Adams still grappling with a paradox that has eluded Ireland since Redmond and Carson…

The other day a unionist friend joked about the fact that one of the shared attributes to both communities in Northern Ireland is a shared animosity towards England. His favourite jibe to Republican colleagues is “how bad must you be, if we prefer the English to you?

Ronan O’Brien who was an adviser in the last Irish government argues that there’s a useful comparison to be made between Gerry Adams’ accurate argument that unification depends on making the Republic more attractive to unionists, and John Redmond:

…the Rising effectively marked the beginning of the end of a search for an all-island solution. As the Irish position became more committed to advanced separation from Britain, the possibilities of any arrangement with Ulster diminished. The Lloyd George initiative of 1916 was possibly the closest we got to an arrangement that might have kept all those balls in the air.

Adams will not like the comparison with Redmond, and it should not be overstated, but there are similarities. The position he adopts is arguably more advanced than that of the New Ireland Forum, the last time these issues were discussed by nationalism.

The difficulty is that while Redmond was open to a more positive association with Britain, Adams is not. Nor is he alone in that. Redmond, like Parnell before him, had underestimated the attachment of unionism to its British identity. But it is well established now.

The challenge, post-Good Friday agreement and the consent principle, is how that British identity can be reconciled with a republican view that nothing positive emerged from our past membership of the UK?

And his kicker is hard to dismiss…

Redmond will be 100 years dead in 2018. The issues he grappled unsuccessfully with are no less complex today. No generation of Southern republicans has resolved them and Adams is grappling with them now. Redmond dealt with them in honour and in good faith, and remained committed to being a persuader for an all-island settlement. In the end Redmond failed, but he has not been alone in that.

  • terence patrick hewett

    Tom Lehrer National Brotherhood Week!!!

  • Kevin Breslin

    “how bad must you be, if we prefer the English to you”

    Could we interpret this as marriage is more punitive than divorce?

  • aor26

    ” His favourite jibe to Republican colleagues is “how bad must you be, if we prefer the English to you?”

    A real comedy genius of a friend you have there Mick.

    It’s odd that Unionists don’t like the English yet insist we are governed by them.

  • aquifer

    Republicanism is about respect for equal citizenship and the rule of law.

    Sectarian banditry is for Tories.

  • MainlandUlsterman

    So true – nationalist Ireland in the early 20th C knew, or had no excuse for not knowing, it could have unity or separation, but not both. It chose separation over unity. Then it spent 100 years complaining about how it really wanted unity.

  • SeaanUiNeill

    Which “Nationalism” are you referring to MU, surely not that of John Redmond and the IPP! That was devolution, something pretty much taken for granted as “a good thing” now. Who was pressing for separatism? You may not have encountered Owen McGee’s excellent 2005 book on “The IRB. The Irish Republican Brotherhood From the Land League to Sinn Féin”, where he says on page 353:

    “By April 1912, when a home rule bill was introduced ….the iRB in Ireland was essentially nothing more than the “Irish Freedom” newspaper, three small circles led by Denis McCullough in Belfast and Hobson’s following [in Dublin].”

    That and the small circle around Arthur Griffith’s “Sinn Féin” was the entire focused demand for separatism, while great masses of the rising new Catholic professional and working classes were voting for the IPP and Constitutionalism. Your belief that ” nationalist Ireland in the early 20th C knew, or had no excuse for not knowing, it could have unity or separation, but not both” simply does not reflect the actual historical record where Ireland was moving towards completely constitutional settlement involving a secular liberal devolved parliament until the northern Unionists invocation of violence created the situation where a mass volunteer movement was brought into being which the separatists could influence and use. You are looking back from a much later perspective and applying a retrospective situation to something utterly different.

  • Jarl Ulfreksfjordr

    …..whilst you are involved in wishful thinking and a bit of revisionism.

    You deny agency to Irish nationalists. They were so wedded to the (alleged) good offices of the IPP that they were so easily swayed by the actions of the unionists, particularly in the north? Few such historic volt faces can have been achieved so completely, and in so short a time.

    I the vernacular I believe the phrase is ‘a big boy made me do it’.

    Where was the recognition that there was a massive disparity between the aspirations of nationalists and unionists? Why not say ‘we’ve got to bring everyone with us on this’, rather than move directly to recruit for a countering volunteer force?

    No, in reality nationalist Ireland was more comfortable negotiating with the English and ignoring their fellow Irish who disagreed about the island’s political future (no doubt believing that such opposition would quickly fade to nothing more than aggrieved acceptance of the new dispensation).

    It was ever thus.

  • SeaanUiNeill

    Common, Jarl, it’s a simple and quite well attested fact that the separatists were a tiny minority in 1912, and were turfed out at those elections where they showed their faces. They only encountered a body of strong supporters with the creation of the Irish Volunteers after the formation of the UVF had shown that the the threat of violence was successfully changing the terms of political debate. The simple fact is that even with the Volunteers most Irishmen had become and remained active Constitutionalists before the deliberations of the 1917/18 Constitutional Convention showed that Unionism would not move an inch towards reasonable compromise with the electorally declared wishes of the majority in both Ireland and in Britaan.

    For the solid body of support for the IPP, I’d recommend Senia Paseta’s book “Before the Revolution, Nationalism Social Change and Ireland’s Catholic Élite, 1879-1922” which offers a finely researched work on the politics of the Catholic middle classes in the opening years of the nineteenth century.

    Certainly my interpretation of Unionism’s baleful role in all of this “revises” the received opinion of the Unionist and Seperatist historiography where facts are selected to “prove” political points rather than to examine the full range of evidence, but what I’m saying is so fully supported by current historical research as to make your suggestion that it is “wishful thinking” quite untenable.

    “Few such historic volt faces can have been achieved so completely, and in so short a time.” History moves very fast sometimes, and elections customarily produce massive swings when some tremendous event has altered public perception. But the important thing here is not to promiscuously infer much later attitudes backwards but perhaps to look at the actual electoral returns at the time. In 1910 Redmond’s IPP gained 81 seats, while O’Brien’s “All for Ireland” “split” party gained 21. By 1918 the IPP was down to 6 against SF’s 73. The Unionist challenge “under arms” to the passage of the third Home Rule Bill, and the manner in which the shockingly weak English reaction to their threat eroded belief in the IPP’s co-operative Constitutionalism created the massive shift here. But the body of Irish voters choose Redmond and O’Brien’s constitutionalism in 1910. That is an unquestionable fact, not “wishful thinking”. The “big boy” you mention showed that if you pointed a gun at Asquith he would do what you told him, and the rest of Ireland soon saw that their faith in the rule of law and constitutionalism did not count against the crude threat of violence. So yes, “a big boy made them do it”……

    Other threads on Slugger have my thoughts about the issue of ‘we’ve got to bring everyone with us on this’. The British Government, moderate supporters of Union such as Horace Plunkett, even the southern Unionists attempted this, but the northern Unionist commercial classes were so frightened of increased taxes on their businesses that a Dublin Parlaiment might levy (most of the discussion was over who would control taxation rather than the project fear of “Rome Rule”line fed to the rank and file) that they rejected the opportunity for a peaceful constitutionalist settlement at every point. Ironically they suffered economic collapse post Great War themselves. And we are all still suffering in the north from a bitterly polarised separatist culture their self interested intransigence gave form to.

