Unionism’s anglophobia

James Craig and Michael Collins

The slogan used to be ‘Brit’s Out’. It marked a gross misunderstanding of the people of Northern Ireland. As Conor Cruise O’Brien wrote of the Easter Rising:

“Irish-Ireland wrote and talked as if it assumed that the battle would be over once Dublin with its garrison of dentists’ wives had surrendered.”

The “British” of Northerm Ireland are the several hundred thousand people loyal to the Crown, not the Crown forces.

While the “Brits Out” slogan is no longer daubed, the toxic worldview remains. Many Republicans still see the argument as between themselves and Britain, and not between Irishmen with opposite aspirations.

TIME magazine wrote about Sir James Craig:

“Sir James Craig has been reviled and praised by Irishmen more than any other denizen of the Emerald Isle. Of course, the Irishmen that do the reviling will not admit that Sir James or any of his admirers are Irishmen, while the Irishmen that do the praising stoutly affirm that they are every bit as Irish as those who revile him…”

Those with a loyal mindset are seen as foreign; they are inimical to authentic Irishness, republicans say. But you can be loyal and Irish, Irish and loyal; as everyone from Gusty Spence to William Ennis have attested.

The republican movement’s fight is with Irish and Ulster natives who are loyal to the Crown, not with the Queen and English politicians and bureaucrats.

Repeatedly republican’s talk of Lloyd George as Ireland’s opponent, instead of James Craig and Ulster unionism. Lloyd George wanted an all-Ireland settlement but Ireland’s Ulster unionists objected absolutely, as I note below.

I attended a talk where a nationalist lady from Londonderry said that the problem of difference in Northern Ireland was one of two people – Irish people and English people.

The 12 year old Reece Kilbride from Dublin recently wrote a letter to the Queen asking for Northern Ireland back. His request represented a catastrophic and dangerous misinformation, with either or both his parents and school responsible. (I wrote a rebuttal here, admonishing the anglophobic curriculum and culture that exists in Ireland, not the boy.)

Reece should have written his letter to all those unionists who voted pro-Union candidates.

The Irish Proclamation erroneously proclaims that unionists are deluded lackeys suffering a false consciousness “fostered by an alien government”. This is a serious assertion, and not once have I seen this erroneous proclamation addressed in this centenary year.

And of course, we are all familiar with the tinsel patriots of Irish-America who drawl, “England out of Ireland.”

Unfortunately the taciturnity of unionism has allowed the IT’S ALL TO DO WITH THE ENGLISH/ IT’s ENGLAND’S FAULT myth to stand and perpetuate.

Irish monarchists hold views as strong and legitimate as Irish republicans, and vice-versa, as enshrined in international treaty. John Hume expressed this emphatically in his famous 1964 article in the Irish Times:

“Another positive step towards easing community tensions and towards removing what bigotry exists among Catholics would be to recognize that the Protestant tradition in the North is as strong and as legitimate as their own…. We must be prepared to accept this and to realize that the fact that a man wishes Northern Ireland to remain part of the United Kingdom does not necessarily make him a bigot or a discriminator.”

Not only should Reece and republicans be writing letters to loyal Irishmen and not to the Queen, they should note that unionists have no love for England or the English. If anything, unionism has an anglophobia as great if not greater than republicans do. As George Bernard Shaw wrote:

“Mr St John Ervine’s Fabian political apprenticeship in London could not wash out of him the Orange dye of his native Belfast… But call Mr Ervine an Englishman and he will knock you down.”

Time after time unionists have viciously defied England.

Time after time unionists have decried and slandered English politicians.

This basic omission in understanding was perfectly illustrated in 1965 – Terence O’Neill was asked in an interview with Telefís Éireann:

“Prime. Minister, when Ireland is playing England, in a Rugby International for instance, what do you feel, as Prime Minister of Northern Ireland, as somebody from Northern Ireland?”

This shows how outrageously ill-informed republican’s can be, to think Ulsterman as pro-English. Terence O’Neill responded:

“I think we all feel the same and we all cheer for Ireland and we always have done.”

The interviewer John O’Donohue continued:

“You don’t find any awkwardness in questions of allegiances when Rugby is being played?'”

Terence O’Neill returned:

“No, certainly not.”

Unionists are not English and have no great love for the English.

Ken Maginnis, as truculent and obdurate a unionist as any, said:

“I grew up within a rugby ethos that predated the Troubles, I never felt disloyal to Northern Ireland to go down and stand in Lansdowne Road when they were playing The Soldier’s Song... I don’t think that is a North-South thing [Ireland playing England in rugby]. Anyone who is Irish wants to beat England. There is not much pleasure in it now because everyone does it. See, the pleasure is in beating them when they expect to win. Aye, it’s not as much fun now that we always expect Ireland to win.”

