Ireland – An island of reluctant West Brits and enthusiastic East Yanks?

When the very mention of “British” axiomatically throws up the spectre of the Black and Tans or Charles Trevelyn, it’s natural that any positive material contribution to Ireland made by Britain is ignored or lost to amnesia.

I’m Irish, the “other Irish” – an Irishman with an Irishness that is conjoined to a Britishness. My sense of British national pride is weakened by historical wrongs as much as any American’s patriotism is reduced by the awful wrongs visited upon native Americans – It triggers an emotional impact and sense of remorse but it does not fatally undermine. 

The “real Irish” of the Irish republican patriot is marked by an anti-Britishness that is strident, aggressive and interminable. An Irishness that black marks every British foot, from the first to the last, in Ireland. 

Michael D. Higgins recently gave a speech on Michael Collins in which he itemised British atrocities in Ireland, (while factually correct) this exercise continues the Irish habit of reflecting what it is to be British through a 800 year lens; ignoring wholesale what it is to be British for a great many people in the north-east of Ireland, generally utterly apolitical and entirely in the present. 

It is an exercise not only in black marking, but also amnesia, something Michael. D Higgins has implored the Irish to guard against. 

An amnesia of a British legacy in Ireland that, regrettably for some, is still enduring and isn’t all black. 

Much of the republican critique, even venom, of unionism is based around the premise that unionist culture is that of le colon, de facto supremacist. 

But much of republicanism and Gaelic history is based the belief that Gaelic culture is vastly superior to that of the Anglo-Saxon. 

A republican former paramilitary advised the writer Angeline Kelly that there were fewer Protestant protagonists in Irish fiction because “Protestants do not have the romance of the native Irish.”

Councillor Morahan who was involved in the Mayo librarian scandal said that “Trinity culture…  is poison gas to the kindly Celtic people.”

This is tied in with the further belief that Catholic and republican represents Erin and virtue, while Protestant is alien Saxon and guilt.

Is this not a form of supremacy? As George Orwell asked:

“But why is it that the worst extremes of jingoism and racialism have to be tolerated when they come from an Irishman?”

The orthodox Irishness of the deep green is based upon a conceit and active amnesia. 

The question (if I may ask it) “What did Britain ever do for Ireland?” cannot be answered with a tapestry of unmitigated evil. It includes great wrong, but not wrong alone. 

Hugh Linehan writing in the Irish Times today, asking and answering the same question, said:

“Ireland’s cultural relationship with Britain has been a source of double-think at home and confusion abroad since the foundation of the State.
It hasn’t stopped people trying, but it’s hard to argue that, culturally speaking, the Irish and the English are totally different.

Unless you ignore the language we speak, the food we eat, the books and newspapers we read, the buildings we construct, our legal and educational systems, our sense of humour, our taste in clothes and the weather we stoically endure, we clearly have a lot in common.
Hundreds of thousands of us live over there and hundreds of thousands of them live over here.”

A Pearsian vision of Ireland, rid of every last vestige of Britishness is not only impossible, but it is everyday repudiated by Irish citizens and an Irish culture that embraces British past and present British ways. 

Louis MacNeice wrote that Dublin had a custom of “appropriating all the alien brought”, and with almost a third of the Irish population living in the Dublin metropolitan area Irish cultural life never has been singular and fixed, but is fluid and informed by many sources, no more so than Britain

Latterly Irish culture has been deeply touched and shaped by the hegemon of bourgeois American life. 

Irish patriots have fought against the Saxon tide, and have disparaged anyone with an excess of Britishness, derided as “West Brits”.

Yet could we not call many urbane Irish with their American speaking ways, clothing and viewing habits “East Yanks“?

There is not the same urgency to block the encroachment of US culture into Ireland as there has long been to forestall the reach of John Bull’s island.  

It’s like when Niall O’Dowd looks with a lucid and accusing eye upon the dispossessing Protestants of Ulster but perfectly blinds himself to the stolen land his Manhattan office stands upon. 

My main point for this post is: without Britain there is no Ireland as the world now knows it and celebrates it for. (Certainly, a land of Gaelic speakers untouched by the course Saxon wouldn’t be able to sell itself to Apple.)

Contrary to what the former republican told Angeline Kelly, the Anglo-Irish and Irish Protestants are the great generator and protagonist of recent Irish literature and culture. As W.B. Yeats said:

“[Protestant Irishmen] have created the most of the modern literature of this country. We have created the best of its political intelligence.”

Patrick Kavanagh said the fathers of Irish wit and humour have nearly all been Protestants:

“You get the same thing among Irish Protestant writers in general. It is not without point that the fathers of “Irish wit and humour” (more inverted commas) have nearly all been Protestants. They were trying to bypass Rome on their way to the heart of Ireland.”

What is Ireland without Yeats, Wilde, Swift, MacNiece, Burke, Bernard Shaw, the Duke of Wellington, Parnell, Sir Charles Villiers Stanford, Hubert Butler and every Anglo-Irishman who created the bulk of Ireland’s literature and heroes, Ireland’s most celebrated and lucrative resource? Colm Toibin said:

“Like Yeats and his brother the poet, and the playwrights Shaw, Synge and O’Casey, Beckett was a Dublin Protestant… His Protestantism shows up in some lovely moments, however, such as when he bathes at the Forty Foot in Dublin in 1936 and sees a Father McGrath, ‘red all over with ingrowning semen & exposure’. The footnote remarks drily: ‘It is not known to which Father McGrath SB refers.’ Beckett’s South Dublin Unionist background emerges also in some wonderful moments, such as an attack on the police force of the Free State: ‘There is no animal I loathe more profoundly than a Civic Guard, a symbol of Ireland with his official Gaelic loutish complacency & pot-walloping Schreinlichkeit’.”

In 1966 Conor Cruise O’Brien wrote a polemic on 1916 for the New Left, ‘The Embers of Easter 1916-1966’, in that he suggested that the Irish state is culturally part of Britain:

“The Irish state is culturally part of Britain, distinguished from the rest of the archipelago mainly by its practice of a puritanical form of the Roman Catholic religion and by marked deference to ecclesiastical authority.”

On February 6 1933 the Taoiseach Eamon de Valera officially opened the new high-powered RTÉ radio station located at Athlone in the centre of the country, he said in his speech, ‘Among the Nations’:

“Anglo-Irish literature, though far less characteristic of the nation than that produced in the Irish language, includes much that is of lasting worth. Ireland has produced in Dean Swift perhaps the greatest satirist in the English language; in Edmund Burke probably the greatest writer on politics; in William Carleton a novelist of the first rank; in Oliver Goldsmith a poet of rare merit. Henry Grattan was one of the most eloquent orators of his time – the golden age of oratory in the English language.”

Terry Wogan said in a 2007 interview with the Times:

“Despite what people think Ireland is a bit like England. We felt that when we wanted to be in Ireland, places like Kenmare, West Cork, south Kerry and Clare, we would want to be in our garden at home.”

He also said, with frank and almost blasphemous honesty:

“I’m an effete, urban Irishman. I was an avid radio listener as a boy, but it was the BBC, not RTÉ. I was a West Brit from the start. 

Although born in Limerick, I’m a kind of child of the Pale. I think Gay was able to communicate better with the country people than I would be. I’m too metropolitan. I think I was born to succeed here, I have much more freedom than I had in Ireland.”