  • MainlandUlsterman

    The first home rule crisis, with the big public demos in Belfast etc, was in 1886 though … was the writing not on the wall then in terms of the divisive effects, within Ireland, of Home Rule?

    You repeat the idea that unionists introduced the idea of political violence into the Home Rule / independence debate in 1912. But the IRB started getting itself together again from 1907 and of course had by then a 40 year history of commitment to armed insurrection, albeit it had very little support and found other vehicles to suit its purposes. From the BBC History website:
    “The Irish Republican Brotherhood (IRB) was a small, secret, revolutionary body (known as the Fenian movement in the 1850s and 60s), committed to the use of force to establish an independent Irish republic. After organising an abortive rising in March 1867, it suffered deep internal divisions over leadership and strategy … The IRB’s reorganisation was begun after the release from prison in 1871 of two of its most effective leaders – Jeremiah O`Donovan Rossa and John Devoy … With no immediate prospect of effective revolutionary action, the IRB leaders agreed to co-operate with the Irish Parliamentary Party, then under Parnell’s dynamic leadership, in mobilising tenant agitation for land reform (known as the ‘new departure’, 1879-82). They hoped to weaken British authority and to generate increased popular support for the republican cause. Meanwhile, during the 1880s, the Brotherhood organised a dynamite campaign in English cities.”

    Sorry, the “you started it” jibe against unionists of that era when it comes to Republican violence only works if we ignore the history of Republican violence. And this approach is not surprisingly used by violent Republicanism to justify its anti-British aggression, which is why we must be very careful not to make that mistake. While the old UVF armed and so on, what the ‘nationalist’ version of events tends to miss is that they didn’t actually attack Maybe they would have done if pushed; but they didn’t. It’s one thing to arm in preparation for armageddon, and as I’ve often said I think it was bullying and wrong to do that, but it’s another thing to actually carry out a campaign of violence like the UFF or the PIRA; or like the IRB then IRA of the early 20th Century did.

    I’m not whitewashing the unionists of that time, but let’s not pretend the determination in Ulster not to have Home Rule in 1912 was to blame for subsequent conflict. Especially when we all now agree the border is legitimate and fair and that it would be wrong to force people in our region into a united Ireland they don’t want. If it’s wrong now, can you not see it was also wrong in 1921 and in 1912? Yet people continue to champion the Home Rule solution of that time regardless. It was divisive and it was obvious that it was divisive. For nationalism to persevere with the 32-county model and then proclaim their commitment to unity was either stupid or hypocritical. They should have known unity would be the last thing you would get from such a blunderbuss approach. The truth is, nationalism was very slow to accept the realities of the divided loyalties on the island and preferred to pretend it could simply prevail if not by force then by having the other side sidelined and abandoned. The game for unity was lost when the antagonism started; after that, nationalism was just continuing to dig itself into a deeper and deeper hole, the more it berated unionism for its different loyalties.

    The smart thing to do would have been to recognise that quite a bit earlier, accept us for who we are and save us all the aggression and ill-feeling, not to mention violence. I think the main cause of violence in N Ireland has been a lack of acceptance of the ‘other’ and acceptance is the key to it not kicking off again.

  • MainlandUlsterman

    you ascribe the change in public opinion in nationalist Ireland between 1910 and 1918 to the formation of the UVF and the putting on hold of the Home Rule Bill. But there were surely other factors – not least WW1 itself and the Easter Rising. The IRB and SF were very small right up to 1916 and support for the IPP still pretty large – which suggests that it wasn’t purely the formation of the UVF and delay of the Home Rule Bill that triggered the surge in support for SF after 1916. Are you not ignoring the role of wartime itself in changing attitudes to the giving and taking of life, and to the possibility of radical change? Not to mention the Rising itself.

    I just think there’s a lot more going on within pre-1916 nationalism than just reacting to unionism. And of course the Rising itself, and subsequent nationalist responses to it in the South, were deeply solipsistic when it came to the Ulster Question – they basically said f*** it, we don’t care, we’re going anyway. The rebels initially, then the public swinging around behind them. They parked Ulster as a complication that couldn’t be solved then; and ultimately of course in 1921 accepted the inevitable, the separate treatment of Ulster in the Treaty (even if they hoped it would be a temporary measure). They weren’t going to let Ulster hold things up for the rest of Ireland, quite rightly. Separation was the most rational approach.

  • MainlandUlsterman

    oh and I was talking about mainstream nationalism. The IPP were as guilty as anyone of not accepting the reality of Ulster, i.e. that Home Rule was simply not wanted there by most people and could only be imposed with great difficulty. Their tendency to wishful thinking was pretty jaw-dropping.

  • SeaanUiNeill

    It does help if you actually read the material on this rather than simply generalise. MU. By the 1890s many southern Unionists had seen that Home Rule was inevitable, and were accommodating this pragmatically (Alvin Jackson’s work is a good guide to this “Unionist Pessimism”). The north was also an alliance of commercial interests and the LOI cynically using the received perception of nationalism that had been carefully nurtured by quite unscrupulous local propaganda to create a very false impression of what Home Rule would mean, so your constant reference to the belief that “the north opposed Home Rule” needs some considerable unpacking, as to just why they north opposed it, and how informed their opposition actually was in practice. Believing that a secular and liberal IPP is going to somehow place protestants under the control of the Bishop of Rome is not exactly an informed assessment of the realities, any more than believing that a mild form of devolution is actually going to entail serious separatism.

  • MainlandUlsterman

    but unionist opposition in Ulster was solid and consistent though, right? Whether you agree with them is neither here nor there.
    You’re not advancing any argument here that the IPP accepted the inevitability of partition, it seems? Which is what, seeing unionism in Ulster was an immovable object, they should have done, surely? I get that it would not have been a big vote winner for them; but still, shouldn’t they have given leadership to Catholic / nationalist Ireland on that instead of just proposing to plough forward regardless with Home Rule for all of Ireland?

  • SeaanUiNeill

    I recommend “The Irish Convention, 1917/18” by R.B McDowell, which describes the fail serious attempt at discussions after the Easter Rising. You can see just how often a decent negotiated settlement was almost possible even then. The main stumbling block was the northern Unionist delegation, and you can discern their purely commercial motivation from their behaviour at the Convention.