Think of the unionist response to the English action and dictat in Ireland – Sunningdale and the Anglo-Irish Agreement for instance. Ian Paisley said in 1974 during the Ulster Workers Strike:

“Mr Merlyn Rees is a Welsh-English politician. He does not understand the Northern Ireland situation at all and he is very foolish to make pronouncements.”

Ian Paisley also said:

“We’re in the hands of our English masters. And we understand they are not our friends. They would like to destroy us. So that’s our only fear, but we’re not wandering about in fear of anybody.”

He also said:

“I say from this platform, that Mr. [Harold] Wilson is the best support the IRA could have!”

He said on another occasion:

“If the British security forces are going to join up with the IRA to kill protestants, then we will be in conflict with them.”

Unionists are loyal to the Crown, not to England.

The Anglophobia is more enduring than those outpourings of fury noted above.

Terence O’Neill said in the House of Lords in 1974:

“One of the extraordinary facts, my Lords, is that in the old days so many Protestants said to me, “Of one thing we can be sure. We don’t trust the English but, by God, we can depend on the Scotch!”

Republicans keep talking about the Orange veto, as if they were the only people who have to suffer it. As Terence O’Neill also said:

“I fear that what the month of May has shown is that any proposal made by anybody in London is subject to a Protestant veto and that is something which we cannot ignore in the future. They are prepared to exercise this veto even to the extent of wrecking their own economy.”

V.S. Pritchett described his encounters with the most resolute of unionists, the orangemen:

“Early in 1923, when I was a very naive and untrained newspaper correspondent in Dublin, it was my duty to take a regular trip to Belfast and to find out what was going on politically in that depressing and bigoted city of linen mills and shipyards. The Orangemen were contemptuous of the Southern Irish and had a blustering condescension to Englishmen like myself.”

Ian Paisley said in his speech to the DUP’s Annual Conference in 1993:

“I must tell John Major and Patrick Mayhew and the British Government that Ulster men and women will never surrender to the IRA the murderers of their kith and kin… Sell out loyal Ulster to those who have already committed genocide amongst us. Destroy our democracy. Dislodge the Union. Forswear your Privy Councillors oaths. Turn your back on your friends. Embrace our enemies. Enter into the assembly of the wicked. Stain your hands in the congregation of the murders…”

He also said, “Winston Churchill, the British Bull Dog and at one time no friend of Ulster.”

Ian Paisley said when he first sat down with Martin McGuinness:

“We don’t need Englishmen to rule us. We can do that ourselves.”

It was the same with Sir Edward Carson who said in 1907:

“If you (the British Government) are not prepared to govern Ireland according to the ordinary elemental conditions of civilisation that prevail in every country, then go out of Ireland and leave us to govern ourselves.”

Carson also said:

“Government either by the Imperial Parliament, or by ourselves [Government in Ulster].”

Ian Paisley said about this:

“Indeed, the long succession of Secretaries of State we lived through during Direct Rule gives us a deep understanding of that sentiment! Even yet, Ulster is nothing more than a rung on the ladder for English politicians whose heart knowledge of this Province is a void, and their head knowledge of what makes us tick a mere thimble’s worth.

Happy will be the day when Secretaries of State are surplus to requirement.”

Eileen Paisley said:

“Typical English, you just don’t understand Northern Ireland.”

Theresa Villiers said in her Speech to the British-Irish Association conference, September 5 2014:

“We have no power to force the unionists back to the table. Anyone who thinks that Ulster men and women meekly do the bidding of London knows very little about the last hundred years or so of our history, and not a great deal about being Northern Ireland Secretary either!”

Michael Collins understood the unique nature of the North, it wasn’t English, but nor was it Irish. It was something altogether difference from the South and East. He said:

“Who would visit Belfast or Lisburn or Lurgan to see the Irish people at home? That is the the unhappy fate of the north east [of Ireland]. It is neither Irish nor English.”

James Winder Good wrote in ‘Partition in Practice’ (1922):

“Mr. de Valera’s campaign against the Treaty was hailed by the Orange extremists as a proof that the Provisional Government was beaten before the fight began and that the Free State would never be permitted to function. Armed with this argument, they assailed the Pact all along the line, and unfortunately developments in the rest of Ireland appeared to play directly into their hands. I know it is held in some quarters that the Pact was a device engineered by England to secure recognition of Partition by the South, while at the same time freeing Sir James Craig from any responsibility for delivering the goods. It is impossible to square this explanation with the fact that the Six Counties were seething with the fiercest resentment against Great Britain for her betrayal of the Orange cause. The British National Anthem was barred; the toast of the King was ostentatiously omitted at public dinners attended by members of the Northern Government; England and all things English were damned with a heartiness that few uncompromising Republicans could equal. Had it been possible for the rest of Ireland to take advantage of this mood, not only could differences with the Six Counties have been amicably adjusted, but the worst of the stumbling-blocks that bar the path towards Irish unity might have been rolled away.”