V.S. Pritchett said in 1985:

“Like many English people I loved being in Ireland, and the British and the Irish privately got on enormously well together, and that was quite a revelation to me.”

And as George Orwell wrote:

“It is very rare to meet a foreigner, other than an American, who can distinguish between English and Scots or even English and Irish.”

I know why so many Irish republicans loath Britain, but I can’t understand it. 

If a “West Brit” is a label for a pathetic sell-out Irishman, what does that mean for Irishmen and women that are both proudly British and Irish?  

“West Brit” it an awful term, just as nasty and supremacist as “Uncle Tom” in American. It is not only nasty but delusional, for it is based upon an untainted and impossible Ireland and Irishness. 

But more importantly, why is a lackey to British ways bad but a lackey to American ways is OK?

Britain like America in Ireland today is unavoidable, and as  Jim Gibney said in 1997, “Irish republicans, we have got to recognise the British in us” and that “there is a Britishness to the Irish people”:

“Irish republicans, we have got to recognise the British in us and the unionists have got to recognise the Irishness in them and I think that that type of notion is quite revolutionary if you come at it from a straightforward republican point of view, but nonetheless I feel that the proximity of the two islands, the interplay at a human level, the shared history of the two islands-all of this mix indicates clearly that there is a Britishness to the Irish people, whether nationalists or unionists, and that I think is where I believe you can map out for the future a plan for negotiation, a plan for sharing different institutions etcetera within the island.”

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  • “A Pearsian vision of Ireland, rid of every last vestige of Britishness” – I don’t think that’s what republicans are after, Brian. I think it’s more along the lines of ‘Can we have our country back, please?’

  • Sam Thompson

    Jude, it’s our country too and the sooner a multi-faceted idea of Irish identity is accepted rather than a single gaelic, catholic ant-British model the sooner more Northern Protestants will accept and cherish their Irishness and the sooner that can happen. It won’t if they are continually regarded as interlopers and villains.

  • stewrogers

    Back from who?

  • northstar

    Where to start? Its hard to argue with most of Spencer’s piece. Like Wogan I was an Ardoyne West Brit via TV/Radio/Music/Literature/Admirer of Stephenson & Brunel & Battle of Britain heroes etc. But I am Irish and from Ardoyne and my problem with Britain was much more intimate than Spencer’s – thrown against the wall, abused, searched etc. And worse.
    However here we are today in 21st C. with history hanging around our necks like an Albatross. My difficulties arise when said history continues to be contemporary and Unionism & UK seem to want to make it future proof. Partition as carried out left only one group of people out of spoils of the 1912/1916/1919-21 Conflict.
    Us, me, my granda etc. The North’s Nationalists.
    And that is Britain’s fault! And to a large extent Dublin’s. Unionism can hardly be blamed for wanting to consolidate.
    So until Partition is fixed the Albatross is still breathing. Now a United Ireland may not be the fix to do the job – GFA certainly was not – and continues to be shown wanting in spite of best efforts of SF to chug it along as they take the Dublin route. Basic Cultural Inequalities are endemic in post GFA north. Only a strong Irish dimension can fix that.
    No matter what the future brings I will always have a British cultural persona which I embrace and derive great joy from – its mine and I am keeping it.
    By same token I will be insulted for all of my life by the Status of the Orange Order and the 12/13 July Public Holidays. This is a running sore and needs lanced because for Media and Govns to give this respect in a divided society is incredible. 50% of the divided society must take 2 days off work to celebrate their defeat at the hands of the other 50%. No where else in West could this be tolerated and it would probably be deemed illegal under 1998 Equality Act. Unfortunately SF do not seem to want to test it.
    When C.C. O’Brien wrote his lauded piece about 2 Nations he once again rubbed salt in northern Nationalist wounds for he granted 20% of 1921 Ireland’s people the status of a Nation apart – yet the 33% minority in the north in spite of being a much larger minority were granted FA Squared about their existence.

  • Couldn’t agree more. But who are these people that want to go with single Gaelic, Catholic, anti-British etc? I thought SF were arguing for a republic, not a theocracy (and a Catholic one at that). Enlighten me…

  • northstar

    Too trite Jude and more a retort than a worthy POV. I am a fan but thoughtful creativity is the way ahead.

  • Mega Kensei

    We share 99% of our DNA with monkeys, and approximately 50% with an Onion. I think you get into a fair bit of trouble when you say one place is a lot like another. Ireland is like Britain in a lot of ways, but it is also different. And the differences matter.

    One there was a reaction against British culture being enforced whereas US culture was consumed voluntarily; contained in “West Brit” is something like “lickspittle” – sucking up or adopting customs for advantage that doesn’t really translate to adopting US culture. Secondly, Irish culture was a lot more openly expressed and celebrated in the US compared to the UK until relatively late think “No dogs…” There is probably a thread back to the Famine here where Irish people were always very impressed with the US and certainly an element of wishing to emulate the US.

  • northstar

    Hard to argue with this POV.

  • Sam Thompson

    In fairness I think SF have done some good work on this in reaching out to unionists above the heads of their political leaders who remain churlish. The damage was done in the de Valera years where a one dimensional Irishness was projected. The problem will be how to incorporate a British identity into an all-Ireland state so that those who hold it feel comfortable and welcome. Otherwise we risk exchanging one disgruntled minority for another.

  • congal claen

    Whilst I have some sympathy for what you have written, it could be argued that there are 2 holidays at Easter, which is when the “other” 50% celebrate their victory. Then when you throw in St Paddy’s Day, which ironically has become a Nationalist day celebrating a Brit, you’re actually 50% up on the deal… ;0)

  • Nevin

    “There is probably a thread back to the Famine here where Irish people were always very impressed with the US”

    Not always, MK.

  • Mega Kensei

    True enough, but as I said, the prejudice worked through earlier. But even with the prejudice, i think the Irish were impressed with what Irish Americans could achieve in the US, certainly in comparison with the UK.

  • Ben De Hellenbacque

    As were most settlers who voluntarily made their way there. “Bring me your huddled masses yearning to breathe free” etc. That any achievement was on the back of African Americans who hadn’t settled there of their own accord added a hitherto unknown lower rung to a more ascendable ladder.

  • Nevin

    MK, some of that prejudice would have come from the descendants of earlier migrations from Ireland, some of these being descendants of the USA’s founding fathers.

  • Nevin

    The lower rung can be a very uncomfortable place, Ben, particularly in unstable times.

  • the moviegoer

    Basically an article that says without the Plantation of Ulster Ireland would still be like it was back in the late 1500s.

    Of course American firms wouldn’t invest here if we spoke any other language but English. It’s not like they invest in Poland, Germany, France, Japan…. oh wait.

    As for all the great men of Irish history being Protestant, the fact is that up until the latter half of the nineteenth century ALL literary and scientific endeavour was carried out by aristocrats. They were the only ones who had the time and money to engage in such pursuits. The “great men” view of history is hopelessly inadequate as it fails to consider sociopolitical and economic circumstances. It wasn’t until the late 19th and early 20th century that Irish Catholic writers emerged, as this was the first era in which it was possible to make a living out of writing. Before this inherited wealth was a necessity in order to pursue a writing career. Prior to State funding of science programmes, only rich people became scientists.

