.would be terribly hard for it to stop.
    There are reasons on both sides not to campaign for re-partition. The 6 county not-an-inch unionists have very simple reasons, though there are few enough now living in the borderlands. The one-more-push republicans know that repartition would see the end of their 32 county dreams. And even I, a North Down unionist who has only been West of the Bann on a very few occasions and wouldn’t miss Tyrone if it fell into a giant sinkhole – well, I would hate to see the violence and upheaval that the mere prospect of repartition would bring.
    Can you think of a single party, north or south, that would campaign for repartition?

  • kensei

    Not at present, and I’m not suggesting it is liable to change soon. It’s an interesting thought experiment though.

    Unionists keep telling Nationalism that Northern Ireland will last forever a hundred years, Northern Ireland forever, having adventures. The second Nationalism really believes that, repartition becomes a serious and credible policy option for lots of border Nationalists, backed by precisely the arguments that fueled the existence of NI.

    Now we could get into whether they’d want to give up the NHS and the rest or if the Southern Establishment would put the dampeners on etc, but put that aside for a second – assume enough would and that the Southern establishment couldn’t control it anyway. It’s an interesting strategic weakness at the heart of Unionism, no?

    And as a Republican I wonder if it could be put to use nowvin some way, particularly when Arlene Foster gives a speech talking about how Northern Ireland is such a special place and wasn’t Lord Carson great and absolutely nothing that speaks to me. Maybe not, but its an edge, and edges are worth tugging at. For giggles if nothing else.

  • Reader

    kensei: It’s an interesting strategic weakness at the heart of Unionism, no?
    No – just the opposite. Most unionists live in areas that are majority unionist, and concentrated in the east. Repartition would make the union more secure; but in spite of that most of the current murmurings come from demoralised nationalists instead. Illustrated above.
    Unionism has some tactical weaknesses – but no strategic weaknesses.
    But very well then: “Oh please, Brer Fox, don’t throw us into the briar patch”.

  • Kev Hughes

    ‘Most unionists live in areas that are majority unionist, and concentrated in the east.’

    You see, I think that’s your great weakness there Reader in Kensei’s experiment here: you’re concentrated in an incredibly small area. Why it would be the 21st century equivalent of Calais in the 16th century.

  • Reader

    Specifically the treaty port of Cork/Cobh would have been useful, to guard the southern approaches. But Cobh would be very easy to defend from air attack, being nearly surrounded by land, and an obvious location for allied airfields as well.
    As for an invasion of Ireland – there were plans and counterplans anyway. A German invasion would have been pummeled on the crossing, and cut off from support and supplies after landing. It would be a suicide mission. But remember, if the Wehrmacht has a plan, neutrality wouldn’t help you anyway.
    No, if Ireland had joined the United Nations, it maybe would have risked being on the losing side (the ultimate counterfactual). But other than that, mostly the pain of being engaged in a war against a very busy, rather distant enemy.

  • Reader

    Why is that a weakness – are you planning a siege?
    We’re occasionally told that we cost the Brits too much – that they will gladly dump us and the southerners will willingly pick up the tab instead. So imagine if the cost was halved. No Strabane, no Crossmaglen, no Derry. Trebles all round…
    And Derry might get its university after all. (But who will pay?)

  • kensei

    I think the suggestion that there is a lack of attachment to Northern Ireland as the six counties and it’s part in the Unionist identity a bit of a push. But sure, you’d love it.

    I’m neither disillusioned or demoralized, either.

  • Kev Hughes

    Isn’t it obvious? It’s size is it’s weakness! Hence why I said it would be a 21st century version of Calais or didn’t you READ that?

  • Kev Hughes

    Seriously, just engage your brain for a moment and tell me that you think an area including, let’s say, all of the Metropolitan Belfast area, all of Antrim, North Down and, I’ll give you East Derry; do you honestly think that stands up as an area that’s sustainable?

  • Reader

    Ooh – exclamation marks and capitals. But no explanation – why is size a weakness? It’s not as if we are planning independence.

  • Kev Hughes

    Sorry, but that’s ignoring also that Belfast (city council) may actually have a majority who wouldn’t want to be in the union.

  • Reader

    Sustainable in what sense? Less sustainable than Cornwall? Or Cumbria?

  • Kev Hughes

    Wow, churlish response from a unionist, I seem to bring the best out in you guys.

    Is Cornwall or Cumbria separate from England or did I miss something?