The British have been working for nearly a century to extricate and disengage itself from Ireland. As David McWilliams wrote:

“It is my view that the British were on their way out of Ireland from the mid-1860s. London was actively trying to disengage and promote the Home Rule movement.”

McWilliams continued, explaining that the stumbling block to Irish independence were the Irish themselves, Irish men and women from Ulster:

“The only flies in the ointment were apparently the Ulster Unionists… This grand design – the gradual British pull-out – was going according to plan pretty well up to the time the Ulster Volunteers said no. Once the Ulster Covenant was signed and it became clear that the Ulstermen would fight, the notion of some sort of partition became a reality. This was what John Redmond feared most.”

The fight for Irish republicans is with fellow Irishmen, not Englishmen. British Prime Minister Lloyd George (as noted above) pushed for unity, as he said to Conservative Party leader Andrew Bonar Law on January 12 1918:

“This is the opportunity for Ulster to show that it places Empire above everything. If the little protestant community in the South, isolated in a turbulent sea of Sinn Feinism and Popery can trust their lives and their property to the majority there, surely the powerful community of the North might take that risk for the sake of the Empire in danger.”

Roy Foster wrote:

“More and more evidence shows that well before 30 January 1972, the trend of British policy was to seek disengagement.”

Peter Hitchens wrote:

“The paradox is that this discrimination was the result not of a British desire to hold on to Northern Ireland, but because of an unstated hope in London that Northern Ireland would one day somehow become part of an all-Ireland Republic.”

The Westminster convention of non-interference meant Northern Ireland issues could not be heard in the Commons, England distancing itself from the other island.
During the Home Rule crisis, while Ulstermen wanted Empire, it is clear London for the sake of Empire wanted Home Rule.

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  • SeaanUiNeill

    Oh dear, tmitch57, while the PUL community uses the name in this manner, this does not make it correct for anyone concerned with accuracy of language to allow such usage to in any sense deny the geographic and historical reality. I am not making any kind of “Republican” point, simply stating what is general usage for those without a political axe to grind. All of the examples of the usage you bring up have strong political undertones, and pretty much countered by Lyons’ excellent stricture against bringing political bias into play in these things. The Ulster Unionist Party was formed before partition, and were using the name then in the normal sense of the full province. Both the University of Ulster and Ulster Television were named at the highpoint of Unionist power, and their names are not some reflection of an objective reality but were politically motivated, and are as such highly questionable, as of course in the PUL community usage. And as for the late Lord Bannside’s emotive use of “Ulster”, well enough said………….

    Now, regarding sovereignty, you are aware that with the ROI and Great Britain’s roles in guaranteeing the GFA, we are looking at something of a “joint Sovereignty lite” here. Check out Richard Kearney’s “Postnationalist Ireland” if you are unfamiliar with the concept. One of the strongest arguments against Brexit has always been that the kind of discrete sovereignty you are thinking of is very much a thing of the past nowadays, for better or worse. Much play is made by Unionist commentators that the GFA ensures respect for the British identity of people in the northern six counties, but it also equally ensures similar respect for the choices of those asserting an Irish identity:

    “recognise the birthright of all the people of Northern Ireland to identify themselves and be accepted as Irish or British, or both, as they may so choose, and accordingly confirm that their right to hold both British and Irish citizenship is accepted by both Governments and would not be affected by any future change in the status of Northern Ireland.”

    So while the territorial claim has been dropped by the ROI, the absolute sovereignty you seem to believe exists here is a highly ambivalent thing in actual practice. Northern Ireland is in many ways a most liminal entity at present, where its citizens legally have the right to affirm their allegiance either of to two states.

  • MainlandUlsterman

    See the Good Friday Agreement. There are British people who live in all parts of the UK, including Northern Ireland and they have a right to be accepted as such.

  • tmitch57

    “All of the examples of the usage you bring up have strong political
    undertones, and pretty much countered by Lyons’ excellent stricture
    against bringing political bias into play in these things.”

    So because the institutions I named are political they don’t count? I would argue that they count more for being political as a province is a political entity.

    “The Ulster Unionist Party was formed before partition, and were using the name then in the normal sense of the full province.”

    The UUP accommodated political reality and legal reality by changing their usage of the term to recognize the new boundary. The Irish state took another 66 years to finally do the same.

    “Now, regarding sovereignty, you are aware that with the ROI and Great
    Britain’s roles in guaranteeing the GFA, we are looking at something of a
    “joint Sovereignty lite” here.”