    The failure effectively delivered the Irish people north and south to the polarised situation we face today, and discredited constitutionalist politics both north and south. But the climate in which this erosion of constitutionalism occurred simply could not have come about had northern Unionism not invoked the gun in 1912.

  • MainlandUlsterman

    again you try to paint unionism as purely about financial gain or ‘privilege’ and miss that identity and sense of national belonging were the prime motivators for unionists. It wasn’t only nationalists who were stirred by patriotism. They just had different loyalties and sense of what their nation was.

  • MainlandUlsterman

    “purely commercial motivation” – really, you honestly think that is what primarily motivated unionists then? Just not right – ignores what unionism was all about and I think does so in order to downgrade unionism.

    You’re sticking to the unionists ‘invoking the gun’ in 1912 as the fons et origo of political violence in Ireland … that seems an odd choice for reasons I’ve explained many times. On an island with a long history of devastating political violence and loss of life, it seems odd indeed to pick an organisation, however significant, that did not use violence as the “cause”. How about looking at people who actually believed in aggressive political violence and carried it out? I know you want to find unionists as somehow the cause of all problems but really nationalism needs to have a good look at its own record and in the 20th C it was way, way more violent than unionism ever was.

  • SeaanUiNeill

    Ho humm….”but unionist opposition in Ulster was solid and consistent though, right?”

    Close up, it was very uneven, and there was strong voting support for nationalism even quite late. The land war of the 1880s found both Catholic and protestant farmers combining against the Unionist camp

    The Unionist demand for partition came very late and not from the northerners. Lloyd George suggested a possible county by county vote for six year exclusion in 1914. This would have meant that four northern counties would have stood out for a time. The idea was that they would have time to see that the safeguards offered the northern protestants would ensure that the myths about Home Rule were shown up for the irrationalities they were. THe failure to appreciate the northern intransigence is not simply obtuseness on the part of the IPP, for when you actually evaluate the Home Rule Bill that was on offer and the evidence of the period, the northern Unionist position simply appears such an issue of paranoid fears that neither the Liberals nor the IPP as parties, nor any reasonable person fully cognisant of the facts, could even start to believe that the northern Unionists were serious. And, importantly, the debate was on constitutionalist line, the majority of people in Ireland supported the IPP and Home Rule, the majority in parliament supported the Third Home Rule Bill, as long as this is seen in constitutionalist terms the Unionist case has “lost” the argument and should go along with the decision of Westminster. You do not arm up before a parliamentary division, nor start dividing up the landmass to accommodate political differences. The Unionist stance would only acquire some weight for reasonable people if Home Rule had been in any way an unreasonable, illiberal or discriminatory possibility, and none of these things really applied.

  • SeaanUiNeill

    “again you try to paint unionism as purely about financial gain or ‘privilege’ and miss that identity and sense of national belonging were the prime motivators for unionists.”

    As Redmond’s response to the Great War showed, these issues were clearly not challenged by the kind of Home Rule that would have taken place. The important thing is still to recognise that the motivation of a good portion of the UUC was purely to do with their financial issues, as any even cursory reading of contemporary research readily shows. Most of the rest was inspired by an Orange “Rome Rule” project fear. The vaunted patriotism of the north is pretty clearly discredited by their flirtation with the Kaiser:

    https://disqus.com/home/discussion/sluggerotoole/edward_carson_no_one_on_earth_is_so_clearly_the_typical_irishman/#comment-2864859627

    Can anyone reading the material I link to in my earlier comment take the idea that the northern Unionists “were stirred by patriotism. They just had different loyalties and sense of what their nation was” seriously?

  • MainlandUlsterman

    I think it’s pretty far-fetched to imagine the mass signatories of the Solemn League and Covenant were motivated by financial gain or sympathy with Kaiser Wilhelm … come on now, this smacks of a hatchet job rather than sensible analysis.

  • MainlandUlsterman

    ” … neither the Liberals nor the IPP as parties, nor any reasonable person fully cognisant of the facts, could even start to believe that the northern Unionists were serious …”
    And yet they were – had shown every possible sign of being serious – and had every right to be.
    It should have been clear by then that this was not any old parliamentary vote. Parliament can pass any law it wants – all it takes is a majority in parliament – but whether it is wise to do so is another question. Nationalist arguments seem to reduce to ‘the House of Commons passed this so unionists were duty bound to comply.’ Yet the House of Commons had passed a lot of locally unpopular legislation regarding Ireland – wasn’t that the core of the nationalists’ own argument? – which nationalists quite rightly opposed. Then suddenly, with Home Rule, because it’s what nationalists wanted, Westminster’s legislation in the face of local opinion in Ulster is suddenly treated as unquestionable; and to argue for the wishes of the people on the ground treated as undemocratic.
    Isn’t the truth that nationalist arguments for Home Rule were just being applied further in the case of the N Ireland carve-out from it? If Ireland was getting these new arrangements on the basis of it being what people on the ground wanted, then shouldn’t people on the ground in Ulster also have the same right? Surely the overriding principle is that people should get to decide as far as possible what polity they want to be in?

    You may also need to work out a more consistent position on the merits of majority rule vs consensual government. It seems, within the Ireland unit, you wanted the status to be decided on a majority basis only and anyone opposed should just concede they ‘lost the argument’; but in Northern Ireland, I’m guessing you were NOT for majority-rule decision-making, but rather a cross-community consensus. Could I suggest you had it right the second time? Consensus rather than imposition is the only way – and nationalism should have sought a consensus with unionism over how Home Rule was going to work, not just sought to impose its will. Actually, it did, in 1921. The problem was that it then rowed back on what was a reasonable and fair deal.

    It wasn’t really until 1998 that it once again fully accepted what it had agreed in 1921. Much bloodshed in the meantime could have been avoided had nationalism stuck to the 1921 deal and acknowledged its merits like it belatedly did in 1998.

  • SeaanUiNeill

    And yet they leadership are fully on record as sounding out the Kaiser and saying these things, MU!!! Hatchet Job, yes, perhaps, but the hatchet used was made in Belfast. And you have only to examine the negotiations regarding the north’s relationship with Home Rule during the war to find that the prime concern of northern negotiators is with their commercial interests rather than any of those more public issues with which they sold a Unionist opposition to Home Rule to the rank and file. But I have a slight advantage here in that my great-grandfather was the treasurer of one of the Belfast Conservative Associations and I grew up with perhaps a little more of a window into these rather more cynical concerns.

    But this is not just me, this “commercial interest” theme is being quite carefully researched nowadays by quite a few others, and such research is revealing preoccupations and motivations which seriously conflict with how the early fathers of northern Unionism would wish to be remembered. Similarly, on the military wing, the rather ramshackle grassroots of the original UVF which a veneer of military professionalism disguised has been revealed by proper research and a careful examination of the full range of evidence in the work of Tim Bowman, whose “Carson’s Army” is essential reading for anyone interested in history rather than myth:

    http://www.historyireland.com/20th-century-contemporary-history/the-ulster-volunteers-1913-1914-force-or-farce/

  • SeaanUiNeill

    Look MU, I know you habitually fall back on this argument:

    “If Ireland was getting these new arrangements on the basis of it being what people on the ground wanted, then shouldn’t people on the ground in Ulster also have the same right?”