    As for Beckett’s Protestant wit, James Joyce hated the Catholic Church too. Is that Protestantism? Or just the subversive insight of the artist? What about Flann O’Brien’s anti-authoritarian streak? If it was not class but Catholicism itself which was a constraint on artistic and scientific endeavour, what the hell was the Renaissance exactly?

    As for the Irish having no qualms about being identified as “east yanks”, you haven’t been paying attention. The big-mouthed, full-of-himself “yank” has been a staple of Irish literary tradition throughout the 20th century. The comeuppance of the flashy yank in John B Keane’s “The Field” is a case in point – a rock to the back of the head. There is an underlying resentment to our relationship with the USA. It provided refuge for generations of Irish, yes, but it still took them away from home. In some ways it seems to take them and turn them into something else.

    It would be more pertinent for Brian John Spencer to consider what influence these great Anglo-Irish and British writers and thinkers have had on Unionist culture in the Northeast than on Irish culture in general. I would argue it is considerably less. Are orange marches “British”? Is a one-party State “British”? Or are these merely forms of Irish tribalism and cute-hoorism?

    It’s true that many Irish people embrace British culture. Few embrace “Ulster British” culture though. Why is that? Surely that’s a more interesting question.

    It’s worth remembering that Beckett was a Dubliner and Parisian and thought Belfast a depressing place generally.

  • RG Cuan

    Brian, you often write about how ‘Irish republicans’ view unionists or how they view Britishness, so I guess it’s an important issue for you.

    It always strikes me however that your take on contemporary Irishness is very skewed and not based on the reality of today’s progressive Irish identity.

    The Irish republican patriot that you describe basing their sense of self on anti-Britishness couldn’t be further from the truth for me or for any of my friends and associates.

    Have you spoken to any of the thousands and thousands of Irish people who base their identity on the positives of their own culture and are open to, celebrate, and partake in, the positive aspects of other peoples and nations?

    And Yeats’s claim about modern literature in Ireland is only true if you you totally discount Gaelic language literature.

    English language literature in Ireland (much of which is wonderful) only kicked off properly in the 18th century, whereas we’ve been creating Irish language literature for over 1,500 years.

  • Ben De Hellenbacque

    As any accurate appraisal of African American history will attest.

  • Celtlaw

    When Manhattan was “bought” from the Indians, it was the DUTCH who did it. When the eastern Indians were driven off their lands, it was the BRITISH Army and SCOTS-IRISH militia who did it. The American West, where Mesolithic natives who hadn’t yet discovered the wheel and were using the recently-introduced European horse, is a different story, of course.

  • the keep

    Your country Jude? I suspect you will find Northern Ireland was never taken away from you.

  • Zig70

    I hoped for more insight from Newt, maybe brutal honesty that his nationality was by TV remote, hugh’s peice in the IT an this are hopelessly one side. I can’t understand how you wouldn’t emphasise with the feeling towards England from Irish republicans. Keep your head down croppie and don’t mention the past. The experience of the Irish working in London and the rest of England is something I’d like my molly coddled kids to know and appreciate. I’m surprised I don’t see more from journalists on Geldoff’s banana Republic mentality that probably did nearly as much damage to the Irish national identity as the troubles.

  • Kevin Breslin

    Where’s the Northern European Option?

  • Jollyraj

    SF are indeed arguing that ‘our’ votes should matter less than ‘theirs’. Otherwise they would simply respect the majority viewpoint of being pro-UK.

  • 1729torus

    It is not uncommon for wars like those in 1921 to produce extreme polarisation, accordingly, you haven’t substantially hurt Republicanism. It isn’t that hard for a SF member to just concede that the British aren’t utterly evil. Even Hitler was an animal lover. But that doesn’t substantially alter the calculus, judging even from the tone of your piece.

    The Union was specifically intended to keep Catholics down. It’s record speaks for itself and that includes NI. I don’t see why someone should have to through the mental effort of qualifying any comments about Britain or granting nuance: “The RIC shot innocent people dead, but sure didn’t the Liberals bring in the old age pension”. Ireland was under no obligation to wait around for the UK to reform.

    In general in fact, I’m not sure Unionists can appreciate just how self-indulgent their attitude is. They feel perfectly entitled to demand that people who suffered under British rule for centuries show respect to their Britishness. Orange Parades through Catholic neighbourhoods is one example, but I could cite more.

  • Jollyraj

    Indeed it isn’t rocket science – which is perhaps just as well.

    I’m not saying the shinners should simply give up on the politics just because they don’t win – after all, they are as entitled to pursue lucrative careers as anyone else (as long as it’s through legal means of course).

    All’s I’m saying is they should drop the pretence that they’ve somehow been disenfranchised simply because the majority doesn’t share their worldview.

  • Declan Doyle

    You write very well and it’s an enjoyable read. But the premise of your entire piece is based on a completely false notion of anti British sentiment amongst the broad republican family. Nothing could be further from the truth. Republicanism objects to tge excesses of all military powers not just the British. It also rejects the entitled and genealogical nature of monarchy, across the globe. It rejects all elements of imperialism wherever it hails from. It also rejects the economy of Adam Smith, not because he was a Brit but because Marx offers a fairer alternative.

    Anti British sentiment came from experiences, negative experiences that outweighed the positive, and there were many positives. Likewise, anti Irish sentiment amongst the English was driven by perception, sometimes justified and sometimes not. Newton Emerson recently described handsomely and intelligently how part of his British Identity was fed through the medium of television. Republicans are as happy watching corrie, eastenders and cheering on Man U or Liverpool just as any Unionist.

    Post Unionist Ireland has allowed Protestants in the North to see Catholics as equals, as it has allowed relations between the Irish and English to be stronger than ever. Martin McGuinness meeting the Queen and Gerry Adams meeting Charlie are the strongest signals you could ask for showing outreach from Republicans to the British establishment. It is simply no longer the case that ‘Brits Out’ is in any way part of the make up of contemporary republican Ireland.

  • Gopher

    David Hume always referred to himself as a North Briton rather than Scottish

  • SeaanUiNeill

    Although, BJS, I disagree with what you are saying both here and on some of your recent threads, I value the fact that you are certainly creating debate on important issues which require honest examination. It’s certainly not enough for the Belfast Agreement to simply refer to blanket concepts such as “Mutual Respect” or to “recognise the birthright of all the people of Northern Ireland to identify themselves and be accepted as Irish or British, or both” while leaving entirely void the manner in which such respect or recognition must actually function in the real world of NI. The response to each of your “cases” pin points the problem of ongoing polarisation.

    The problem is who a case for Unionism is to be framed. I don’t think it’s useful to build it on easily demolished “factoids” such as the Yeats quote:

    “[Protestant Irishmen] have created the most of the modern literature of this country. We have created the best of its political intelligence.”

    But which “protestant Irishmen”? Not the UUC, and of those amongst our fellow citizens in the north only St. John Ervine comes to mind as a Unionist and only then later in his career. The Waddells, Morrows and others from the Revival period were Home Rulers, whose “Britishness” was that of Redmond and not the UUC. Most of those Yeats was thinking about when he made the comment were southern protestant Irishmen and women (the capitol “P” should only be used to refer to a particular rather than a general noun) who, over some centuries, were seldom supporters of the Union, people such as Wolfe Tone and Grattan. What Yeats was pointing to in the particular context of his utterance was the affront to a pluralist Ireland of the steady retreat of the new state to a confessional exclusiveness, rather than any residual support for the Union!