    The New Ireland Forum in 1984 came up with three future models for Ireland: a unitary 32-county Ireland (the FF model), a federal or confederal 32-county Ireland, and joint sovereignty. All three were rejected by Thatcher: “Out, out, out.” After a year of negotiation T. Garret FitzGerald settled for a formal consulting role for Dublin in the running of NI, but no guarantee that any of Dublin’s suggestions would be accepted. At unionist insistence the AIA was voided when the GFA went into effect. Dublin had a formal role with London in running the peace process–this is not sovereignty.

    “where its citizens legally have the right to affirm their allegiance either of to two states.”

    American citizens also have the right to hold dual citizenship–so how many countries does America split its sovereignty with?

  • SeaanUiNeill

    Tmitch57, are you really still suggesting in some way that the nine counties together have in some way ceased to be Ulster? I imagine that even the institutions you mention as some spurious “proof” would not be so cut and dry on this issue. Is this perhaps an example of an old fashioned view of majoritarian Unionism where, to your mind, the six counties utterly dismiss the rights of the three because the six are a “majority” and can force the minority to conform to their wishes, just as the old Unionism ignored the existence and interests of the minority in the north across its period of dominance? I’d imagined that this supremacist interpretation of Unionism had become quite redundant some time back, even within much of Unionism, but if that is how you choose to believe it still works……..

    And yes, because both the election of the name “Ulster” and the “examples” you have offered have what are entirely party political overtones within Unionism and are politically motivated they are entirely unacceptable as any form of “proof”. It’s still coming back to Lyons’ important point about subjectivity and objectivity which you appear not to have understood as yet. You are not distinguishing between a usage which is political (“Northern Ireland”) and usage which is entirely factional (“Ulster”) here, nor recognising how this makes all the difference to their value when employed as “evidence”.

    You are quite wrong about the naming of the UUP. The Ulster Unionist Council in 1910 with the resignation of Walter Long as leader picked their own separate leader (Carson) to the man chosen by broader Irish Unionism (the Earl of Midleton) and began to use the UUP designation at that point when their policies began to separate from the more moderate Southern Unionism with their recourse to the threat of physical force “authorised” by their bizarre hyperbolic exaggeration of the effects of Home Rule.

    I’d be interested too about how offended other Unionist commentators on Slugger might be should they view your suggestion that the GFA is somehow inherently ensuring that they hold the kind of “dual citizenship” that those internationalists with more than one passport enjoy. This is not how pretty much anyone else might read the GFA, which clearly suggests something far more liminal and indistinct. But if you really feel that the implication is that those living in Northern Ireland are bound in allegiance to both states, then you are going much further than I’d go in suggesting an evident legal state of joint sovereignty over NI between Britain and the ROI!!!

    I’d advise you to perhaps go away and read the GFA itself more carefully, before attempting to so definitively set down what it might just be saying :


  • eamoncorbett

    Paisley did not want to go into government with SF but he was left with no choice . The St. Andrews agreement in the last paragraph points towards a more substantial role for Dublin in the event of a collapse at Stormont . St.Andrews post dates the GFA and is binding at the moment . The DUP looked for more accountability from ministers and wanted their decisions sanctioned by the executive if need be , that was their key demand , but in return they had to accept compromise and that compromise would in effect be a type of joint authority.

  • John Collins

    The IRFU also recognises the three counties, Donegal.Monaghan and Cavan, as part of the catchment area of Ulster Rugby

  • John Collins

    She is also descended from the De Lacy clan through her Stuart ancestors.

  • John Collins

    Wellington never denied his Irishness and said that without the Roman Catholic Irish soldiers Napoleon would never have been beaten at Waterloo.
    He strongly supported Catholic Emancipation and apparently never actually made his horses and stables remark. (This was an invetion of his political opponent O’Connell) Have you stood at that monument and studied where he is depicted as refusing honours until the down trodden Irish are given Catholic Emancipation. The reason that the monument was never blown was that Wellington was not anti Irish, as you suggest, at all.

  • tmitch57

    Here is the first or primary definition of province from the Merriam Webster dictionary:
    “an administrative district or division of a country”

    The dictionary goes on to define province in the second definition as “a territorial unit of a religious order.” According to the second definition Ulster is a nine-county unit. According to the first definition Ulster as commonly used by the PUL population and by many foreign journalists including Irish journalists is a six-county unit. I have a 1970 book on Northern Ireland by an Irish journalist, Liam de Paor, “Divided Ulster.” Maybe Paor doesn’t meet your definition of someone who uses language accurately?

    “then you are going much further than I’d go in suggesting an evident
    legal state of joint sovereignty over NI between Britain and the ROI!!!”

    Sovereignty means the ultimate source of political authority and as such is indivisible between two countries, it can only be divided between a national government and its constituent parts in a federal government such as that of Germany or the United States. I know of no serious political analyst that contends that a federal arrangement exists in Northern Ireland between the UK and the Republic of Ireland either before or after the St. Andrew’s Agreement. Joint rule is another matter and could exist in the future in Northern Ireland, but does not exist at present.