    But what about a third of “the people on the ground” in those six counties in the north which were actually the sole part of Ireland to be granted “Home Rule”, in 1920! As Alvin Jackson says on p. 200 of his book “Home Rule” “Home Rule…enjoyed a form of after life in Northern Ireland, where the Unionists struggled with Gladstonian institutions that they had undermined.” Your argument falters completely on the simple issue of where does one stop in the requirement to ensure self-determination? No, the political unit was Ireland, and partition could only be secured at the expense of the kind of “injustice” you complain of, but to another even more vulnerable group of people, the only people in Ireland under threat of regular political violence before partition, as Helen Waddell notes in her 1916 letter.

    The real issue here is that had Home Rule not been opposed with a threat of violence, much that actually developed from this might not have followed. We cannot know, but any dispassionate examination of probability (an increasingly popular pastime amongst historians such as Niall Ferguson, for example) suggests that the north would have settled as readily to the benign, pluralist and secular Home Rule of 1911-14 even more easily than the southern Unionists settled under a country torn apart and driven into partition and civil war by the inceptive northern Unionist recourse to the gun.

    Dangerfield’s “The Strange Death of Liberal England” shows just how “concocted” the reckless Tory support of northern Unionism actually was! No it was not an “ordinary vote”, but had the Conservatives not ratcheted up the tensions by encouraging the northern Unionists into a path of anti-constitutionalism, it might very well might have been. A close reading of the actual discussions and proposals rejected over and over by northern Unionism shows that those who opposed partition, both in the IPP and in southern Unionism attempted every possible compromise, even a federal solution for the north and committees with the power of veto over ant legislation effecting the north, but the utter blanket intractability of the UUC hints at the sort of thing that the late Lord Bannside used to indulge in his heyday. There was much reasonableness shown by the other constitutionalist parties, but it was all wrecked by northern stone walling. With the woeful treatment of the minority in the north after partition contrasted with what would have been a profoundly mild form of devolution stacked with safeguards for northern interests, accommodating reasonableness over these issues of consensual arrangement seem to heavily favour the IPP and the southern Unionists. The moment to have avoided bloodshed would have been 1911, with a reasonable adherence in the north to constitutionalism and discussion rather the sinister Opera Buffa recourse to a military response, rather than in the bitterly polarised atmosphere of 1921! But we are where we are, let us perhaps learn some sense from this rather than valorise intractablity and the threat of violence as somehow an acceptable manner of carrying on our politics.

  • MainlandUlsterman

    Of course there was a business case against Home Rule – the fact that people made it though doesn’t mean it was the most important motivation.
    ‘Rational’ arguments, whether for the EU or for Home Rule, generally receive more attention, column inches and speechifying than some of the deeper motivations, of which the speaker themselves may be only dimly aware. We like to present ourselves as acting ‘rationally’, so in this, as in Brexit, we heard a lot of ‘the economic case’ and so on. It’s not really what matters for most people on issues of national sovereignty and whose parliament we recognise as ours – it’s much more likely to be about group belonging and attachment to institutions, now as then.

    Those things are hard for people to articulate so we get this kind of parallel chatter about issues that are well down the real pecking order. People use proxy arguments all the time for talking about deeper or trickier issues, for a range of reasons. I’m no historian but this doesn’t strike me as an aspect of human discourse invented any time recently – it was ever thus. The important thing is to look at people anthropologically, 360 degrees, bearing in mind their whole psychology.

    I like Kenrick and Griskevicius’s model from “The Rational Animal” of the 7 sub-selves, competing human needs within all of us, which pretty much any human decision-making can be explained in terms of: self-protection, disease avoidance (includes the need to repel threatening outsiders generally), affiliation, status, mate acquisition, mate retention and kin care. It seems to me that both unionism and nationalism in 20th C Ireland resonated with people in 5 of those areas: self-protection, disease avoidance (outsider rejection), affiliation, status and kin care. That’s a lot of resonance – hence their strong hold even now. The traditional telling of Irish 20th century unionist history it seems to me has focussed on aspects of self-protection, status assertion and ‘disease avoidance’ in our stories, but to the detriment of the role affiliation in particular (and to some extent, kin care). It is quite a big area to ignore though. For me the 12th, for example, while portrayed in terms of negative aspects of the ‘disease avoidance’ and status needs, in reality is only in part about those, but is primarily about affiliation and self-protection. Of course these labels are only a starting point to thinking a bit more deeply about why people act as they do in certain situations; but I find it useful to apply to Northern Ireland because they prevent us adopting too reductive or pejorative a view of the psychology of the other players.

  • SeaanUiNeill

    Of course separatist nationalism has its own culpabilities, but these do not cancel out Unionism’s inceptive role in the descent into violence:

    “Helen Waddell (hardly a supporter of SF) said in 1916 in the wake of the Easter Rising “What Sir Edward Carson did was to break down the hold that constitutional Government had at last sown in Ireland. He proved that a threat of physical force could paralyse ‘Government by the will of the majority’. ” (Corregin, d.F., “Helen Waddell, a Biography”, 1986, p. 184, for the whole letter). She also notes that “Ulster never feared religious persecution for itself.” and in an earlier letter said that Carson (and by inference the UUC) “practically created Sinn Fein”. ”

    Its not simply myself “sticking to the unionists ‘invoking the gun’ in 1912 as the fons et origo of political violence in Ireland “, its a well attested perception by local liberals writing at the time.

    It might also be useful to distinguish between the separatism of the IRB and Sf, and the constitutionalist nationalism of the IPP, as their utter divergence of gaol and method both qualify how they should be considered. Your conflation of these very different approaches seriously weakens your argument.

  • MainlandUlsterman

    “No, the political unit was Ireland, and partition could only be secured at the expense of the kind of “injustice” you complain of, but to another even more vulnerable group of people …”
    A smaller group of people, though, is the key thing. That’s why partition was better than Home Rule on a rational basis. The unhappy minority – and there have to be minorities when any border is drawn – was smaller than would have been the case under Home Rule. An even smaller minority would have been better of course. Which is why arguments that NI was artificially created to manufacture a majority miss the point entirely – because of course it was, that is the idea when you draw a border.

  • MainlandUlsterman

    I didn’t conflate them.