  • Kev Hughes

    Well, you would be confirming that unionism is willing to cede territory rather than change the opinions of a large part of the electorate or deal with the outworkings who would prefer to live outside of the union. It would be a gerrymander, of a gerrymander. If you don’t think that’s a weakness then there’s no need for me to go on here.

  • Andrew Gallagher

    Hardly a fair comparison; the other event had better music. Care to play the ball?

  • Andrew Gallagher

    The very fact that we are still arguing 100 years after the fact about whether armed insurrection was necessary is proof enough that nobody could have reasonably known at the time whether it was necessary.

  • Gingray

    Reader
    Actually there was a fairly decent split in the unionist camp, the more politically powerful southern unionists did not favor partition or home rule, while the more numerous northern unionists had been pushing for partition and a form of home rule for the North.

    This form of home rule for the Northern part in a partitioned Ireland was first raised by Craig in 1914 around the signing of the 3rd home rule, when the 6 counties had a temporary exclusion added.
    In addition, the Ulster Volunteers had been discussing an Ulster Government from 1912.
    And in the reality that emerged – Unionists in Northern Ireland did not oppose the establishment of home rule for the 6 counties, the ran it for over 50 years.

  • Reader

    Kev Hughes: Wow, churlish response from a unionist, I seem to bring the best out in you guys.
    This – from the guy who had just told me to engage my brain.
    Kev Hughes: Is Cornwall or Cumbria separate from England or did I miss something?
    You missed explaining why you felt that a small region isn’t sustainable. And on a separate note, you also missed the existence of the Cornish independence movement. Though I admit I don’t know if Irish republicans laugh at, or support, the Cornish nationalists.

  • Neil
  • Kev Hughes

    Dear Lord, your name may be called reader, unfortunately it doesn’t follow that you comprehend.

    You’re right, I did ask you to engage your brain. In the written word, you probably see that as me ‘having a go at you”, I’d say you should probably get thicker skin.

    ‘You missed explaining why you felt that a small region isn’t sustainable. ‘

    That’s not true, and I shall quote myself (I’m sure Pete would be proud):

    ‘Well, you would be confirming that unionism is willing to cede territory rather than change the opinions of a large part of the electorate or deal with the outworkings who would prefer to live outside of the union. It would be a gerrymander, of a gerrymander. If you don’t think that’s a weakness then there’s no need for me to go on here.’

    It would be ignoring the past 100 years and the question would be asked, well why didn’t unionism just do that in the first place instead of taking chunks of territory where the majority of the inhabitants sure as hell didn’t want to be a part of the union? The simple answer is that it would be unsustainable owing to its size and would be seen to lack legitimacy as it is a gerrymander on sectarian grounds (even more so than what we currently have in place).

    Your talk of Cornwall or Cumbria is merely a false flag operation and you being churlish. I’m waiting for you to introduce Gibraltar into the mix rather than deal with the points raised.

  • Gingray

    Jallyroj
    I understand that being a northern Unionist you did not get a sense of humor from birth, or a sarcasm detector. You most likely failed to notice the little smiley face – I was mocking your suggestion, not positing a realistic solution.

    However, to address some of your strange comments – in terms of the name, as per wiki, and a thousand other sources, GB and Britain are interchangeable. Its a place, a big island to the right of Ireland, you may have missed it?

    Its an island ruled by the English, and several hundred years ago they decided the best way to deal with the recalcitrant Irish of Ulster was to steal their land and give it to some Scottish protestants.

    The descendants of those colonists are still causing bother to this day :-(. Thankfully tho, at every single age grouping under 44 they are now a minority, and the clock is ticking.

    I presume that if the majority in Northern Ireland ever vote to reunite with the rest of Ireland you will stay, or will you aim for re-partition? Or follow the example of the White South Africans and other White Africans fleeing back to Europe when the natives got control of their own land?

    I have a very simple definition of what is “Irish”, basically someone born in Ireland. Its a fairly small island. I think you live on it?