  • SeaanUiNeill

    Tmitch57 you quote “Here is the first or primary definition of province from the Merriam Webster dictionary:
    “an administrative district or division of a country”. Well, yes, Ulster is a quarter division of Ireland which has in turn been divided into a further division of six counties and three counties for political purposes. I do not even begin to see how Daniel Webster might be in any sense suggesting that the six County entity is Ulster in its entirety!!!!!! Certainly some people use the name in the imprecise way that you are suggesting, but this is always going to be rather slangy, and as I’d said above, the kind of thing the Red Tops indulge in. For those of us who have read all the legal stuff, the six counties of Ulster you are referring to already have a perfectly reasonable name in legislation, “Northern Ireland” and there is no need to make this perfectly clear matter as vague with the atavistic, politically motivated usage you are so bizarrely demanding.

    “Sovereignty means the ultimate source of political authority and as such is indivisible between two two countries.” actually I’d agree with you that it should really mean that, and that there should be a genuine sovereign authority, but in the modern world where both Ireland and Great Britain have surrendered many sovereign powers to the big boys in Brussels any remaining “sovereignty” is now so fractal and contentious as to be almost meaningless in the sense you ares suggesting. I did recommend that you read Richard Kearney’s “Post-Nationalist Ireland” before trying to speak ex cathedra on this matter, and I now suggest again that you might avoid sounding like an Edwardian revenant by checkin Kearney out. I heard him speak about “Slaying the demon of Sovereignty” some years back at a seminar. And hey, Kearney has been an all important contributor to the development of this concept of joint Sovereignty that effectively is how the “sovereign” government you seem to believe rules the place actually views their role (again you really should read what the Belfast Agreement actually says rather than simply dreaming up what you think it should say in some alternative Unionist reality).

  • tmitch57

    “but in the modern world where both Ireland and Great Britain have
    surrendered many sovereign powers to the big boys in Brussels any
    remaining “sovereignty” is now so fractal and contentious as to be
    almost meaningless in the sense you ares suggesting.”

    You may have heard of this thing called Brexit–you should have as about half the posts on this site are concerned with it. The fact that it is a possibility–whether wise or not–demonstrates that sovereignty still resides with London and the other member governments of the EU. They voluntarily surrendered or shared power with Brussels and can take it back if that is what the electorate wants and votes for.

    Strange that someone who seems so concerned about precision of language and eschewing politics when discussing history should use the term “joint sovereignty-lite” in such a careless fashion as you have recently.

    You should be relieved that I personally don’t use the term Ulster to refer to Northern Ireland. But I do use it as an adjective to refer to the politics and culture of the Six-County province as a whole. This is because the alternative is to refer to Northern Ireland politics, which is both clunky and poor usage as the adjectival form of Ireland is Irish, which when used in “Northern Irish politics” implies a discussion of only nationalist politics in Northern Ireland rather than to both nationalist and unionist and “other” politics. And it might offend Irish who want to be thought of as merely Irish and not Northern Irish. The same is true of culture. I think that if Liam de Paor, a distinguished historian and political scientist, can get away with using the term Ulster to refer to the Six Counties, I can get away with using it in the limited sense that I have outlined above.

  • SeaanUiNeill

    Interesting take on Brexit, tmitch57! If “sovereignty still resides in London” then just why is there such a kerfuffle underway, dividing Great Britain into two quite acrimonious camps, about having to retrieve sovereignty from Brussels? Why is this the core of the debate over Brexit? But simply look around you. It’s not only Brussels with whom power is “shared”, but with the UN, and increasingly the high handed policies of the USA are eroding great swathes of other countries national sovereignties. If you look at FATCA and GATCA the ability of countries to protect their citizen’s affairs against outside intervention is entirely compromised, with, for example, the right of the IRS to examine the affairs of banks outside of the USA. If you examine the trade treaties such as TTIP, the sovereignty over trade ing term sis also greatly compromised. We are moving towards a system of globalised relationships which have effectively drained much of the old independence from national sovereignties in favour of interdependence. The Belfast Agreement should be read in this light.

    I’m delighted that with your stating your personal about the clunkiness of the correct usages “Northern Ireland politics” you appear to be scaling back rather on your claims for six county exclusivity in earlier comments such as:


    But I fully believe that your final points about your use of Ulster, with this phobia about the word “Irish”, you still confirm my own comments above about a rather strident politicisation of a primarily geographic issue. You are myopically determined to view the terms Ireland and Irish as entirely nationalist, while quite a few of us, many Unionists included, are happy to claim our broad Irish identity without implying any support for militant Republicanism. I believe from other posts that you are not resident here, but I and my fellow citizens in Northern Ireland certainly live in a province in the northern part of Ireland called Ulster, and have every right to call ourselves “Ulster men and Ulster women”, but it is still geographically referring to a nine county province divided between two political jurisdictions. What you are suggesting is a kind of nonsense the logic of which would have suggested that only one part of Germany remained Germany after 1945. No, geographic and cultural identities have their own vital life independent of the contingencies of politics, which is not the only thing happening in most lives. And, hey, how am I or anyone else going to try and stop you using Ulster in any manner you choose, even if we were going to mirror your own demand for exclusivity? I for one am simply reminding you of the simple and uncontrovertable fact that Ulster is geographically, culturally and historically a nine county entity, and that the sloppy slang usage to imply a territory called Northern Ireland is technically incorrect. The Sun headline usage and all that.