    Many of the other comments such as Kavanagh’s were very much of their time, and were selective in a similar manner to your decontextualised Yeats quote, for to claim Irish culture as protestant culture requires one to begin evaluating this from the later seventeenth century, and to stick to the English language literature and carefully ignore the likes of Dáibhí Ó Bruadair and Piaras Feiritéar, or, in the north, the eighteenth century “Creggan” poets such as Art Mac Cumhaigh, Peadar Ó Doirnín and Peadar Ó Doirnín. And many, many, more!

    I believe a powerful case can be made for the Irish identity crafted by those in the north as an important and fertile contribution to a modern pluralist Ireland, and a compelling case may even be constructed for the Union itself, perhaps, but not out of half truths lifted from their context, quotes which only flag their weakness as collaborative support for what you would have us understand to anyone familiar with what they are actually saying in context.

  • SeaanUiNeill

    The problem is that “respect” for Unionism is demanded, and the Belfast Agreement’s terms pointed to by those wishing to enforce this “respect.”

    As respect is something that must be earned by a person or a group’s behaviour, the legal demand for “Mutual Respect” must entail either a dramatic change of behaviour in the recipient to merit this or a requirement for public hypocrisy from the other party. Sincere respect simply cannot be enforced by law.

  • SeaanUiNeill

    Hi Moviegoer, “Basically an article that says without the Plantation of Ulster Ireland would still be like it was back in the late 1500s.”

    Another Anglo-centric trope informing BJS’s thesis (“the civilising influence of Britain”) which needs serious questioning. Alice Stopford Green’s “1908 book ‘The Making of Ireland and its Undoing’ argued for the sophistication and richness of the native Irish civilisation” before the Tudor conquest:

    It describes an Ireland developing as a normal European country during the middle ages, a trajectory violently aborted in the sixteenth century. The Plantation can only be a starting point from an entirely Anglo-centric historiography. For a more recent examination of the earlier Ireland, Hiram Morgan’s excellent “Ireland 1518: Archduke Ferdinand’s Visit to Kinsale and the Dürer Connection” is certainly worth a purchase:

  • 1729torus

    GFA is kaput. A renegotiation would be from a noticeably weaker position on the DUP/UUPs part.

    They need EEA access. They can’t take a majority for granted + power sharing, so they can’t “do” anything, other than threaten a reignition of conflict .

    This would be dangerous given the demographics and how weaker the UK is. There would be no guarantee of any quarter given post “reconciliation”, so you would see huge emigration. “Ulster” isn’t strong enough to stand up to RoI without British support, which would likely be less enthusiastic this time around,

    As a result, I don’t see why this parity of respect spiel has to be retained.

  • Nevin

    “I don’t think it’s useful to build it on easily demolished “factoids” such as the Yeats quote:

    “[Protestant Irishmen] have created the most of the modern literature of this country. We have created the best of its political intelligence.”

    But which “protestant Irishmen”? Not the UUC, and of those amongst our fellow citizens in the north only St. John Ervine comes to mind as a Unionist and only then later in his career.”

    Seaan, perhaps it would be helpful to look at that Seanad exchange, including a little bit more of that Yeats quote:

    I think it is tragic that within three years of this country gaining its independence we should be discussing a measure which a minority of this nation considers to be grossly oppressive. I am proud to consider myself a typical man of that minority. We against whom you have done this thing, are no petty people. We are one of the great stocks of Europe. We are the people of Burke; we are the people of Grattan; we are the people of Swift, the people of Emmet, the people of Parnell. We have created the most of the modern literature of this country. We have created the best of its political intelligence. Yet I do not altogether regret what has happened. I shall be able to find out, if not I, my children will be able to find out whether we have lost our stamina or not. You have defined our position and have given us a popular following. If we have not lost our stamina then your victory will be brief, and your defeat final, and when it comes this nation may be transformed.

    The country in the short quote is the Irish Free State and the minority would appear to have been those who either are not Catholic or who are of no particular religious persuasion. Conservatives from all of the Christian sects might well have supported a law banning divorce. Presumably Yeats’ nation would be the people of the island of Ireland.

  • SeaanUiNeill

    Oh, 1729torus, I know the Belfast Agreement entirely stood on assumption of EU membership, and believe I was the first person to raise and discuss this very issue on Slugger just after the Brexit vote. Many of the assumptions underlying the Agreement are drawn from Richard Kearney’s “Postnationalist Ireland”, especially his reprinted “Rethinking Ireland” proposal for joint sovereignty, presented first to the New Ireland Forum in 1983, which is why the Agreement suggests joint sovereignty almost everywhere, while careful not to actually say it “out loud” and scare Unionism.

    I think parity of respect is a very fine aspiration, but is something that must be earned, not enforced. Yes, I know……..

  • Nevin

    Seaan, here’s a delightful intervention by the erudite Dr Yeats:

    Colonel MOORE: … The English Parliament set up divorce courts as a sort of experiment. They acted reasonably and properly at the time; from their point of view they were justified in trying it. What is the result? It has resulted in an enormous flood of divorces. Young people now get married knowing quite well the marriage will only last a year.

    Dr. YEATS: An ancient Irish form of marriage.

  • SeaanUiNeill

    Thank you Nevin for offering the quote in full, and incidentally strengthening what I was saying about the need to carefully examine context. You will note, as I said above, that Yeats is not referring to the UUC or any form of Unionism in his list, or in his intention. He is referring to the protestants of Ireland, whom the UUC selfishly deserted in 1920 after precipitating the descent of Ireland into a maelstrom of violence. Had they honestly participated in Home Rule, after accepting their defeat in 1911 as “good losers”, instead of posturing in arms, thereby smashing the hope of any constitutionalist solution, and accordingly delivering Ireland to violent extremists from both polarities, Yeats would almost certainly not have had to make his particular speech.

    Going from a lifetimes familiarity with Yeats’ work, I believe my point entirely holds, that the poet throughout his life had no truck whatsoever with either Unionism or with the northern polity. Until you can provide me with some printed source where he commended Carson or the UUC as exemplars of this protestant tradition, “I cannot and will not recant anything, for to go against conscience is neither right nor safe. Here I stand, I can do no other”.

  • SeaanUiNeill

    Good Brehon Law………..

    I have an elderly copy of Yeats’ “Senate Speeches” on my shelves, with a somewhat tattered cover. It’s always a good read, as he was almost as much of a contrarian as myself…………..

    Of course the point I’m making above is that while a good case may be made for the Union (implied often in many of your own contributions) it simply cannot be made from any reliance on the opinions of those who loathed the union, and Yeats is such a case. This is simply a matter of good housekeeping, and an injunction for BJS to improve his sources, to the benefit of us all. He is undertaking a most important task in presenting his cases, but more care is needed in his “proofs” where neither those who oppose what one wishes to say are of use, nor are those who, like Lord Cushendun, are highly selective of their facts to ensure that no false note enters their politically motivated construction.