  • Reader

    kev Hughes: Well, you would be confirming that unionism is willing to cede territory rather than change the opinions of a large part of the electorate or deal with the outworkings who would prefer to live outside of the union. It would be a gerrymander, of a gerrymander. If you don’t think that’s a weakness then there’s no need for me to go on here
    kensei’s scenario had nationalism willing to give up all hope of a 32 county state for a bit more territory now, and with no attempt (as usual) to change the opinions of (the other) large part of the electorate. Isn’t that just as much of a weakness?
    As for the gerrymander of a gerrymander nonsense; remember that kensei’s scenario has defiant nationalists forcing local boundary changes on reluctant unionism. You can’t blame unionism for the resultant boundaries.
    But supposing unionism took you by surprise and accepted the changes gracefully: that would be a retrenchment – pretty much the exact opposite of a gerrymander. Since you throw the term gerrymander around so freely you should probably think about a 1925 border that you wouldn’t call a gerrymander. If you can’t think of one, you’re abusing the term.

  • John Collins

    What John Bruton ignores about Redmond is that he never contradicted what was in all probability a blatant lie.
    The GB Authorities spread the lie that German soldiers were raping nuns in Belgium. Now half the German population was RC at that time anf the other half was Protestant. I presume the same religious configuration existed in the army. I contend that if a German soldier, of Protestant or RC background, raped a nun at that time he would be either murdered by his colleagues or executed by the Army Command, for causing unrest within the ranks.
    Redmond who was a highly educated man and knew well the facts about the religious configuration of the German population. saw nothing wrong with his fellow countrymen being tricked into joining the army,and dying in their thousands throughout the war, on this entirely false pretext.
    At least Pearse had the decency to call off the rising after six days ‘due to unnecessary loss of life’, by contrast Redmond never apologised for his duplicity in the death of all those thousands of young RC Irishmen , who entered the GB Army because ‘nuns were being raped by German soldiers in Belgium’ mar a dearfa.

  • Kev Hughes

    ‘kensei’s scenario had nationalism willing to give up all hope of a 32 county state for a bit more territory now, and with no attempt (as usual) to change the opinions of (the other) large part of the electorate. Isn’t that just as much of a weakness?’

    It is, I agree, however, as I have already highlighted, I think it is a far greater weakness for unionism than nationalism, having elaborated on the size of the territory that unionism would occupy and the fact that (I would imagine) its capital would be a city with a near or, by the time it is implemented, actual majority in favour of joining in a UI also. So, what would you do with Belfast in that instance? Let it join a UI? Make it become a ‘Free City’?

    ‘As for the gerrymander of a gerrymander nonsense; remember that kensei’s scenario has defiant nationalists forcing local boundary changes on reluctant unionism. You can’t blame unionism for the resultant boundaries.’

    It still would be a gerrymander of a gerrymander, regardless of whomever imposes it. That’s kind of obvious.

    ‘But supposing unionism took you by surprise…’ that would be a first, but go on…

    ‘and accepted the changes gracefully:’ oh I laughed at that. Graceful and unionism. You guys are a lot of things but you’re not really graceful.

    ‘that would be a retrenchment – pretty much the exact opposite of a gerrymander. Since you throw the term gerrymander around so freely you should probably think about a 1925 border that you wouldn’t call a gerrymander. If you can’t think of one, you’re abusing the term.’

    See above. I still believe it a gerrymander of a gerrymander. It’s not an abuse of the term at all if we take the definition as:

    ‘to divide (a state, school district, etc.) into political units that give one group an unfair advantage’.

    If unionism really wants this then have at it; personally, I can’t see it lasting. It would create a huge head-ache for too many folks and would, IMHO, be seen as you guys giving up. It would show that ‘Northern Ireland’ and its territory can be so easily ceded by unionism to essentially fit an ethno-political grouping alone and that when the going gets tough in certain areas, it’s willing to give up territory.

    It begs the further question: if you’ve ceded territory in say 10 years time to the South, what parts of the rump NI would you be willing to cede further? I mean, what happens if East Derry or North Antrim become majority wanting to join a UI after the ceding of land already to the South? Or how about Lagan Valley? How much can be ceded before it becomes ‘unsustainable’ in your mind? Just the area from Strangford all the way up the coast to Larne remaining? That is, essentially, the thrust of my point.

    And thanks for actually deciding to engage with the whole premise.

  • Barneyt

    Interesting Jolly. What is the difference between Britain and Great Britain. A genuine question. Clearly the UK is made up of Great Britain (ScotlandEnglandWelsh principality) and Nothern Ireland (stateregionprovincecountrywee six).

    Is Britain a subset of Great Britain or is Great Britain the same as the UK in your mind

    I think there is a lot of confusion regarding the makeup of the UK and GB in many quarters. Differentiating between Britain and Great Britain only adds to this I feel. Please enlighten us (I mean that as I was unaware of the difference)

  • Barneyt

    Does self determination extend to creating a partition? Dividing Irish from Irish and British Irish from British Irish. Once the border was drawn, two fingers were put up to those left behind…both sides in my view gave up on their “brothers and sisters” respectively left behind on each side of the border.