    You appear to think that giving examples of the sloppy use by writers using “Ulster” in the sense the Guardian so rightly rejects somehow authorises it as some kind of meta-reality. Your unconscious appears to concede this incorrectness with your admittance that your example de Paor is somehow “getting away” with this impropriety of usage. The precise meaning of “Ulster”, as any of those writers who are not politically motivated Unionists would perhaps readily admit, remains in reference to the nine county province. Your endless reiteration in earlier postings of the mendacious politically motivated “six county Ulster” nonsense has been proving nothing concrete whatsoever about usage. Essentially what you are claiming is nothing more authoritative than your own opinion, and the need to produce these spurious “proofs” perhaps flags something of an inability to accept the plain, generally accepted facts. Certainly alongside the affirmations on sovereignty this suggest a failure to comprehend the realities of the many political changes underway here since the Belfast Agreement. Please, please, go away and read Richard Kearney for one thing and you might perhaps discover something about how the world in general and Northern Ireland in particular is changing nowadays.

  • SeaanUiNeill

    I’m sorry to have seemingly missed this back eleven days ago, MU. Just one point I might be able to help you on:

    “‘The Irish people’ is sometimes claimed as a term of great antiquity but really when did the people on the island start all being treated together as a single group of people in any meaningful way”.

    I’d suggested that you read Brendan Bradshaw on this very issue some time back in another post, and you appear not to have down this yet, otherwise you’d not have needed to ask your question:


    While this is certainly a complex issue, the simple answer to your question would be certainly since the middle ages. While I’d recommend the whole first part often collection of essays, you might start with chapter 4, “Nationality, National consciousness and Nationalism in Premodern Ireland”. Modern political nationalism is certainly the creation of the eighteenth century, but Bradshaw shows that the approach you seem to be taking is a superficial dismissal of something that requires far more honesty and careful examination if you wish to be take seriously, rather than simply offering us all a more articulate version of the flegger slogan approach.

    And your surprising use of “Graham Robb’s ‘The Discovery of France'” which you say “reminds us that in the mid 19th Century only about a fifth of the population of France spoke actual French.” might just require some unpacking. What Robb is actually saying in the short introduction you indirectly quote is that, in common with virtually everywhere else on earth until about fifty years ago, those in the regions usually spoke dialects of the language of the centralised high culture. You might as well say that Yorkshire people or even Brummies did not speak English by such a rule. But there was certainly a recognised French and English culture during the nineteenth century, and there are many instances of English visitors of that period being easily able to see that Ireland had a cultural life distinct from that of Britain.

  • tmitch57

    Here are the three definitions from Merriam Webster of sovereignty:
    a: supreme power especially over a body politic
    b : freedom from external control : autonomy
    c : controlling influence

    The three in everyday usage are somewhat in contradiction. Supreme power means the ultimate source of authority, which can be temporarily or even permanently affected by outside treaties to limit that authority. In definition a, the technical legal definition that I use, Britain and the other EU members remain fully sovereign as there are mechanisms for legally withdrawing from the EU. In the b and c definitions, sovereignty is compromised. These are the definitions that politicians usually use as they are the more emotive ones.

    As an American I know well what the legal meaning of sovereignty is as the American Civil War was ultimately a war fought over who possessed sovereignty: the states (making the United States a confederacy) or the federal government (making it a federation). The war was resolved in favor of the latter conclusion. If Britain were not sovereign in definition a, then those opposed to Brexit would be threatening the use of military force to prevent it.

    Incidentally Daniel Webster would have agreed with you that Ulster is a nine-county province as he lived in the nineteenth century.

  • SeaanUiNeill

    We may have to disagree on your content that (a) is not compromised. No polity can be thought of as holding supreme power where their autonomy is compromised. As such no country in the EU currently holds anything that could be described as supreme power over their body politic as numerous powers have been passed to Brussels. As such Brussels is the ultimate source of decision in this instance on much of what would be considered as sovereign authority. A nation state within the EU may vote to restore such powers, but they cannot exercise them at present. The EU is effectively the sovereign body, just as the federal government is in the USA. On the issue of definition, my two volume Shorter Oxford English Dictionary defines supreme as “highest, loftiest, topmost, highest in rank or authority”.