  • SeaanUiNeill

    Perhaps in your own estimation, MU, but your comments appear to use the term “nationalist” without any qualifier quite often, and the first comment I replied to above certainly suggested that they were one thing to my mind. This simply confuses matters! Unionism is just as complex, with the arrangements of the Conservatives, the southern Unionists and the northern Unionists a “three ring” affair, with endless cross motivation. When each of these groups are taken individually, they have important factions whose divergences really need attention, but with the very important differences between constitutional nationalism and separatist nationalism it is even more important to make some differentiation about which one is referring to at any given time.

    “but really nationalism needs to have a good look at its own record and in the 20th C it was way, way more violent than unionism ever was.”

    John Redmond, the IPP…..?

    ” nationalist Ireland in the early 20th C knew, or had no excuse for not knowing, it could have unity or separation, but not both. It chose separation over unity. Then it spent 100 years complaining about how it really wanted unity.”

    This is not conflation?

  • SeaanUiNeill

    You are entirely missing the point that the probable experience of a Unionist under the benign Home Rule of 1911-14 was likely to have been considerably less unpleasant than that of the Catholic population in the north proved to be after partition. This is not number game, it is matter of how the constitutional arrangements worked out. I simply cannot see how oppressing and actively disadvantaging a smaller group of people is in any sense somehow intrinsically more acceptable than a much slighter (and still questionable) “inconvenience” for a rather larger number within a much more pluralist, secular “Home Rule” Ireland?

  • MainlandUlsterman

    I see what you mean. The confusion is the dual meaning of nationalism, which can mean just the non-violent side of nationalism or the whole of nationalism together, including violent and non-violent. When I say nationalism generally I mean the latter. But admittedly I do sometimes use nationalism in contrast to Republicanism. I think it’s usually clear from the context though which I’m referring to. Here it was appropriate to use to refer to nationalism more broadly because it was in a discussion about unionism, so it was in contrast to that rather than to Republicanism, if you follow.

    And the statements are true of nationalism overall. I’m not going to use a phrase like pan-nationalist front, though perhaps that would be clearer 😉

    By the same token, unionism is an umbrella term too and can include Loyalists. It’s OK to use ‘unionism’ when referring to that overall political persuasion. It’s best though to say ‘Loyalist terrorists’ rather than ‘unionist terrorists’ in nearly all cases; as I try to say (and hope I have stuck to it but happy to be corrected if I don’t) ‘Republican terrorists’ rather than ‘nationalist terrorists’. But in some contexts, ‘unionist terrorist / nationalist terrorist’ can be OK e.g. person A says ‘There is no terrorist tradition within unionism’ and person B might say, ‘But in a real sense the UFF are unionist terrorists.’ That would be fine. What is less fine I guess is the habitual use of unionist / nationalist as the label of first resort for describing the affiliation of the terrorists, when Loyalist or Republican are available and better describe where they sit, socio-politically. Some use it mischievously to tar the whole of unionism or nationalism with terrorist guilt, and that is wrong. I certainly didn’t mean to do that. At the same time, both must acknowledge that both nationalism and unionism in their widest senses of course include all people who so identify, including the unwanted terrorist elements.

  • MainlandUlsterman

    you’re assuming the Home Rule option you prefer is superior though – but you have to ascribe equal value to both. Otherwise you’re not being objective. Effectively you’re just saying, ‘it doesn’t matter what the numbers are, my view is that this minority will be more oppressed under system A than that minority would be under System B, so we choose System B.’ I think it would take System B to have been a hell of a lot worse than Northern Ireland was – and clearly so – to justify overriding the numbers in that way. In reality, the Republic of course got pretty close to matching NI in terms of its providing a cold house for the other sort, and as we know the Protestant population in the South suffered widespread intimidation, boycott of businesses and actual violence, with the effect that many left in the early years of the Free State. Meanwhile, the state adopted a hand-in-glove relationship with the Roman Catholic church and was all but “a Catholic country”. So there was no clear human rights-based case for overriding the numbers.

  • Jarl Ulfreksfjordr

    You are right on one thing. It is your “interpretation”, and of course you are welcome to it.

    You view the ‘commercial’ class as solely self-interested, in a very pejorative sense. The ‘lower orders’ were then easily duped by their ‘betters’ by the “Rome Rule” strap line (take a walk sometime through the histories of the likes of John Charles McQuaid, or David Patrick Moran for a look at ‘Rome-free’ Ireland).

    A land of Saints and Scoundrels?

    So unionism summed up as either morally repugnant, or simply thick. Scoundrels.

    The Saints, nationalists of course, were, naturally, operating from loftier positions and driven to their excesses by those lesser beings they were tragically enforced to share ‘their’ island with.

    More recommendations for my reading list I see. Take a leaf from my own book; try to look at material from a wide spectrum of sources. You’ll come to understand that seeking out literature that simply reinforces your own prejudices is never a good thing.

    Read a little Proust and take on Marcel’s entreaties to seek originality, rather than the comfortable rhetoric you strike me as preferring.

    Original thought may also develop an understanding that the history of the world, least alone that of Ireland,
    is not a tussle between black and white, between ‘goodies’ and ‘baddies’ and such other simple fare.

    I believe it can only improve the quality of the final edit of this great opus of yours that you regularly mention in your postings.

  • SeaanUiNeill

    Jarl, your response shows what comes from selecting evidence to bolster one case, for contemporary political capitol, instead of examining the whole range of evidence in context. I have D.P. Moran’s collection of essays on my shelf, ” the Philosophy of Irish Ireland”, but also numerous other works envisaging a far more pluralist, secular and liberal”Irish Ireland”, such as the northerner F.J. Bigger’s work and that of W.P. Ryan (“The Pope’s Green Island”, describing in novel form the kind of problems that the real “Irish Ireland” had with the Clergy in practice). Moran is very his own man, and the voice of one particular faction, not of “Irish Ireland” in its entirety!!!!! Certainly not the liberal, pluralist “Irish Ireland” of the IPP.

    As I’ve said to MU, the commercial concerns of Unionism have been fully examined in current scholarship and I ma not making any “special pleading” on a fully accepted issue.

    You are fully correct on one thing, the simple “Black Hat/White Hat” issue always needs qualification, but I’m not writing an 80,000 word book, with enough space to qualify and unpack subilties of my own historiography, but offering “snapshots” of particular issues which really require honest attention by Unionism (and sometimes Republicanism also) if we are ever to carry ourselves to a pluralist political situation where we live. Unionism did unquestionably bring back the gun to a constitutional argument, and while separatist groups had a loud voice (interesting to note Moran was an imperialist, not a separatist, just for the record) they had a minute following in 1910 before the political change from argument to threatened force favoured their trope of “poor faith” from Westminster. Regarding my other theme, you have only to examine any negotiations between the northern Unionist elite to clearly see that they fed their rank and file one set of reasons to oppose Home Rule, but shifted ground to commercial concerns in their negotiations. I’ve mentioned academic studies above, and you will have to offer equally sound work if you are serious in contesting this. Perhaps you can accordingly widen my range of reputable sources, but I doubt this. Current scholarship simply has not been indulgent to Physical Force and anti-Constitutionalist actions in our history, whether it is Unionist or Seperatist.