    Yes, the Free State decended into a brutal Church run state…and this continued unchecked through many years of the Republic. Northern Ireland has its own version of this religious control and madness, even today. Is it possible that British unionist involvement on an all-ireland basis might have nipped the catholic estremist state in the bud? I feel this might have been the case, however there is also the remote possibility that the whole island could have become a festering religious cesspit. I side with opportunity missed myself.

  • Jollyraj

    Northern Ireland is in Britain and the UK, but not Great Britain.

    The UK is a sovereign state consisting of four constituent countries: England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

    Britain is simply another name for the UK.

    Great Britain is the main and largest island of the UK, which consists of England, Scotland and Wales. Can also be described British Mainland.

  • Barneyt

    I think you are clutching at straws here. Britain and the UK are the same thing? It was easy when Ireland was Ireland the Britain was the large island to our right. When the United kingdom was created, it was made up of British, from Britain and Irish from Ireland. Collectively we were considered people from the United Kingdom. It proved awkward to add the “ish”, “ese” etc..(which was considered) to United Kingdom as quite simply it was a mouthful. The term British was therefore adopted as a convenient catch all to describe the people from the United kingdom, as it rolled off the tongue much better. However it did not disolve the fact that British is a term used to describe people from Great Britain.

    So, technically you are British if you are from Britain and Northern Irish if you are from Northern Ireland.

    At no point can Britain be considered to be the same as the United Kingdom, despite the Nationality that Northern Irish people can adopt i.e. British as opposed to the clumsy tongue twister of United Kingdomish (which would technically be correct).

    I feel you have elected to consdier the UK and Britain to represent the same thing geographically to reinforce your sense of GB attachment. Northern Ireland is part of the UK collective with GB…but Northern Ireland is not in GB or indeed Britain. Thats well established.

  • Barneyt

    There is a logistical issue with Donegal. Its telling that Britain (forced I suspect by Northern Unionism) was willing to forego a huge chunk of atlantic coast by not retaining Donegal. I believe Donegal could have been much more developed had it a) stayed in the UK or b) joined the free state along with Fermanagh, forming a 27/5 split.

    So, on this basis, I can see some redrawing the border, maybe not now but in the not too distant past.

    This demonstrates it was all about numbers, numbers loyal to Britain and had nothing to do with practical sense.

  • Trevor

    The ” logic ” of this would suggest that all non native Americans , Australians etc. etc. should return to their countries of origin !

  • Jollyraj

    “The term British was therefore adopted as a convenient catch all to describe the people from the United kingdom”

    Yes. That would be the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland.

    Thank you for conceding that point early and thus saving us the tedious, drawn-out and ultimately sterile exchange that the likes of Angli Irish specialize in. I really wasn’t looking forward to it.

  • Jollyraj

    Jallyroj? Now that’s not nice – I don’t call you Gongray, now do I?

    (Note: if you are simply writing in a thick Belfast accent re ‘jallyroj’, my apologies)

    Don’t like our sense of humour? Great! Yet another reason why it just wouldn’t work out between us. Let’s just call the whole wedding off then.

    🙂

  • Anglo-Irish

    Good God, you’re not still continuing with that nonsense are you?

    ‘ Britain is simply another name for the UK’

    No it isn’t, only to some fool who has no idea what they’re talking about.

    I’ve explained to you before that the fact that NI is specifically described as a separate entity from Great Britain on the front of a British passport proves to any sentient being that they are two entirely different places

    You see a passport is an official document and therefore needs to be precise and accurate in its wording.
    Which is why the British passport makes it perfectly clear that it is also valid for people born in NI but not born in Britain.

    This may help. https://www.google.co.uk/url?sa=t&rct=j&q=&esrc=s&source=web&cd=5&cad=rja&uact=8&ved=0ahUKEwi5hqPew-vLAhXB6RQKHdh3C5sQFgg-MAQ&url=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.ordnancesurvey.co.uk%2Fblog%2F2011%2F08%2Fwhats-the-difference-between-uk-britain-and-british-isles%2F&usg=AFQjCNGrNzA3qezBLqy4sOmlJd9E3jQoGw

    For you to keep on denying the blindingly obvious makes you look incredibly stupid, get a grip and stop making yourself look daft.