    But I really must insist that you acquaint yourself with what is going on in Europe and in Northern Ireland especially before attempting to insist on these simple clean cut definitions that simply no longer exist in the EU. I repeat, read Richard Kearney’s “Postnationalist Ireland” to see just how far beyond your simplistic analysis we have all come.

  • tmitch57

    All countries that engage in international trade and international relations have their autonomy affected–even the Hermit Kingdom of North Korea. But supreme in the legal sense means final or as your dictionary says “highest in rank or authority.” The fact that a referendum is being held is a sign that sovereignty continues to reside with the British electorate. If this were not the case then Brussels would threaten to go to war if Britain voted to secede as Washington did when the southern states seceded and formed the Confederate States of America. Cameron may well sacrifice his political career to prove you wrong.

  • SeaanUiNeill

    oh dear tmitch57 you have obviously not kept up with the post-nation state developments since 1945. And, ironically, you are suggesting above that I’m living in the nineteenth century!!!!! As I’d said above in an attempt to avoid this kind of Blimpthink response ” I repeat, read Richard Kearney’s “Postnationalist Ireland” to see just how far beyond your simplistic analysis we have all come.”

    The entire point about national sovereignty is that it should be absolute. The EU directives are of more legal authority than laws passed by the British Parliament, which conclusively shows that the EU is in fact “highest in rank or authority.” Please let me know of a single issue where Britain can legally thumb its nose at the EU. And if you were to examine the trade agreements I’d mentioned you might have noticed how much power is now wholly in the hands of multinational concerns, who can sue so called “sovereign” powers if they interfere with their profitability. No, national sovereignty is very much a thing of the past increasingly.

    And why should Brussels threaten to go to war? How very nineteenth century a way to view things. They can simply counter any threat Britain poses economically if they need to as almost everyone else is pointing out on the Brexit threads.

  • MainlandUlsterman

    I’m not arguing Ireland hasn’t been a place with people in it who have been called Irish for many centuries, just that the crucial development of that into being a ‘national people’ in the same sense we talk about Italians, Americans and Germans, is much more recent. And it was in this process of turning into a ‘people’ in the modern sense that the flaw emerged – not all people on the island saw their Irishness in the same way. They were all (largely) ‘Irish’ but for some it was essential that was within a UK context. That does not make those people “a people of recent origin”, a denigrating term – we’re all descended from the first Africans after all – just people with a different sense of their national identity.

    Sorry I must take you to task on the Robb reference. What happened in France is not the same as saying a 19th C Yorkshireman did not speak English. Robb (“The Discovery of France” pp23-25):
    “Being French was not a source of personal pride, let alone the basis of a common identity. Before the mid-nineteenth century few people had seen a map of France and few had heard of Charlemagne and Joan of Arc. France was effectively a land of foreigners …”
    Even regional identity meant little to most people:
    “… most people refused to be identified with such large areas. They belonged to a town, a suburb, a village or a family, not to a nation or a province.”

    So I’m saying Ireland was not exceptional in being heterogenous. National identities were never the only way of dividing people up, they developed over time through the persistence of certain ideas and through administrative and military necessities of the time. They have proved powerful and lasting identities for many subsequent generations. But sorry, I’m not having my own national identity written off as some lower form of identity on the basis of some spurious argument about length of historical lineage. The modern nation state identity grew out of previously existing identities yes, but changed all the while. For “Irishness” to claim to be some ancient rock while Britishness or Americanness or Germanness are blow-ins is I think illusory. It’s existed a long time *in some form*, but not in the form we recognise today, it’s no older than the rest of them. These, it seems, are silly debates to have. If the purpose is, as it seems to me, some kind of “national identity oneupmanship”, then it’s not only a waste of time but quite pernicious. We should spend more time accepting each other’s identities as of equal value, not set out to somehow ‘disprove’ identities we don’t get. Not accusing you of that, but some on here do take that approach. They don’t seem to realise the innate sectarianism of that and also it’s innate stupidity – national identity as a concept simply doesn’t work like that anyway.

    Of course Ireland had a cultural life distinct from that in England in the 19th Century. But you must also concede, in terms of English language culture at least, it was very closely connected with English culture. And it still is. Even a good nationalist Irishman like Seamus Heaney saw himself as part of a wider tradition of the English language. Ireland was never as culturally separate as all that. Heaney was as much a man of Beowulf and Chaucer and Shakespeare as of Ireland.