  • SeaanUiNeill

    “you’re assuming the Home Rule option you prefer is superior though – but you have to ascribe equal value to both. Otherwise you’re not being objective”

    How so? I’m describing my final reaction to the whole range of evidence, and assessing this with as much dispassionate objectivity as I may muster. Are you saying that I am not permitted to argue an opinion here? Drawing strong conclusions from the evidence does not in any sense conflict with objectivity in regard to that evidence. I am not the BBC, and do not have to “balance argument” where this conflicts with the evidence, and more than you are required to argue the case for Republican violence every time you criticise it.

    This appears to be a distraction. You have not given me a single response yet which actually contradicts what I’m saying. Your number argument simply does not stand up to serious consideration, as the very argument you employ to authorise what you suggest (compulsion against a minority) is itself a significant component of the solution you recommend. This is why the argument needs to be made on the prospective treatment of that minority by the two proposed polities, and if we look at 1911-14, rather than 1920-22, the north with its endemic anti-Catholic riots was in probability going to produce a situation far more illiberal than the all Ireland devolved “Home Rule” solution.

    You are still inferring the situation ten years after the UVF had begun their erosion of Constitutionalism backwards seemingly. I am not referring to the Free State, but to a prospective Home Rule in 1911. In referring to the later situation you are muddying the waters of a very particular argument. The IPP in 1911 were strongly criticised by the Church Hierarchy for their secularism, pluralism and liberalism, something which many in the Free State attempted to continue (on third of the first Senate were southern Unionists) but which was eroded by the steady development of a far more conservative administration out of the ashes of partition and civil war. Redmond had relied on the northern community to participate in sustaining a pluralist, secular state modelled on the British model against pressure from the Church hierarchy for confessional influence, and their absence in the post Treaty Irish state ensured that the Church could exert far, far more power than ever they would have with in a Third Home Rule Bill parliament. His need for their participation in order to develop a modern liberal state for entire Irish community drove his position against partition, rather than any wish to coerce the unwilling.

    And you should address just why it is acceptable for the UUC to develop a private army in the UVF, and to arm up against a bill passed in support of the programme of a democratically mandated majority in Ireland by a mature democratic government. You have often argued that as democratic institutions were available to the minority in the north they were unjustified in resorting to violence to resolve their issues with Unionism. But when the Unionist minority in Ireland arm up and threaten violence, which almost erupted with what turned out to be the abortive attempt to arrest they UUC and UVF grandees in March 1914, they are simply affirming the right to self determination of their group. This is either a case of unconscious double-think or a rather disingenuous attempt to parcel up “Good for when Unionists do it, bad when others do it.” eEither way its having your cake and eating it politically. Either the Unionists lost the Home Rule debate constitutionally with the passing of the Third Home Rule Bill, and should have abided by the will of parliament, or any group, no matter who small, who demand self determination are equally correct in taking the Unionist road and arming up, For myself, all recourse to violence is unacceptable, its called consistency.

  • SeaanUiNeill

    A short rule of thumb for historiography is the use of “Nationalist” in the period for the old IPP, and for the successor Nationalist party of Joe Devlin in the north, to signify constitutionalists, and Seperatists to signify those who felt that the simple devolved parliament of Home Rule was not going far enough.

    Nationalism and separatism had very different agendas and a accordingly had very different relationships with Unionism, which itself had factions as I’ve said in a comment above. The relationship of the IPP and southern Unionism needs differentiation from that of the IPP (and later Joe Devlin’s northern Nationalist Party) and northern Unionism. Your comments seldom address this difference, and accordingly this blurring of distinctions leads to misleading statements. You simply cannot speak in black and white terms with threads in Unionism discussing a federal UK as their preferred answer to the problem of holding the Union together from the 1890s while others were standing on “not an Inch”. With this range within Unionism, some sane accommodation was far from impossible and the apparently “natural trajectory” of northern led partition is far from being seriously considered until quite a late date. It appears to be then “natural solution” you appear to think it only by projecting retrospective attitudes and opinions backwards in an Ireland where both Nationalist and Unionist saw an “all or nothing” whole island solution as being the only option before the formation of the UVF.

  • MainlandUlsterman

    “How so? I’m describing my final reaction to the whole range of evidence, and assessing this with a dispassionate objectivity. Drawing strong conclusions from the evidence does not in any sense conflict with objectivity.”
    That wasn’t the point I was trying to make about looking at the self-determination issues objectively. We’re talking at cross-purposes. You’re going into the merits of what a 32-county Home Rule Ireland might have been like; I’m making an argument based on deliberately not touching the merits with a barge-pole, because I’m arguing on the basis of principle. The principle being, deciding on political boundaries is all about how best to minimise minorities, i.e. minimise the number of people being governed in polities to which they do not have allegiance.

    If you’re following that principle objectively, which seems to me the only way you can proceed here, then you have to treat all people as of equal value (your argument privileges nationalists in NI over everyone else, for some reason) and all national allegiances as of equal value (I’m not sure you really give British allegiances equal weight with Irish-only ones). Not to do so is loading the dice.

    That’s not a controversial point, the eventually ‘Endgame’ settlement we reached in 1998 is based on that basic premise. It’s the only basis you can go on, if you believe in the equality of all human beings.

  • SeaanUiNeill

    Noting the absence of a full challenge on principal when I re-read the comment you’ve just replied to, I’ve been adding a final paragraph just as you were typing.

    I’d not touched on the important principal of how a recourse to violence against a democratic government should be judged. You have been quite fulsome in the past about the “unreasonable” Republican refusal to conform to the democratically stated will of the northern “majority”, but as with the self-determination argument this contains a self-contradiction in the position you take over NI. Your support for a state whose very existence required an armed refusal to accept the democratically stated will of the British and Irish “majority” behind the Third Home Rule Bill would appear to justify the principal of armed resistance to democracy and to democratically authorised laws where this conflicted with an issue of local self determination for a dissident group, which would effectively suggest to me that your invocation of principal justified the campaign of Republican violence, something I would be unwilling to justify myself.

    If one accepts “The principle being, deciding on political boundaries is all about how best to minimise minorities, i.e. minimise the number of people being governed in polities to which they do not have allegiance ” this would still have worked out in 1914/1920 with only two rather than the six counties partitioned from Ireland. I quote the Wikipedia article on the Boundary Commission during the 1920s:

    ” Since the 1920 local elections in Ireland had resulted in outright nationalist majorities in County Fermanagh, County Tyrone, the City of Derry and in many District Electoral Divisions of County Armagh and County Londonderry (all north and east of the “interim” border), this might well have left Northern Ireland unviable.”