  • WindsorRocker

    Britain is used as informal verbal shorthand for UK. It’s used in speeches constantly like that. The fact it’s not geographically accurate is irrelevant.

    Much in the same way people talk about Ireland this, Ireland that, when they refer to the 26 county state. Again, not geographically accurate but hey, we get their drift.

  • Anglo-Irish

    Then it is being used inaccurately isn’t it?

    If someone uses it in a political speech and they are talking about a policy which includes NI using the term Britain then they would need to clarify it wouldn’t they?

    If you are attempting to describe something to someone it’s a great help if you do it in such a way that they can understand without having to ask further questions.

    If you asked me where I was going on my holidays, and I answered Iberia, you would, quite rightly think that I was being deliberately confusing for the sake of being awkward..

    Because then if you were interested enough you would need to ask me which country, Spain, Portugal, Andorra or the crown colony of Gibraltar.

    The UK is not Great Britain and vice versa.

    Jollyraj has posted in the past that anyone born in NI is born in Britain. Such blatant nonsense needs to be corrected.

  • Jollyraj

    Anglo, Anglo… while I admittedly find it amusingly unlikely that I would find you intimidating in person, it is even less likely that the bullying, aggressive tone you employ whenever someone points out that you are wrong will get you anywhere across the internet, for goodness sake.

    You appear unable to accept that ‘Great Britain’ and ‘Britain’ are not exactly the same thing and, as it seems you simply won’t be told, there is a limit to how many times people will explain it to you.

  • Gingray

    Well at least you got it eventually…

  • Gingray

    Nope, Britain is not another name for the UK. Indeed the English department of education has ordered this error corrected.

    The nation is the UK. Check your British passport.

  • Anglo-Irish

    What is amusing is to think that there is someone who would associate physical intimidation with keyboard debate, heated or not.

    Where am I wrong?

    What I have pointed out to you on several occasions is that neither Britain nor Great Britain refer in any shape or form to Ireland.

    To be precise, Britain means England and Wales, Great Britain means England, Scotland and Wales following the act of Union in 1707

    Neither description includes Ireland, which has always been a separate entity. You appear to have difficulty accepting that simple fact.

    Didn’t you once post that being born in Ireland meant that you were born in Britain?

    You couldn’t get more wrong than that could you?

    It isn’t bullying, it’s exasperation at your continual inability to accept the facts.

    And if words on a forum bring to mind intimidation it doesn’t paint a particularly flattering image of you.

  • Anglo-Irish
  • kensei

    Hmmm, I’m not sure I said give up all hope. I merely said if Nationalism really accepted the assertions by Unionism that Northern Ireland was forever, game theory would point you to ripping it up. So if Unionism really wants a six county NI, it is in it’s best interests to offer hope that a 32 county UI is possible which is a wee bit ironic.

    But there are a few outside scenarios where you could end up in a 32 county Republic in that scenario anyway. Viability is a thing, which is why unionism did not opt for four counties. If the switched areas did fabulously well, it might open doors. Plus the EU and UK could evolve in different ways that make it possible. Much less likely, but not impossible, particularly if economic drivers emerged.

    I’m not sure the option is either strong or weak. The mental jump to concede that you aren’t going to convince people and cutting the border to make as many people happy as possible is the best option requires a certain courage. Not for it, but it’s a defensible alternative position.

    But no, the new border couldn’t be pinned on Unionism.

  • Gingray

    Indeed Trevor! As you can see, I was being facetious in response to Jollys comment about having a population swop, something that resulted in over 1 million dead in India when the British partitioned it.

  • Barneyt

    Seriously though, if you believe NI is in Britain or Britain and GB are different things, you have this wrong. You do. Its not your fault or mine how the UK was formed, but there is a hierarchy with regard to its parts and it is defined by those parts. UK is NI and GB. GB = Britain.

    By all means I will concede if you can demonstrate that GB and Britain are indeed actually different (I initially showed genuine interest in your assertion). If you can also show (using reliable material) that Britain and the UK are the same, again I will concede. If you can do this, then you will be correct in your assertion.

    Presently I regard your assertion is a willed belief rather than based on fact. You are very like an entreched Irish Republican who refuses to accept that NI is part of the UK.Thats a reality that I would expect to fuel the campaign for total Irish independence. If anyone regards NI as part of Ireland, then the “fight” is surely over. So this lack of reality aligns with yours with respect to the terms you are using to describe the UK, Britain, GB and where NI sits in this. I am more than happy to be corrected. Official proof in this case is needed.