  • MainlandUlsterman

    calling NI ‘Ulster’ does not mean there can’t be bits of Ulster in the ROI too. You’re using a kind of misguided pedantry there. Names can be technically ‘inaccurate’ while still being useful and valid in language terms. Examples: ‘America’ for the USA; ‘Hawaii’ for the Hawaiian Islands … I could go on. It’s OK to call Germany ‘Germany’ surely even though it doesn’t include many historically German lands … likewise Poland … how often do we say ‘Russia’ for the Russian Federation (technically not all Russia; and bit of ‘historic Russia’ are in other countries now also …

  • SeaanUiNeill

    MU, you’re almost agreeing with me for once! The entire point I’ve been making is that Ulster is a nine county province, not a six county polity which has the legal name of Northern Ireland. You do not appear to have noticed that it is tmitch57 who is attempting to claim that the old province no longer has any right to claim the name of Ulster, only the six counties misguided enough to have insisted on misunderstanding the nature Home Rule in 1912 and landing us all with over a century of violence. All I’ve effectively been doing is attempting to tell someone who is insisting that the six counties somehow have the copyright on the name Ulster, that it is actually nine counties. Is this pedantry, really?

    Ok. What rankles with me is not some slangy, red-top headline type use of Ulster for the wee six, but the seemingly pathological desire for some of us to avoid “Northern Ireland” that this partuculart use of Ulster usually implies. I have lifelong Unionists in my extended family who are proud to see themselves as Irishmen and Unionists at the same time, so the oddity of the effort twitch57 is taking to deny the proper use of Ulster to all nine counties and claim it as some sort of utterly authoritative name for the simply the six county rump requires some explanation for his strident reiteration of his claim beyond simply his fancying the name. Most Americans would be unlikely to so emphatically refuse the south American states and Canada any right to use the name “America” as twitch57 is doing in the case of the other three counties of Ulster. Similarly, I’d used the example of east and west Germany myself to show the absurdity of his claims. I’m not saying that we in the wee six have no right to the name Ulster in a general sense, only that the fellow’s demand that only the wee six can be considered as Ulster is dire poppycock.

    Oh, and by and by, all historic Russia (“Rus”) is present in the Russian Federation, although some conquered states that were incorporated within the Russian Empire from the early modern period are certainly not longer under the sovereignty of Moscow.

  • SeaanUiNeill

    Oh dear MU, “the crucial development of that into being a ‘national people’ in the same sense we talk about Italians, Americans and Germans, is much more recent”. 

That was the very reason I’d referred you to serious academic analysis on the issue, to which Bradshaw’s work is a most significant pointer. You might perhaps have saved yourself a degree of digging yourself down into a hole if you’d taken the trouble to follow up my suggestions here. Ireland clearly had a national identity virtually independent of its very loose relationship with the English crown during the late middle ages. This perception has been on the historical agenda ever since Alice Stopford Green wrote her flawed but utterly important work “The Making of Ireland and its Undoing” over a century ago. Should you have taken the trouble to actually read history objectively (in Lyons’ proper sense, rather than in this “spirit of party” which his “pupils” espoused) there can have been no excuse for making the inaccurate claim that Ireland has essentially been as “without form” as you are suggesting.

    “They were all (largely) ‘Irish’ but for some it was essential that was within a UK context.” But its rather more complicated than that very bald statement. Certainly for my own “ethne”, the Anglo Irish, we had strong links with Britain’s elite, but for most of the community they were far from “British” as this term might have been understood anywhere over a short stretch of water in the early modern period. This is complex subject which simply will not boil down to the Ulster Scot planter and the gael, there are many, many varieties of Irishness across our early modern history, and until the late nineteenth century what we now think of as the defining factors of the two camps in the north of Ireland would not have been recognisable to their even quite recent ancestors of the late eighteenth century, as but one example. Political Unionism is the reactive creation of the Home Rule bills. Before this the politics of the north divided quite readily between the established church and the politically marginalised of the eighteenth century, both Catholic and dissenter. It has only since the advent of a mass media in the late nineteenth century that English culture has seriously become as much a part of the lives of most of our community.

    And really, as someone who has studied seventeenth century French army some years back, I’d picked up enough of the broader culture of France under the Sun King to feel that the image of a France as you are picturing it is very much an over egged particularisation. France was no more or less chaotically de-centralised culturally than any other pre-nineteenth century state. All countries were (and to some degree still are) composed of a patchwork of regional characteristics which the nation’s homogenising process attempts to regularise towards a strong centralising culture (Gellner is very good on this) but this in no way qualifies the kind of intrinsic long standing national identity and character which Bradshaw is so able at elucidating. The process of Anglicisation, first really evident in Ireland only in the first age of mass media and general education in English, which you are seemingly projecting backwards, is particular to its time and place, instigated as it was by mass communication systems. Political Unionism is another child of this process, and insisting on some imagined community of political Ulster Scot culture as distinct from a most varied “Irishness” before this time is a very dangerous distortion. One has only to look honestly at the period of Grattan, the Irish Volunteers and the United Irishmen to see just how far from what we would think of as Unionism the majority of our ancestors were only two hundreds years ago.