  • Ciaran74

    BJS has been here before recently and has extrapolated his points to take on previous counters. Most of which challenge the supposed immovable republican family. I suggest that BJS knows the republican family has evolved, and knows well that unionism refuses to acknowledge that, as it still hurts from the unjust 1969 rebellion. Republicans, who are clearly moderating, and Nationalists, who are broadly moderate, are an open door to be pushed. That can be moderated further to accepting and committing to NI indefinitely. I’m open to the idea of broadening our thinking and understanding of myself and community, as most Nationalists will be and have been since the big sell of the GFA.

    This has been reflected widely in the media, north and south, and it appears to interest the populace. However, in contradiction the same cannot be said for Unionist commentators and media who prefer to savagely criticise northern Nationalists and employ self-deprecating Irish journalists to affirm our wayward character.

    No-one can argue with some of the brilliance of the Anglo-Irish cultural contributions to the world, apart from taste, but there is a distinct vacuum in history of ethnic Irish contribution, as well as Scots, particularly driven by the prejudices towards Presbyterians up until the post-Union period.

    And it’s here that maybe Brian et al can gain some understanding of Gaelic Irish people, and how certain aspects of our position can be gleaned. Where are the references of us pre-1600 or where are we to be found post 1600? Where are the castles, the Gaelic monuments, the historical references to our achievements prior to Tudor colonisation? The Gael in Ireland (and no less Scotland) became human debris. Yet the idea of understanding that and protecting that is abhorred and carefully and continually undermined with fertilised self-doubt.

    The history of this island is littered with negatives, some of which have been seared into the Irish sub-conscious and conscious, and much of it policy driven by the English, sometimes with the knowing and unknowing assistance of fellow Irish, and more recently with the Scots descendants as they took power in local administration – albeit ironically, but power can clean memories.

    Ireland is an Atlantic satellite, closely tied to Britain, more lately the USA, and Europe commercially. That is not Britains’ fault, but is a consequence. We should recognise all of these influences, but be a little stronger for our own characters while cherishing everyone’s contribution, but especially all of our own into our island based identities.

    However I do not accept that Irish people need to apologise for being objective or emotional with regards the outcome of our general history, as long as it’s fair, and substantiated. Given the lack of introspection for poor governance in Ireland at large, I see no reason to let it leave the table.

    I was once at a training course, lead by a Scot locally that spent allot of time with me as I was the paying company. He’d been to Dublin and was irked by the ‘national remembrance’ of 1916, the Famine and the treasures of the National History Museum. He was angry at Belfasts open defiance. He poked around the subject all flipping day, and eventually asked ‘what would you lot have done without the British?’. ‘Something else’ I answered.

    Balance the story a little more and we may have something to work on.

  • Thomas Barber

    Have you read the Annals of Ulster Seaan ?

  • Nevin

    “You will note, as I said above, that Yeats is not referring to the UUC or any form of Unionism in his list, or in his intention. .. he had no truck whatsoever with either Unionism or with the northern polity.”

    Seaan, Unionism is very explicit in this section:

    It is perhaps the deepest political passion with this nation that North and South be united into one nation. If it ever comes that North and South unite the North will not give up any liberty which she already possesses under her constitution. You will then have to grant to another people what you refuse to grant to those within your borders. If you show that this country, Southern Ireland, is going to be governed by Catholic ideas and by Catholic ideas alone, you will never get the North. You will create an impassable barrier between South and North, and you will pass more and more Catholic laws, while the North will, gradually, assimilate its divorce and other laws to those of England. You will put a wedge into the midst of this nation.

    I would imagine that Archbishop O’Donnell would have taken the same line in a 75% Catholic country as he did in a 90% one.

  • Nevin

    Seaan, we can all be highly selective in our use of facts so it’s wholly inappropriate to indulge in finger-pointing.

    Northern Ireland Question. Simple as ABC? is a case for shared sovereignty, not a case for either of the Unions.

  • Reader

    A string of long posts on the topic of “respect”, used by you and 1729torus, with the context changing each time.
    When used as torus did in the context of “show respect to their Britishness” – well, where is the problem in that?
    The two of you drifted off that context subsequently. However, if you find the notion of respecting a unionist utterly inconceivable, how about simply committing yourselves to “equality” instead?

  • Reader

    Zig70: The experience of the Irish working in London and the rest of England is something I’d like my molly coddled kids to know and appreciate.
    But do you understand why so many went, and why so many stayed for the rest of their lives?

  • terence patrick hewett

    Oh! To be a Jackeen
    Oh! To be a Shoneen
    A Western Brit is somewhat sh*t
    And a being a Tout I can do without
    A Grass I think I’ll let that pass
    I’ll settle for being a Cockney Git.

  • the moviegoer

    Archbishop O’Donnell would certainly have taken the same line. The question is whether a Dublin parliament with 25 per cent Protestant representation and led by the moderate Redmondite IPP, possibly needing a coalition with Ulster parties to govern, would have passed this legislation and risked civil strife. The type of arrangements between North and South that would have existed in a Home Rule Ireland are a moot point – Ulster Separatists never at any point tried to negotiate any such settlement. In the worst case scenario where Catholic laws were forced through, Protestants would still be UK citizens and could surely avail of divorce in Scotland, Wales or England. Not ideal, perhaps, but not the end of the world either. A Home Rule Ireland was not without risk for Protestants but partition proved to bring considerable risks of its own. It’s interesting that on some social issues – gay rights, blasphemy, abortion – the social conservatism of the Republic and Northern Ireland set them apart from liberal mainland Britain.

  • Nevin

    “Ulster Separatists never at any point tried to negotiate any such settlement”

    tmg, isn’t language wonderful? I thought it was Irish nationalists who sought separation. Home Rule, in modern lingo, was a side-deal between the Liberal Party and the Irish nationalist king-makers which allowed the Liberals to form a government; AFAIK it wasn’t on offer following the 1906 General Election.

    I’ve mentioned 75%; you’ve mentioned 25%. As a consequence of the uneven distribution of the sects has it been estimated what percentage of seats might have gone to Unionists in a 32-county Parliament? Ulster looks like a fairly even split but I suspect there would have been very few Unionists in the other three provinces. In other words Unionists would have been unlikely to get more than 15% of the seats.

    It’s my impression from the 1917-18 Irish Convention that the Redmond-Midleton ‘understanding’ was very much a minority interest on either side of the political fence.

  • Oh dear. And the discussion was going so well…

  • SeaanUiNeill

    Reader, really!!! I have every respect for family members and friends who are committed, and even politically active Unionists, and while far from being a conservative myself, the sheer decency of members of the UUP such as Danny Kinahan cannot fail to impress me. But such people have earned respect by both in their character and through their public political personas. Courageous men like Jeff Dudgeon too, but I find few in the DUP or the more hard line groupings who can inspire anything but sadness at their myopia. If the Union and those committed to its maintenance are to be respected, this necessitates at least some moral integrity politically in those who represent it. To my mind this characteristic is all too contingent in much of Unionism, and if you have not been utterly selective about what comments of mine you permit yourself to read, you will have encountered my equally negative views about SF and certainly about any recourse to violence by anyone.

    But I’d think it something of a truism that for someone to be respected, they must be able to genuinely inspire respect. How else?

  • SeaanUiNeill

    We all “select” Nevin, its inevitable, or we would be pumping out our entire life experiences with every posting, but I’d use highly selective for those who suppress important information which contradicts what they would convince others of, writers such as Ronald McNeill. A most appropriate point to raise when such source are used to “prove” things. But let us not fall out over this.