  • Anglo-Irish

    Great Britain and Britain are different in that Britain pedantically – and accurately – speaking means England and Wales as originally named by the Romans.

    Scotland was Caledonia and Ireland Hibernia.

    Great Britain is used in order to include Scotland and became used regularly after the act of union in 1707.

    Ireland, Hibernia, Eire or whatever other name anyone wishes to attach to it has never been a part of either Britain or Great Britain, no matter how much some people may wish that it was.

  • Lionel Hutz

    Ulster. Given that they were ulster unionists. Given the historic nature of the provincial identities and boundaries. So ulster is the example.

  • congal claen

    Hi Anglo,
    There is some confusion as to the difference between Britain and Great Britain. Some say that Great was added to distinguish between what was Roman Britain (basically below Hadrian’s wall) and the whole island. Others argue that it was to distinguish between Brittany and Britain. Brittany has also been described as Little Britain. Maybe it’s a combination of both? In common parlance though most people nowadays consider Britain and Great Britain to be the same thing – the largest island in the British Isles and not the UK.
    If you’re born in Ireland though you’re born in the British Isles. That doesn’t mean you’re necessarily a British citizen, you could be born in the Republic. But neither do you have to be born in Great Britain to be a British citizen. Britishness is wider than Great Britain.
    With the trouble some people have with this you’d have thought the Republic would not have opted to use Ireland as the name of the state as that obviously leads to confusion with the geographic entity Ireland.

  • Anglo-Irish

    Confusion only exists because many people are a bit careless in how they describe things.

    https://www.google.co.uk/url?sa=t&rct=j&q=&esrc=s&source=web&cd=11&cad=rja&uact=8&ved=0ahUKEwioyK2W5e3LAhVMthQKHXieAeoQFghnMAo&url=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.ordnancesurvey.co.uk%2Fblog%2F2011%2F08%2Fwhats-the-difference-between-uk-britain-and-british-isles%2F&usg=AFQjCNGrNzA3qezBLqy4sOmlJd9E3jQoGw

    That link explains the situation clearly.

    Although calling the two islands the British Isles is a bit impertinent in my view, if you don’t own something describing it as though you do seems a little inaccurate, if not to say arrogant.

    Prince Charles in his last visit to Ireland used the expression ‘ Atlantic Isles ‘ which was more diplomatic.

    Whilst someone born in NI automatically has the right to British citizenship it doesn’t make them British.It makes them a British citizen, and whilst the description ‘British’ is the easy way of describing it, it isn’t factual.

    If it was it would mean that someone born in NI with 100% Irish heritage on both sides of their family and having an Irish passport would also be British, despite not being born there or having any connection to the place. That would be ridiculous.

    As to the Irish passport, it has always been available to anyone born anywhere on the island so calling it anything other than Ireland would be strange.

    Using ‘Ireland and Northern Ireland ‘ would be an unnecessary tautology.

    I live in South Yorkshire, which is in Yorkshire.

  • Jollyraj

    Physical?

  • Anglo-Irish

    In your last post you said ” unlikely that I would find you intimidating in person “.

    The only difference between debating on a forum and doing so face to face is a physical presence, correct?

    Therefore, by bringing it up it sounded as though you were saying that you thought that although I was being intimidating on the forum I wouldn’t be face to face, which I thought was amusing.

    Now, as I have explained ad nauseam, whilst it is true that Britain and Great Britain are different, neither one of them has anything to do with Ireland.

    For you to keep saying differently despite the facts which you can check out for yourself simply makes you look obsessive and a bit daft, but don’t let me stop you, carry on.

  • Am Ghobsmacht

    If places like India, Gambia, British Somaliland, Jamaica, Kenya et al can obtain independence from Britain then why do we think that Ireland wouldn’t have eventually?

    If the fires of nationalism burn so brightly then is it really likely that had the rebellion not taken place then Ireland would still somehow be part of the UK and not independent to some degree, if not even a united Ireland?

    Yes, ‘perfidious Albion’ and all that but I’m pretty sure the EU would have something to say about it:

    “Are you still oppressing Ireland””
    “Yes”
    “Right, more money for Spanish fishing fleets it is then!”
    “awwww….”

  • barnshee

    where you can find them certainly

Join us for the Slugger End of Year Review Show, Wed 14th Dec 2016
Get your tickets