    The six county unit was created to protect particular Unionist minorities in four counties at the expense of local majorities, and if you were to ” treat all people as of equal value” then these non Unionist populations should in all honesty have been permitted to opt out of partition. You are clearly not presenting an objective argument on principal but, whether consciously or unconsciously, you are taking certain Unionist assumptions such as the six county unit as a given, and failing to question them. The argument you use to claim the propriety of self determination disguises the degree to which you appear to have simply taken the final six county settlement as something natural. No, once you have invoked the primacy of self-determination, not just northern Unionism any minority can make just as valid a claim for self determination, certainly those parts of Tyrone and Fermanagh which abutted the Free State and contained sizeable majorities of non-Unionists. Principal simply does not set an objective scale for where such a demand begins and ends numerically, certainly not one imprinted with the natural right of the northern Unionists to fail to “minimise the number of people being governed in polities to which they do not have allegiance” on a local level simply so that their territory would be larger. Northern Ireland as it was conceived in 1920 would still require very serious re-drawing if it were to honestly conform to the principal that “deciding on political boundaries is all about how best to minimise minorities.”

  • MainlandUlsterman

    “Your support for a state whose very existence required an armed refusal to accept the democratically stated will of the British and Irish “majority” behind the Third Home Rule Bill would appear to justify the principal of armed resistance to democracy and to democratically authorised laws …”
    It didn’t require that, and I don’t support that use of arms. My position is that Northern Ireland should have been formed anyway because it was the best solution to the divided loyalties on the island – albeit I think the border should have followed the 1925 recommendation not current borders. If going on counties, I agree a 4 county solution might have been better. But I don’t see why counties had to be used at all (the Boundary Commission didn’t, for example).
    It is perfectly possible to support NI today – and most people do – without approving of everything that happened in the lead up to its formation (any more than being a proud citizen of the Republic today requires you to approve of the Old IRA.)
    I certainly don’t take the current border as set in stone and have long been interested in achieving a more accurate border. The principle upon which you would do that would be to minimise the numbers of people finding themselves on the wrong side of it.

    “Northern Ireland as it was conceived in 1920 would still require very serious re-drawing if it were to honestly conform to the principal that “deciding on political boundaries is all about how best to minimise minorities.”” It could well do. The point is to follow principle though and the answer would remain to have a border (and an increased unionist majority within the remaining area). Can you explain how the united Ireland solution is a better one? It’s hard to get around the basic maths: if say 600,000 in NI wanted a united Ireland / Home Rule and 900,000 didn’t, then what is the logic for creating a 900,000 minority for the sake of removing a 600,000 one? It just doesn’t make any sense. Unless of course you try to treat the 900,000 as people so awful as to be underserving of the same consideration as the 600,000. That kind of ethnic hatchet job was one of the main planks of nationalist strategy from partition to the GFA, and it seems to have survived even that. It seems to be all about getting around the pesky democratic maths. It has also been a huge green light for nationalist-on-unionist sectarianism – it is permanently open season on us, because we dare to stand in the way of the unquestioned all-Ireland dream. It is deeply wrong – and has had awful consequences for everyone in NI.

  • SeaanUiNeill

    MU, assumptions again,

    “My position is that Northern Ireland should have been formed anyway because it was the best solution to the divided loyalties on the island”

    Which I seriously question for reasons given in comments above, none of which you have addressed. No solution was going to be a good solution where one third of the people affected were denied their self-determination, and clearly in a non-partitioned Ireland proportionately the fewest people would have been “inconvenienced” Island wide. By considering this entirely on NI numbers you are skewering your argument to favour a particular interest, not the entire population. The “minimising of minorities” cannot simply be honestly seen within an essentially arbitrary framework in this way.

    Importantly, the “divided loyalties” issue simply did not apply when, for example, Catholic and protestant farmers both combined in the north on issues such as the land league. This failure to act in predictable confessional lines was one of the strongest scares for the early anti-Home Rule faction in the north. And the widespread flirtation with Germany in 1913/14 hardly underwrites any credible claim of anything more than a very contingent British patriotism. Certainly in a Home Rule Ireland as envisaged in 1911, with devolved administration less sovereign than our own in NI today, still sending representatives to Westminster and with the full veto of Westminster through the Royal power of assent, this “loyalty issue”, certainly in 1911, is nowhere near so clean cut as someone looking back over a century of the rancour developed by partition might imagine.

    We agree over the border issue, but what occurred is so scandalously at odds with any moral claim of self determination, I cannot see how you could not have agreed and maintained the self-determination argument. The whole point of the six county solution however is that it was quite generally accepted over the period of the state’s formation that even four counties would have been an unsustainable unit, and the four county offer by Lloyd George was made with recognition that such a unit would have to follow the Forth Home Rule Bills provisions and combine with the rest of Ireland sooner or later. The unspoken reality is that any partition solution would erode the economy of both parts of Ireland. The irony here is that partition was supported and funded for commercial self interest by the northern commercial classes, only to destroy the steady economic development of an all Ireland unit which they had benefited from in the first place.

    You are also taking the Unionist commitment to partition as somehow a natural thing, while any even cursory research reviles a far, far more complex situation. Both political camps wanted either an all Ireland or a federal solution, and partition was a very late comer on the scene. I’m afraid too that in your belief in unbridgeable gulfs over loyalties you appear to be taking what is, in the elite interchanges, frequently simply the rhetoric of debate for the solid beliefs and commitments of those involved. Carson and many of the other Unionists in the UUC were rather more sophisticated on these matters than the rank and file they intoxicated with the Rome Rule/Pogrom themes. It is of interest in returning to Helen Waddell’s letter to find her saying just after the 1916 Easter Rising that the only part of Ireland where any part of the population lived in fear of regular violent discriminatory behaviour was the northern counties, although the threat of a violent Catholic reaction to protestant privilege was cynically presented “project Terror” style to corral northern opinion. This highly artificial “threat” was certainly father to later realities, as such things tend to be, in giving people ideas about how they are expected to behave. Your numbers game entirely leaves out the all important human issue of how a minority could expect to be treated in each situation, and as T.E. Hulme once explained, numbers are about numbers, and can only be employed in models which represent actual human issues in the most general of ways.

    I realise we are coming at this from very different disciplines, but as an historian, I’m compelled to look at the unfolding of thing over a measured period of time, I simply cannot generalise by inferring the later conditions even a few months in the future backwards to make points. What happened happened when it happened, and time moves in only one direction. My concern here is with two things. Firstly, the role that a refusal to accept a bill passed with a democratic mandate and to oppose it with the threat of violence from 1911 had in eroding the benign conditions for a mutually beneficial settlement, something many more pragmatic southern Unionists continued to work towards. And secondly, measuring your contention that “that Northern Ireland should have been formed anyway because it was the best solution to the divided loyalties on the island” against conditions in 1911 and 1920. The issue of loyalties need far more unpacking, and cannot be taken as given. It would be of some value to examine this through work such as, for example, Alvin Jackson’s excellent work on Unionism’s far from steady development and to go on to the extensive current research into approaches and attitudes in the north from the period of the First Home Rule Bill. The loyalties issue is far more complex than you are making out with a very late 50/50 split of “loyalties” in Ulster itself, as shown in election results, a pattern which conflicts with the perception of a simple confessional split on the issue.