    Thank you for the link to the paper. Dick Kearney was not the only person thinking this way, just one of the most influential. His book is still a great read, especially his coat trailing title!

  • SeaanUiNeill

    Oh yes, TB, I also have the luck to have inherited a full set of John O’Donovan’s bi-lingual nineteenth century printing of “The Annals of the Four Masters”.

  • Nevin

    Ronald McNeill adds a Unionist spin; you a Home Rule one. When it comes to information some of it will be suppressed, some exaggerated.

    I’ve had a look at Richard Kearney’s “Rethinking Ireland”; it’s certainly a more moderate nationalist tone than that adopted by John Hume in his “Personal Views”:

    The ultimate aspiration of the unionists is for complete constitutional separation from the Republic of ireland, which is perceived as alien and threatening; and dependence on Great Britain as the guarantor of that separation. [p71]

    GB isn’t a state; the unionist aspiration is to remain part of the UK.

    The two Northern Irish communities, therefore, have opposing national and cultural identities. .. [p71]

    Of more significance IMO would be the opposing constitutional aspirations,

    The British will accept any arrangement that we Irish – nationalist Irish and unionist Irish – can live with. [p74]

    Unionist identification with the Irish brand has dwindled to a low percentage, a point that an independent researcher would have noted.

  • terence patrick hewett

    Still following the Olympics and now Paralypmics: I really think that they are in the great tradition of W G Grace, K. S. Ranjitsinhji and the totally insane and absolutely ape-sh*t C B. Fry?

  • SeaanUiNeill

    Nevin, I simply critique the “received opinion” on history where I find it distorts the facts. I think you’d have to be viewing this from Red white and blue lenses to see what is simply the questioning of Unionist shibboleths by raising issues about the myopia of these things as somehow “Home Rule spin.” I’d not fall fully on your end of the scales, both what you and Kearney are saying is perfectly correct in different ways, but both require qualification. While what you say is correct for yourself, I really don’t think that it can be blanketed over Unionism as easily. For all too many Unionists, their motive in remaining part of the UK is not to participate in the changing culture of the broader United Kingdom, but to have their own perception of life ensured continuity with the support of the UK, and in this Kearney is correct. You have “opposing constitutional aspirations” but this is very abstract, what is the reason for having such “opposing constitutional aspirations”, and this really comes down to differing perceptions the identity issue, as Kearney says. How solid a foundation this actually proves in practice, is going to be questionable for anyone familiar with Hobsbawm and Ranger’s “The Invention of Tradition”:

    Modern Unionism, developed since the 1880s, is a text book example of their thesis, and is simply the current incarnation of a dissenting tradition which has had some very different, sometimes even contrary, goals across a much wider historical perspective. I think this also explains my own stance on your final comment. Even Unionists have been “Irish” in their self perception for far, far longer than they have been “Northern Irish”. This is what any genuinely independent (non-Unionist, non-nationalist) researcher would have noted in any assessment of the strength of the rejection of Irishness you mention, which is itself perhaps simply the very fugitive product of only a few decades.

  • SeaanUiNeill

    My late father in law was a long term Olympic Judge, so I watched the steady decline of the Olympic tradition through his informed eyes. In the 1980s he had bought a small portable TV to place alongside his main set on Saturdays so he would miss nothing. With the entry on a third channel of sporting coverage, my wife and I bought him a third tiny set, that he should miss as little as possible.

    Although he had an Irish brother in law from before partition (a general in the British army), he was not in any way Irish himself and had no desire whatsoever to even begin to understand the Irish Problem (or Ireland’s English problem depending on where you are standing). My tremendous respect for him is undiminished a decade and a half after his death.

  • terence patrick hewett

    Well WG wos famous for cheating and I am 100% sure that if the Greeks did not use their formidible pharmacopoeia then I am a Dutchman. Gottdammit am in der shchisser again!

  • SeaanUiNeill

    This Nevin, is why the point I’d made about reading things in context is so very, very important if one wishes to use such things to “prove” anything. If you had read Yeats’ letters and other writings after this date you would have noted that his frequently expressed contempt for Britain and for the northern statelet is quite undiminished. He was simply using the northerners rhetorically here to beat up the Free State politicians, but nothing would have induced him to live in the north with that “liberty which she already possesses under her constitution”. No, he lived Merrion Square in Rathmines, holidayed with Ezra Pound at Rapallo, and believed that “there’s no luck about the house/if it lack honesty” regarding the UK itself, and the Empire. You must never mistake the employment of rhetoric in a political debate for actual beliefs, such confusion of hyperbolic political rhetoric with actual human goals has left us with the injustices of the partition state and a century of encoded violence in the north.

  • the moviegoer

    Home Rule, deferred since Parnell’s time, was inevitable, whether achieved by political negotiation or force. In that context, the concept of Ulster Separatism is viable. Southern Unionists could hardly view their Northern brethren as anything other than splitters.

  • SeaanUiNeill

    Oh Nevin “isn’t language wonderful?” Home Rule was the legitimate aspiration of the greater majority of the Irish people for a good part of the nineteenth century, and Bills for Home Rule were passed by majorities in the Commons on several occasions before the Third Home Rule Bill was put before the commons in 1911. Asquith was personally luke warm, but any familiarity with the debates and discussions reveals something much more complex than “a side deal”. There was a genuine attempt to find a proper settlement which treated all fairly and would produce a pluralist, constitutionalist solution to this running sore.

    I’d recommended to you earlier R.B. McDowell’s “Irish Convention, 1917-18” which offers a very full study of the Convention. Had you read it you would have avoided anything as inaccurate as your final sentence. perhaps the most important single effect on the outcome of the Conference was the death of Sir Alexander McDowell. I quyote Wikipedia:

    “McDowell was an expert negotiator and had the confidence of both the Ulster Unionist Council and was on good terms with Redmond. Unfortunately his sudden death ended his good work. But by the end of October, with the exception of fiscal powers, the sub-committee arrived at provisional agreement on nearly every vital point, with Redmond in the belief that a final agreement was in sight.”

    Without the sane and pragmatic guidance of McDowell, the rest of the northern Unionist team simply had neither the brains nor the guts to enter into sensible compromise, with the result that the Midleton-Redmond initiative failed and the ball shifted to the northern Unionist’s fellow extremists in the south, with the woeful results we have had to live with ever since. As Moviegoer says below “Home Rule…was inevitable” and all northern Unionism could actually do was destroy the possibility that it would be constitutionalist, peaceful and pluralist. Southern Unionism recognise this quickly and showed far more sense and pragmatism in their own response.

  • SeaanUiNeill

    The Dutch were the “national enemy” for much of the seventeenth century until their final conquest of Britain (and in turn Ireland), tph. I was always told growing up that the term “then I am a Dutchman” was a developed version of the Jacobite quip, “if that’s actually true, then perhaps even the King is a Dutchman.”

  • Adam Martin

    Great comment.
    That story in the last paragraph absolutely infuriates me.

  • Nevin

    Seaan, you seem to have overlooked the Daniel O’Connell Repeal movement and the short shrift that he got on his visit to Ulster. Then there was that side-deal done by Gladstone to get into power in the 1880s. Can you point to conversations between nationalists and unionists in advance of that side-deal? Can you explain the absence of a Home Rule Bill in 1906? Can you explain why Redmond withdrew his proposal? Presumably he hadn’t the support of his IPP colleagues, not least the Bishop of Raphoe.