    We are where we are, and you argue that NI should be recognised today as a self e determination issue, but until the quite contrary origins and history of the place, what makes it what it is, can be fully recognised by all shades of political opinion, there is very little chance of our escaping attitudes encoded by a history which has privileged a contempt for constitutionalism and rule of law, even at the upper tiers of government. As Yeats put it “There’s no luck about a house, if it lack honesty….

  • MainlandUlsterman

    Isn’t this the point though: for all the historical ifs and buts you go through, you need to explain – and it seems to me can’t – why self-determination for Northern Ireland is OK in principle now but was somehow an unacceptable idea in the second decade of the 20th Century. You just haven’t answered that.

    Of course people sense of themselves was different then, but the core issue was the same: unionists not wanting to submit to an Irish nationalist government in Dublin. They had no more right than nationalists to get their way of course. Which is why the only fair solution had to be based on numbers – minimise the numbers of people overall left being governed by a parliament they did not feel allegiance to.

    A lot of your points on the history of that era, addressed to me, appear to assume a modern pro-Union person like myself somehow has to approve of past unionist actions. But that is no more true than for nationalists. I support NI’s place in the Union now for rational, democratic reasons as well as in my case reasons of national identity. It doesn’t require me to be OK with wrongs committed by past unionist politicians, or the Plantation for that matter, any more than being a nationalist today requires you to like the 1641 massacres or the Provo campaign.

    I get that the creation of N Ireland was not inevitable and other courses could have been taken. But as it better reflected the wishes of people on the ground than any 32-county solution, it seems completely – and provably – wrong to suggest it was an inferior settlement to simply imposing ‘Home Rule’ from Dublin on all of Ireland. If the wishes of people are the starting point, there is no competition, the NI solution was a big improvement on the all-Ireland route. And all parties, including all nationalist parties, accept “it would be wrong” (GFA wording) to change NI’s status without the consent of its people today, no matter how grudging they might be be about it. I am a bit perplexed as to why you’re treating something everyone agrees is right and legitimate as so terribly wrong? I think you’re keen to go through the history – and thanks for that – but less keen to engage with the logic. And the logic stands.

  • SeaanUiNeill

    To follow your logic to its conclusion, one would need to cut slivers of all the devolved administrations currently in being across the UK to create ‘special pleading” for each and every group who believe that devolution is detrimental to their concerns. The important point to remember is, that the manner in which you are thinking about self-determination is anachronistic in the historical context. Both Unionists and Nationalists were playing for an “All Ireland” solution, as both considered their positions to refer to an all Ireland issue. The idea of partition and an artificially constructed statelet was anything but a natural solution to them both, no matter how natural it appears to you after almost century. You talk about a core issue “unionists not wanting to submit to an Irish nationalist government in Dublin”, but this needs unpacking, as in the opinion of any reasonable person (such as , say Sir Horace Plunkett) they were not being asked to “submit” in any meaningful sense. The Dublin Parliament would not have been in any sense dramatically “independent” of Westminster. It would have operated a very mild form of devolved administration under Westminster’s final sovereignty, a constitutional arrangement which would be applied finally to the only “Home Rule” administration that came into being, Northern Ireland itself, technically, if not morally, an indicator of what 1911 Home Rule would have entailed, including the continuing link with Britain. The northern Unionists were even offered a committee of their own in any future Dublin Parliament to manage any legislation relating to the north with inbuilt assurance of veto on anything considered detrimental to their interests. Similar sensitivities were of course not extended to their own internal minority by the new government of Northern Ireland after 1920. They would not so much have been “unionists not wanting to submit to an Irish nationalist government in Dublin” (interesting how this encoded rhetoric paints over the actual subtleties) but a continuing Ireland wide Unionist interest engaging as parliamentary partners in an experiment in devolution. You might as well say that SF and the other parties are currently having to ” to submit to a DUP government in Belfast.”

    The real issue here is exactly why we might find “unionists not wanting to submit to an Irish nationalist government in Dublin” and how realistic their reasons where at that moment. If the desire you infer into their actions for “self determination” was unqualified and from a realistic assessment of things then it might perhaps stand morally, but if its foundations were exaggerated primarily Orange fantasies about “Rome Rule” and similar “project fear” scares, then the Liberal and IPP puzzlement after 1910 at the hysterical arming up becomes all too understandable. If you research the political discussions at the time “over the water”, or even read Dangerfield’s witty description of the sheer incomprehension at such an extreme response to so very ordinary a thing, then this notion of “a clear will to resist submission to a nationalist government” becomes simply untenable as a reasonable position. You write as if “the wishes of the people ” was somehow satisfied by partition. It is of interest that Carson did not participate in the northern “Home Rule” parliament. Th evolution you commend was perhaps the worst solution for those, the vast majority of pragmatic and responsible southern Unionists even, who maintained the need for an all Ireland solution to the bitter end in negotiations. Partition was a most unsatisfactory solution, and one which in the interests of what you dignify with the term “self determination” destroyed the growing economies north and south and ensured a bitterly divided and polarised state in the north which successfully delivered a century of pending and eventually open conflict to those under its administration. It is only in the abstract realms of theory (“principal”?) that anyone could even begin to suggest that partition was somehow the best solution.

    Despite the fact that I have frequently pointed out that I’m not discussing the present, but the rights and wrongs of the 1910/1922 issues, you keep changing the gaol posts in an attempt to seemingly infer your positive evaluation of the current NI statelet backwards. You bring up the issue that “all parties, including all nationalist parties, accept “it would be wrong” (GFA wording) to change NI’s status without the consent of its people today, no matter how grudging they might be be about it”, but this clause of the Belfast Agreement is the content of a majority within a currently defined area. Northern Ireland simply did not exist in the period I’m referring to! In 1911, the year of the Third Home Rule Bill’s first reading the defined area for both Unionist and Nationalist aspirations was all Ireland, and its status as a single nation within the UK was certainly altered with the creation of Northern Ireland “without the content of the majority.” Of course these are two entirely different issues. How we attempt to manage the situation today, with possibilities stunted by almost a century of partition, requires very careful handling, as a rancour has been encoded at both ends of our community which simply was not there in 1911. This issue of self determination as you are framing it is very much an issue of today and of the Belfast agreement, and to infer it so anachronistically across time into a situation where the UUC and the UVF were created not to define a separatist state, but to wreck the application of Home Rule to all of Ireland, is entirely misunderstanding the historical context.