  • Nevin

    So why wasn’t a Home Rule Bill introduced in 1906? You may not have noted that Midleton was dumped by his southern colleagues and went on to form the Unionist Anti-Partition League. In other words, Midleton can be portrayed as the splitter.

  • the moviegoer

    Home Rule Bills were introduced in 1886 and 1893. It was inevitable.

  • Zig70

    That’s an odd question, how could I? I know of my family members and wider acquaintances, what I’ve read and recent programs. They are all very varied but the lack of jobs, poverty, running from mistakes and a view of Ireland as backward would all be common themes. The Irish have gone all over the world and often not come back. Something we need to work at. Even now could you say there is enough to draw folk back, I wouldn’t say so.

  • SeaanUiNeill

    Nevin, many of the farmers who had cheered for Henry Cooke in his confrontation with Daniel O’Connell joined the land league a few decades later and ensured that Edward Saunderson and the naissant Unionists in the north lay wide eyed and terror struck in their beds at the thought of Parnell suddenly getting their votes. The tail of political Unionism has seldom wagged the economic dog in the north, and “opposing constitutional aspirations” quickly faded under the rays of possible financial gain. No the story of Unionism not a straight path, as you might have found had you read Alvin Jackson’s “The Ulster Party: Irish Unionists in the House of Commons, 1884-191” (Oxford University Press:1989).

    Regarding the other points, please look back over my comments on other threads across the last six months for the information about conversations between Unionists and nationalists, I think I’ve given sufficient reference there and am not going to repeat lists of citations or reference to letters here. A good starting point might be the unpublished diary of Sir Horace Plunkett, which is available digitally on the NLI website, which certainly gives you the atmosphere of friendly exchange of possibilities. But you will really need to start reading the full range of historical analysis available to get a far more rounded picture than what you appear to be currently drawing on. One cannot even start appreciate the complexity of the situation without extensive reading, both in published work and from archival sources. Alvin Jackson’s work is a decent starting point, as I have already mentioned to you. This is something that simply cannot be presented in a short single quote.

    If you read McDowell’s work you will perhaps begin to appreciate the fuller pattern of events where sensible compromise was within grasp and disintegrated with what all parties called the foolish selfishness of members of the northern Unionist delegation after the death of Sir Alexander McDowell. We are lucky that so much accessible work has already been done to unpack the complexities of the actual pattern of events in contrast to the simplistic propaganda available on the net and through the very biased “public histories” generally available.

  • Thomas Barber

    Thats an amazing inheritance Seaan worth their weight in gold too. Im not as lucky as yourself I have a full set also but on CD/PDF format thats the beauty of technology but its just not the same as having the books. Have you ever came across Forgotten they have an abundance reprints of books concerning Ireland including the Annals of Ulster –

    Oh and any book can be downloaded for free in PDF format simply use the search bar for whatever book you want.

  • Nevin

    “This is what any genuinely independent (non-Unionist, non-nationalist) researcher would have noted in any assessment of the strength of the rejection of Irishness you mention”

    Seaan, this is an example of distortion by exaggeration of what I said. I simply pointed out that interest in the Irish brand had dwindled to a low percentage amongst those who wished NI to remain part of the UK. I didn’t mention the timescale but I would think it would have begun long before the 1960s. As for the Northern Irish brand it seems to have some appeal across the spectrum of political aspirations.

  • SeaanUiNeill

    I have long been aware of the re-print houses, Kessinger being, to my mind, one of the earliest and still the best in terms of quality:

    I am very interested in the particular project to re-primt work, but for the twenty-first century, with a modern typesetting and design:

    Good luck with your own reading!

  • Nevin

    “Nevin, I simply critique the “received opinion” on history where I find it distorts the facts.”

    No. Really?

  • SeaanUiNeill

    Forgive me Nevin, if I am mis-interpreting you, I can only go on how I am understanding your words, I cannot (as yet) read your mind! But viewing the many incarnations of the dissenting tradition which informs Unionism in the north, and judging this from a wider perspective, the fickleness of our people in their espousal of such fads does not suggest that the current perception that “Unionist identification with the Irish brand has dwindled to a low percentage” is a valuable insight into either past or future concerns. Why, if my own extended family are anything to go by, the current non-Irish identification is only a generation old.

  • SeaanUiNeill


  • Ciaran74

    I would not really want the Rocky style theme of ‘we could have been somebody’ to become a priority but we need to challenge Jedi mind tricks that say we should be grateful for having our soup spat in.

  • Nevin

    Seaan, Unionism and Nationalism are each very broad churches and their advocates often appear to be confused by a common language! Rather like the various Christian sects focus on the minutiae often obliterates areas of commonality. I more or less dropped ‘Irish’ and ‘British’ as adjectives in the cultural realm and, when travelling, I’d name places – Edinburgh, Cork and Birmingham – rather than states/nations/regions. If you’re wondering why I left out Cardiff, I’ve never been to Wales!

  • Paul Ó Duḃṫaiġ

    Apple has operations all over the world, why would they care what language was spoken here. After all they only setup here in first place as they got 0% TAX on manufacturing (Apple II’s back in day) for 10 years + free plant + free training.

    If the Dutch had offered them the same deal in 1979-80 they would have setup in Leeuwarden or somewhere like that instead.

  • john millar

    “GFA is kaput. A renegotiation would be from a noticeably weaker position on the DUP/UUPs part.”

    I hardly think so –the return of released murderers to prison the cancellation of the on the run get out cards– the end of the sinecures a Stormont would halt most in their stride -particularly since a large section who looks at some of the outworkings -of the GFA – convicted murders in office paid at taxpayers expense and says – I never voted for that
    I think a re-run of the GFA might hit the buffers.

  • john millar

    “By same token I will be insulted for all of my life by the Status of the Orange Order and the 12/13 July Public Holiday”

    Only 12 July is a Bank Holiday
    No one is stopped working on 12th July -where their services are required and paid for I regulary worked it.

  • SeaanUiNeill

    Bless you Nevin, another recommendation for your reading list, which (if obliquely) offers many instances of the cross party contacts. John Kendle’s “Ireland and the Federal Solution, the Debate over the United Kingdom” (McGill Queen’s University PressKingston and Montreal, 1989). You’ll find the first run at devolution for every part of Britain and Ireland, starting with the Home Rule era, but with a chapter covering 1840-1885 also. Chapter 7, “Ulster and the Federal Solution ,1912-1914” might be of some interest to you.

    As for “the Northern Irish brand….seems to have some appeal across the spectrum of political aspirations” I’d be genuinely worried if you did not say that, or something like it. How permanent this will actually be or how valuable it actually proves to those who now adhere to it, that is quite another thing.

  • SeaanUiNeill

    See above, Nevin.

  • Nevin

    If you were worried it didn’t show, Seaan! Should I be concerned about your apparent anti-Unionist obsession?

  • SeaanUiNeill

    Nevin, “apparent anti-Unionist obsession”… come? I have been quite clear that the southern Unionists showed moderation and flexibility in co-operating with a possible constitutionalist settlement of the Home Rule issue over a protracted period of discussion. Is it somehow “out of bounds”, or “obsessive” to point out the serious ingrained problems that the moral failure of the northern Unionists before and after the Great War to follow a similar path of reasonableness have involved us all in? If northern Unionism did not restore the gun to a political situation where, quite uniquely for the past two centuries, all serious political entities were engaging in peaceful parliamentary solutions to our problems, then please set me right, and if I am somehow being “unfair” in my representation of northern Unionism, then correct me, but from reliable sources please, such as I’m referring you to. Note that dedicated Unionist propaganda, such as Lord Cushendun’s book, hardly counts as a reliable source for this.

  • 1729torus

    You’ve pointed out that SF have a stake in the agreement; I fully agree with you. However, you haven’t explained why they won’t be able to get away with conceding less (or getting more) this time around. As I said, SF’s negotiating partners have less leverage this time, and GFA must be renegotiated since it was contingent on EU membership.

  • Nevin

    You probably won’t mind me referring to Alvin Jackson:

    But the breakthrough never came, for both men had edged beyond the tolerance of their support. Redmond, who was prepared to move for the acceptance of the revised Midleton scheme, was deserted by influential supporters, including Devlin and the representatives of the Catholic hierarchy. Midleton, on the other hand, had acted without consulting and without the consent of the Ulster Unionists, and indeed he had failed to canvass widely within his own southern Unionist constituency.

    This pretty well coincides with my metaphor re.Redmond and Midleton being in no-man’s land. You’ve left yourself wide-open to a charge of indulging in anti-Unionist rhetoric. It seems to me that both Unionists and Nationalists, broadly speaking, were not of a mind to yield much ground to their opponents.

  • SeaanUiNeill

    So….argument with facts no longer works for you then? Seriously, I believe that inaccurate self Unionist assessments need to have light thrown upon them, and harmful myths discredited. Much of Unionism is electing to face a short-term future when it will become a minority even in the six counties of the 1920 partition “Home Rule” settlement with a response which flaunts a similar inability to engage in pragmatic politics to what they showed in 1912, and later in the constitutional negotiations of 1917/18. Unless the lessons of this crude bellicose intransigence are properly learnt, Unionism is committing cultural suicide, with the “Covenant” as its suicide note. It may surprise you to hear that I am not adverse to the constitutional concept of an active Union, either with Great Britain or with the rest of Ireland, if either genuinely ensures the possibility of better government than the woeful political mess which almost a century of partition has gifted us with as its legacy. But, while I am occasionally very impressed by individual Unionists (oh yes!) the general body of political Unionism still appears to me to display that same myopia and short-termism which marked its inception. These characteristics marked Unionism’s critical moment, when the challenge of the NICRA for Unionism to actually act in a British manner was answered by the policies of Paisley, and today the largest Unionist party was primarily elected on such policies, and many of its members seem to hanker after them still. This is simply not a pragmatic position for the future we are all facing.

  • SeaanUiNeill

    You must remember, Nevin, that Alvin is working with this history very broadly here, and covering in a paragraph something which others have employed whole books to explain. Yes, but it needs serious qualification (read McDowell) regarding HOW and WHY was “Redmond…….deserted by influential supporters”? I’d indicated to you that Sir Alexander McDowell’s good graces had brokered Redmond’s negotiations to the northern Unionists, and his untimely death ended the steady influx of pragmatic common sense he brought into their councils. Regarding Midleton’s failure to consult southern Unionism, well, there was nothing really to consult over until some possible deal was on the table, was there? If you had read the McDowell book, you would have followed the week by week development of these negotiations, the closeness to a general acceptance by all and the sudden falling away from this trajectory with the wilful breaking tactics the northern Unionists defaulted to on McDowell’s death.

    Midleton would of course have had to bring what was agreed at the Convention to the wider Unionist party, as would Redmond to the IPP if it had been generally accepted within the Convention, he had lived. It is perhaps of interest here that Joe Devlin and the IPP supported the developing deal until quite late, fully believing in Midleton’s and the southern Unionist’s complete sincerity (Hepburn’s book on Devlin, “Catholic Belfast and Nationalist Ireland”, p. 186) while Devlin and the IPP again espoused very similar thinking after Redmond’s death. Devlin himself wrote to Sir Horace Plunkett just weeks before the Midleton/Redmond scheme was disussed, regarding the proposals under consideration, “we are…genuinely anxious to help in this, the latest and many think the last endeavour to have the Irish Question settled on constitutional lines.” Devlin’s inability to finally support the proposals came directly from the northern Unionist delegation’s blanket refusal to even comment, following the death of McDowell. “Breaking Tactics”, again, as in 1912-14, aimed at de-railing any moderate constitutional settlement. In effect “Midleton……had acted without consulting and without the consent of the Ulster Unionists” because they were refusing to confer with him at all or even offer a position to the other delegates on a constitutiional settlement at this late point in the negotiations. It is instructive to see this “one trick pony” brought out over and over across almost a hundred years until Westminster (as Paisley has told us) spoke of washing their hands of NI altogether if he did not co-operate with SF. Midleton and Redmond had much the same offer in early 1918 but (most honourably) insisted that they would not choose to use English force against their fellow Irishmen. You really, really need to know far, far more actual historical detail if you are to argue this, rather than relying on quick sound-bites picked up on the internet that seem to confirm your case!

  • john millar

    “Wavering unionists ”
    Talk about whistling in the dark !

  • john millar

    I suggest you look again at the voting patterns in the GFA it barely scraped home in the Prod camp.
    I doubt it would do so in a rerun

    Now renege on the GFA–for a start put all the early releases back in jail cancel cross border bodies send everyone in Stormont to the nearest dole office and what other than a rerun of PIRA could SF do?

  • 1729torus

    So what if the prods vote no? Why is that a big deal if you are from a Nationalist background? Provide specific examples. Exactly.

  • SeaanUiNeill

    Far be it for me to be obtrude here, Gopher, but you are talking about the eighteenth century Philosopher and historian rather than Dr David Hume, the Ballycarry historian?

  • ted hagan

    Au contraire.
    Beckett got it spot on when asked if he was English.

  • john millar

    See above-No agreement without support in both communities no new GFA
    Gravy train ground to complete halt Only option for SF is PIRA reborn

  • northstar

    Its a Public Holiday! I as a civil servant must take it off every year. Builders must take it off etc etc. Transport services are adjusted as they are on 25/26 Dec. Obv you miss the point that it deserves no such status now. Nor ever in the past.
    Holidays of any nature ordained in any way by any normal state must be all-inclusive. This situation exists no where else in the West! Its wrong and cannot be justified in this divided society.

  • John Collins

    ‘liberal mainland Britain’
    Where a popular king had to abdicate because he was about to marry a divorcee in 1936, eleven years after that Yeats speech

  • john millar

    Hmm –the state (let) that employs you has deemed the 12th a public holiday and you object?

    Simple– decline your pay for the day and work as a volunteer in some aspect of public work.

    (PS when I was a public servant a long time ago I LOVED the opportunity to work on the 12th –all that double time

  • northstar

    Obviously John you are part of the problem. Ah Well! End of correspondence – slan!

  • HippyHappyChippyChappy

    This situation is nothing new. Dating back to the Dàl Riata to todays UK Its a historical power struggle for these Isles to be ruled from either Great Britain or Ireland. Why not equally share the power in a few years when our nations are more compatible.